Football

Several Longhorns moving positions, changing roles when spring practice begins March 25

Joseph Ossai, DeMarvion Overshown, Jordan Whittington all assigned new roles this spring

Posted February 11th, 2020

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Texas has eight weeks of offseason workouts before spring practice begins March 24. When that day comes, several Longhorns will have new roles under the rebuilt coaching staff.

Perhaps the biggest change is that linebackers Joseph Ossai and Byron Vaughns will move to a new “jack” position on the defensive line, coach Tom Herman said. It’s a hybrid position that combines linebacker agility with pass rushing off the edge.

Cornerback Anthony Cook will play the nickel spot while B.J. Foster rests his ailing shoulder. Foster is only now set to have surgery to repair the injury that nagged him all last season. By the end, Foster struggled to lift his arm above his head.

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“It’s something we had to wait until his nerve calmed down enough to have a successful rehab,” Herman said. Foster will be held out of spring drills.

Safety DeMarvion Overshown asked to move to weak-side linebacker to get more playing time.

“I did let him know that when scouts come around, and they talk about him, that’s probably where his position in that league is going to be,” Herman said.

Roschon Johnson will stay at running back “for the foreseeable future,” Herman said. Johnson was recruited to Texas to play quarterback but got pulled over to the running back room when injuries started piling up last season.

Texas Longhorns running back Roschon Johnson (2)hurdles over Kansas State Wildcats defensive back Denzel Goolsby (20) during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, in Austin, Texas.RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Johnson said numerous times he wanted to go back to quarterback in 2020. Now, that doesn’t appear likely even though UT signed the nation’s No. 1-ranked recruit, Bijan Robinson of Tucson, Ariz.

Jordan Whittington will go back to “what we had originally recruited him for” at slot receiver, Herman said. Like Johnson, Whittington was pegged for some time at running back. The talented freshmen ended up having groin surgery last September and redshirted.

By moving back to slot receiver, Whittington figures to battle Jake Smith for playing time at the spot Devin Duvernay made famous last season.

Receiver Malcolm Epps will start practicing with the tight ends, Herman said. The rangy 6-foot-6 target will be paired with Cade Brewer, who played in nine games last season and missed time with an ankle injury.

The team’s annual spring game is scheduled for April 25 at Royal-Memorial Stadium.

Texas ex homecoming: When Jay Boulware, a former UT offensive tackle, was asked if he had any burnt orange memorabilia stashed in his closet through the years, the Texas ex-turned-Oklahoma position coach for seven seasons came clean.

“Of course,” Boulware said, “I’m not lying. My wife walked around with some Longhorn slippers in Norman, Oklahoma, so yes we still had some Longhorn stuff. I just told her to hide it when the players came over.”

The newest special teams coordinator and tight ends coach later avoided a question about OU head coach Lincoln Riley’s response to his decision to accept the Texas job.

“That’s a good question, next one,” Boulware said with a laugh.

“Pissed?” one reporter asked.

Boulware didn’t crack. “Next question.”

High energy Valai: Jay Valai, the UT cornerbacks coach and former Wisconsin Badger, is the youngest hire from Herman’s revamped staff. His animation was visibly on display in the first meeting between reporters and the new position coaches.

The Euless native touched on his former playing days, his longtime relationship with Ash, and some of his earliest impressions of the Longhorns.

“I was a die-hard fan of the Texas brand growing up,” Valai said. “I told Mike Huff a story growing up. … I had been playing at Wisconsin for I think two years, I saw Mike Huff at the Irving mall. I’m like, this is Mike Huff.

Huff didn’t remember the interaction, but it left a lasting impression with Valai, who has since met up with the former star defensive back on campus.

“Now you see him walking around with extra medium shirts on like, that’s Mike Huff.”

Huff is widely known as a strong ambassador of Texas’ DBU claim, and Valai is already embracing the sentiment as well.

As a testament to his commitment to the Texas brand, Valai insisted Whataburger runs through his veins. His order?

“Breakfast and after 11:30, taquitos are always a good thing to go with,” Valai said. “Besides that, you can get the Texas double avocado bacon burger, the chicken strips with the gravy. Double toast—which is really good as well, too.”

Rekindle the A&M rivalry: This fall will mark the ninth straight season Texas won’t face Texas A&M on the football field. Although the rivalry on the turf has lapsed for nearly a decade and there seems to be no signal for an impending renewal, new defensive line coach Mark Hagen gave reporters his two cents.

“I’m all for rivals playing,” Hagen said, “I just think big picture-wise the fans of both schools would love to see Texas and A&M play again. Two passionate fanbases, that’s what rivalries are all about.”

Hagen, who coached linebackers and defensive tackles at Texas A&M from 2013-15, noted his unique career situation. He played four years at Indiana, only to later join the coaching staff at in-state rival Purdue for 11 years.

“I guess it’s ironic I go down with Coach (Kevin) Sumlin for three years at A&M,” Hagen said, “and then I find my way back here to Austin, so I’ve been on both sides of heated rivalries in my career.”

Staff writer Ross Burkhart contributed to this report.

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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