New transfers on the Texas defense have shown Longhorns the 'ways of how to be a champion'
During Big 12 media days last month in Arlington, Texas defensive tackle Keondre Coburn said his new defensive teammates "know how to win."
Of course, winning isn't exactly a new trick for the Longhorns, who went 7-3 last season and won their bowl game. Texas has 25 wins over the past three years.
But depending on how you want to remember the Alamo Bowls of 2019 and 2020, not a lot of players on Texas' roster are tied to big wins. Outside of kicker Cameron Dicker, how many can claim that they've helped beat Oklahoma? Of the starters of the Sugar Bowl win over Georgia, only defensive back B.J. Foster remains.
The Longhorns, though, have added that big-game experience in the form of three transfer linebackers. Alabama's Ben Davis won two national championships with the Crimson Tide. Ray Thornton earned a championship ring at LSU. Ovie Oghoufo played on last year's Notre Dame team that made the College Football Playoff semifinals.
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Texas opens preseason camp on Friday. The season opener is one month away, at home against Louisiana on Sept. 4.
"They come from places that have won championships," Coburn, in his fourth season, said of the newcomers. "All they did was bring that and brought it to Texas and showed us ways of how to be a champion."
After Steve Sarkisian's hire in January, Texas added only four high school prospects to its 2021 recruiting class on national signing day in February. He instead used the transfer portal to solidify the depth chart.
Thornton transferred in January. Later that month, Oghoufo announced that he'd join the Longhorns as a grad transfer. Davis transferred in April.
None of the three were stars at their previous schools. Thornton recorded five tackles last season. Davis totaled three. Oghoufo had 22 tackles and 2.5 sacks over his last two years with the Fighting Irish.
However, those three players did combine to play in 85 games at Alabama, LSU and Notre Dame. Davis and Thornton made appearances in national championship games.
"When you look at a Ray Thornton and you look at a Ben Davis or an Ovie, all three of these guys have either won national championships or competed in the College Football Playoff in the last two years," Sarkisian said in Arlington. "They've brought a little bit of a different perspective, too."
Thornton participated in UT's spring workouts and recorded five tackles in the Orange-White scrimmage. His new teammates consistently praised his leadership skills throughout the spring.
"Him coming into this program, I was really questionable on who he was," fellow linebacker David Gbenda said. "I approached him and he's taught me some things that I really picked up in practice. His experience has taught me some things."
Said cornerback Josh Thompson: "He came in with high energy. He's just one of those leaders that just comes in and everybody feels him."
Davis, Oghoufu and Thornton will compete for playing time this fall on a defense that returns seven starters. Texas allowed 28.5 points and 406.6 yards per game in 2020. Those efforts respectively ranked sixth and seventh in the Big 12.
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Besides providing leadership, the veteran newcomers can also help the Longhorns adjust to their new coach. Sarkisian spent the past two years as Alabama's offensive coordinator, so both Davis and Keilan Robinson — a transfer running back from Alabama — are familiar with him. Thornton and Oghoufo played in games against Alabama last year.
"I'm like a freshman when it comes to Sarkisian right now because everything we're doing is the first time," Coburn said. "So this is going to be the first fall camp that I have with Sarkisian. I think with Ben being there and knowing how he operates, knowing from their little style at Alabama helps us a lot.
"I feel like (the transfers) know what to expect from Sarkisian. Leadership helps us get over the little hump like that."