Texas’ defense looks to maintain its high performance

Hunter Dworaczyk, Sports reporter

Two games into the 2022 football season, No. 21 Texas’ defense looks improved. Longhorn fans can thank the interior defensive line.

Led by a trio of senior starters in T’Vondre Sweat, Moro Ojomo and Keondre Coburn, the interior defensive line sets the tone for the Texas defense. Deviating from defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski’s typical 2-4-5 formation in the offseason, the Longhorns now deploy two defensive tackles and a nose tackle in an effort to give the grunt work to the experienced, big-bodied defenders.

One characteristic of Texas’ interior defensive line group that makes it so effective is its depth. Behind the three senior starters on the depth chart are junior Alfred Collins, sophomore Vernon Broughton and sophomore Byron Murphy II. 

The Longhorns believe there is not much dropoff from their starters to their two-deep players at that position, allowing them to rotate their tackles evenly. This strategy gives Texas’ biggest players enough rest to continually fire off the ball when they are on the field. 

“In our room, we don’t have starters,” Coburn said after the game on Saturday. “Everyone is a starter.”

Among the worst defenses last season, the Longhorns took massive strides through the first two games. Averaging 31.1 points allowed per game last season, Texas sits at 15 points allowed per game this season. 

Last week, the Texas defense held Alabama’s high-powered offense in check for three quarters of play. At one point in the game, the Longhorns’ defense forced the Crimson Tide to punt the ball in six consecutive possessions. Texas’ interior defensive lineman played particularly well and disrupted the line of scrimmage throughout the game.

While Texas ultimately fell 20-19 to Alabama, the Crimson Tide is thought to possess the best offense on the Longhorns’ schedule. If defensive line coach Bo Davis’ interior line does not regress, Texas looks primed to put together a season full of memorable performances by the big men.

“We made a statement (against Alabama),” Coburn said. “We’re going to make a statement every week. We work hard every day, every chance we get. I feel like we got some kind of respect.”

The Longhorns will need the interior defensive lineman in the coming weeks. With redshirt freshman quarterback Quinn Ewers out for an unknown amount of time with an injury, the Longhorns’ offense simply will not score as much as before.

If No. 21 Texas is going to get past UTSA and the Big 12, Coburn and company will help hold the opposing offenses to a meager amount of points. 

Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian is counting on his defense to continue to increase its effort and performance.

“We have now created a new standard of what’s acceptable,” Sarkisian said on Monday. “And now we’re held to the standard of defense that we’re playing now. We need to meet that standard and exceed that. So now’s not the time to relax. Now’s not the time to take a step back. Now’s the time to push even harder to go to a new level.”