Previewing Texas’ 2021 defense led by new defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski

Matthew Boncosky

New Texas defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski set a lofty goal for his squad heading into his first season in the Big 12: He wants to hold opposing teams under 20 points a game.

Last season, in what was a strong defensive year overall for the Big 12, teams scored 29.8 points a game on average. Only one team — winless Kansas — failed to produce 20 points a game.

“It might be a high goal, but that’s our goal,” Kwiatkowski said on August 18. “We’re either going to achieve it or not.”

While Kwiatkowski and his defense work on firming up defensive schemes and tackling as training camp wraps up, here’s a breakdown of the names Texas fans can expect to see on the defensive side of the ball this season.

Defensive Line

The Longhorns should have plenty of size and skill on the defensive line, especially with the arrival of sophomore defensive lineman Alfred Collins toward the end of last season. Texas fans might remember the 300 pounder’s interception in the 2020 Alamo Bowl against Colorado.

“He’s kind of a Swiss-Army-knife-type guy that can play all positions on the defensive line because of his length, power and speed,” said junior defensive lineman Moro Ojomo on Collins.

Pairing Collins with the trio of Ojomo and fellow juniors Keondre Coburn and T’Vondre Sweat ensures a quality rotation of big men Kwiatkowski can choose from to anchor the defensive front. Look for redshirt freshman Vernon Broughton to provide depth as a potential fifth option.


There’s little doubt about who the star of the Longhorns’ defense will be this season. DeMarvion Overshown returns for his senior season and will be a force to reckon with against opposing offenses. The star linebacker recorded eight tackles for loss, two interceptions and two forced fumbles in ten games last season. Expect another big year from “Agent 0” as he seeks to move up NFL Draft boards.

Graduate transfer Ray Thornton was a big get for Texas in the offseason. The LSU transfer only appeared in nine games for the Tigers last season, but he did record two sacks and a forced fumble, and he will certainly get plenty of playing time coming off the edge for the Longhorns.

Other names to watch for in the Texas front seven include seniors Ben Davis and Jacoby Jones as well as juniors Luke Brockermeyer, Ayodele Adeoye, Ovie Oghoufo, sophomore Jaylan Ford and redshirt freshman Prince Dorbah.

Defensive Backs

At the cornerback position, senior D’Shawn Jamison will be the best option for Texas to line up across from the opposition’s best wide receiver with fellow senior Josh Thompson and graduate transfer Darion Dunn available as number two options. Sophomore Kitan Crawford should be a nice depth option as well.

As far as the nickelback slot goes, senior Anthony Cook has made a lot of progress in the offseason, according to Kwiatkowski. Sophomore Jerrin Thompson and junior Chris Adimora are names to also keep an eye on.

The back end might be the weakest area of the Texas defense heading into this season. The loss of Caden Sterns leaves big shoes to fill for graduate transfer Brenden Schooler at the free safety spot, while senior B.J. Foster returns as starting strong safety.

If the Longhorns hope to realize Kwiatkowski’s ambitious goal, cleaning up the suspect tackling of recent years should be priority number one. Add in better fundamentals and smarter schemes, and Texas might have enough firepower to dictate some games from the defensive side of the ball.