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The Dotted Line: Texas' defensive end position lacks proven pass rushers

Texas' defensive ends were a strength in 2020 because of the pass rushing ability of Joseph Ossai. With his departure, the Longhorns must find players on the roster to get after the passer and set the edge against the run. 

On campus

Moro Ojomo, sophomore

FYI: Three-stars, from Katy; ranked 390th nationally, No. 27-ranked defensive tackle in 2018

Ojomo was a late-blooming prep defensive lineman from Katy. Young for his grade, he was 17 as a senior. He chose not to sign early, and that raised his recruiting stock late in the 2018 cycle as programs raced to find big, athletic defensive linemen. Ojomo was a two-time all-district honoree who was named MVP of District 19-6A as a senior.

He played in three games in 2018 before taking a redshirt. He started against Kansas State and Texas Tech as a redshirt freshman in 2019, posting 13 tackles and forcing a fumble. He moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore, starting in all nine games he participated in during 2020. Ojomo finished the year with 21 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. 

Jacoby Jones, senior

FYI: Four-stars, from Butler C.C. (El Dorado, Kans.); ranked 17th nationally, No. 1 junior college strong-side defensive end in 2019

Jones’ role is likely to grow without Ossai on campus. He was the top-ranked defensive end out of the junior college ranks in the 2019 cycle. He was a two-time all-conference lineman at Butler Community College, recording 10.5 sacks in 2018. At Texas, he has has played in 20 games, starting once as a senior in 2020. He has decided to return to the team in 2020 due to the NCAA ruling that voided any eligibility lost in 2020 because of the pandemic. 

Marqez Bimage, senior 

FYI: Three-stars, from Brenham; ranked 515th nationally, No. 34 weak-side defensive end in 2017

Bimage opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns over COVID-19. He’ll be counted on in 2021 if he returns in shape and ready to contribute to the two-deep at either end position. Bimage might be the strongest player in the entire Texas program. He was a three-time all-district performer at Brenham. He was committed to Houston, but followed Herman to Austin before national signing day in 2017. In three seasons, Bimage has played in 34 games.

Reese Leitao, junior 

FYI: Three-stars, from Jenks, Okla.; ranked 499th nationally, No. 19-ranked tight end in 2017

Leitao might be the replacement for Ossai as the edge rusher for the Texas defense. The Oklahoma native made the transition to defensive end from tight end before his junior season in 2020. He took a redshirt in 2017. Leitao played in all 27 games over the next two seasons, mostly on special teams. As a junior in 2020, he played in eight games as a reserve end. He recorded a team-high six tackles in the Alamo Bowl win over Colorado. 

Other defensive ends expected on campus in 2021: Jordon Thomas (2021), Derrick Harris Jr. (2021), David Abiara (2021), Barryn Sorrel (2021)

2022 targets

Omari Abor, strong-side defensive end, Duncanville

FYI: 6-4, 240; four stars; No. 2-ranked strong-side defensive end 

Offers: 26

Abor is clearly Texas’ top target at defensive end among the prospects currently holding offers. He’s a two-year starter for Duncanville, one of the real powers in Class 6A. He’s a top-10 prospect in the state for the 2022 cycle and is among the nation’s top 50 players, according to 247Sports' composite. Texas is in the mix with Ohio State and Oklahoma. Abor is also an elite basketball player. 

Ernest Cooper IV, strong-side defensive end, Arlington Martin

FYI: 6-4, 235; four stars; No. 9-ranked strong-side defensive end 

Offers: 27

Cooper plays on the same defense that produced 2021 outside linebacker signee Morice Blackwell and 2022 commit Trevell Johnson. Stanford is considered the early leader for Cooper. He was the District 4-6A defensive sophomore of the year in 2019, logging 61 tackles, including 14 for loss and three sacks. Cooper was a first-team all-district selection as a junior after recording 63 tackles, including 14 for loss and seven sacks.

Other defensive ends with offers: DJ Wesolak, J’mari Monette, Samuel Okunlola, Malick Sylla, Jihaad Campbell