Trio of Texas defenders improving NFL Draft stock with this season’s performance

Hunter Dworaczyk, Senior Sports Reporter

Last year, Texas football saw zero of its players drafted for the first time since 2014 and the fourth time in program history. 

While junior running back Bijan Robinson is practically a lock to get drafted if he declares for the NFL Draft at the end of the season, the improvement of a handful of returning seniors on defense gives the Longhorns the chance to be heavily featured come April. 

Senior defensive lineman Keondre Coburn is one prime example of a returning senior who seems to have made the right decision in terms of his draft stock. Coburn, who is in his fifth year with the program, initially was listed as a Senior Day participant in last season’s regular season finale against Kansas State. He announced his plan to take advantage of his last year of eligibility on Dec. 6 last year. 

The move has paid off so far. With four games left in the regular season, Coburn has already eclipsed his sack total from last season and is just one tackle shy of reaching his tackle count from last season. 

Pro Football Focus projected Coburn to be drafted in the late first round in its mock draft from Oct. 4. 

“I think (Coburn) has really improved,” Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian said Oct. 6. “I think he is becoming a three-down player. When you can affect a quarterback from the inside out and you can push that pocket, that can have a real impact on the game.”

Similarly, senior defensive lineman T’Vondre Sweat possesses the athletic tools needed to make a huge climb up the draft board. Weighing in at 346 pounds, Sweat possesses the size that can give future NFL interior offensive linemen hard times. 

Sweat had his best performance of the season in the Red River Showdown against Oklahoma, racking up two tackles for loss. 

Sarkisian credited the defensive line’s improved performance to the players’ work with defensive line coach Bo Davis in practice. 

“We’re allowing those guys to really go play and use their length and size to be impactful,” Sarkisian said Oct. 13. “I think these guys are good pass rushers too. I know they’re big, but they affect the pocket.”

After last season, Sarkisian said senior cornerback D’Shawn Jamison sat down with the coaching staff to evaluate what he needed to improve on as a player. 

The coaching staff primarily encouraged Jamison to play the cornerback position with more confidence, Sarkisian said. Through eight games, Jamison has two interceptions and has recorded seven pass deflections.

“(Jamison’s) a talented guy,” Sarkisian said Oct. 13. “His game has evolved and has grown. He’s a much more complete player than he was a year ago.”

Entering the final third of the regular season, Texas will lean on its veteran defenders to play to their potential. Solid performances from Coburn, Sweat and Jamison could not only improve Texas’ record, but also raise those players’ draft stock even more.

“(Of) all of the guys that were able to come back and be on this defense again, and even the guys who had joined this year, I think the biggest thing was just bonding and creating an identity for each other,” junior linebacker Jaylan Ford said Oct. 17. “Last year, I don’t think we really had an identity.”