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Alamo Bowl notebook: New names step up to lead the Texas defense after captains' opt-outs

Texas defensive back Josh Thompson should contend for a captain's designation next season. The redshirt junior is a member of the team's leadership council.

Despite entering the season with four captains on its defense, Texas is looking for some leadership on that side of the football.

Joseph Ossai? The potential first-round pick is preparing for the NFL draft, not next week's Alamo Bowl.

Defensive lineman Ta'Quon Graham and defensive back Chris Brown? Those seniors opted out as well.

Caden Sterns? The junior prospect left the Longhorns after the Iowa State game.

Texas coach Tom Herman insisted Wednesday that he still has players to lead his defense. Even though they weren't named captains this year, Herman noted that cornerback Josh Thompson and defensive linemen Keondre Coburn and Moro Ojomo are members of the team's leadership council.

Having signed with Texas in 2017, Thompson is the eldest of that bunch. He told reporters that even before the opt-outs, he felt like a leader of Longhorns. 

"I always took up a leadership role with the corners room," Thompson said. "Now I see younger guys that need someone to look up to, so I'm just doing it at each position. I'm just leading as much as I can and just having that role with the players that have opted out."

Thompson should contend for a captain's designation next season. The redshirt junior has already announced that he will return to Texas in 2021.

UT used Thompson as a nickel back in his first three years on campus, but he shifted to cornerback this fall. He has started each of Texas' nine games.

When asked why he decided to extend his college career, Thompson said that "I just know what I'm capable of doing. This year was a very weird year. Also, just switching positions and really not having a spring to help me with my technique or whatever. I know just getting one more year under my belt will just help me and my team in the way that we need to go."

The end? UT quarterback Sam Ehlinger has thought about his future, but he wasn't ready to commit Wednesday to either the draft or a return to college. Ehlinger figured that in the week after the Alamo Bowl, he'll sit down and discuss his options with family and other people he trusts.

Ehlinger ranks second in the Texas history books in passing yards (11,276) and passing touchdowns (93). He earned a second-team tag on the Big 12's all-conference team this season.

"I'm trying to enjoy these last few weeks," Ehlinger said. "I haven't closed one door on anything yet."

Position switches: Herman announced that two of his players were working out in unfamiliar positions in the lead-up to Alamo Bowl. With Sterns and Brown out, backup cornerback Jalen Green has been given some reps at safety. And even though he was listed Wednesday on the UT depth chart as the starting free safety, Montrell Estell has shifted to receiver.

Estell signed with Texas in 2017 as a four-star defensive back. Over 27 career appearances, the 6-foot-1, 196-pound Estell has recorded 31 tackles. His only interception came in a 2019 game against Oklahoma State. Estell, though, turned 29 receptions into 628 yards and five touchdowns as a senior at Hooks High.

"Montrell is an incredible athlete and can run by anybody," Ehlinger said. "I don't think he's played offense since high school, so he has a lot of the fine-tuned details of receiver to work out, but he has a chance to be really good."

Thompson said it was weird to see Estell in an orange jersey at practice. He joked that he had to kick Estell out of the defensive backs' warmup.

Alamo Bowl

No. 20 Texas vs. Colorado, 8 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN, 104.9