The old say goes "offense wins games, but defense wins championships," right?
Will that be the case for Texas in 2021?
The Longhorns' offense is expected to take new leaps under head coach Steve Sarkisian. After all, the success at Alabama was a selling point for Chris Del Conte to move off Tom Herman in favor of the former Crimson Tide OC.
Everything now will be up to the defense to remain ahead in the conference. That's easier said than done despite a plethora of names returning for Pete Kwiatkowski's 4-2-5 front.
Texas' defense gave up 28.5 points per game last season (sixth-fewest in the Big 12). The team is also replacing multiple names via the draft and transfer portal entering the summer. Joseph Ossai is out as the primary pass-rusher. Both Caden Sterns and Chris Brown also are looking to make their NFL dreams a reality.
Perhaps a more undervalued name that hasn't been discussed enough is the departure of Ta'Quon Graham. Graham played near every position on the defensive line depending on the formation. For Todd Orlando, he worked as a five-tech. With Chris Ash, the Longhorns elected to move him inside.
Having versatility in the trenches can be the difference in containing the run and also provide stability in the pass rush will be key up the middle. Who can be the full-fledged replacement for Graham?
In our new series on Longhorn Country, we will be breaking down the top 10 names to watch for during the 2021 season. Some will be role-players, others will be full-fledged starters. Either way, each will be a benefactor to the success found in DKR.
Check out our other profiles already shown entering the summer months.
No. 7 - DL Alfred Collins
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Being young doesn't mean a player isn't ready to start right away. Need proof? Collins was caught behind depth in the trenches but might have been the best player of the bunch in his freshman season.
Collins, a former four-star commit, came on strong towards the end of the season, rotating reps with Keondre Coburn, Moro Ojomo, and Graham. In the Alamo Bowl against Colorado, fans saw a glimpse of what the Bastrop Cedar Creek alum could do.
On the way to victory, Collins recorded five tackles, one pass breakup, and an interception. For a 305-pound defensive end, interceptions come far and away. They must be timed through the quarterback's eyes, plus perfectly placed to be batted down into the hands of the defender.
Collins told reporters he knew the play was coming his way. Now, it was his job to land the ball and create the turnover.
For the season, Collins recorded 23 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, three pass breakups, and two tackles for loss along with the interception. Entering his sophomore season, the training wheels are coming off and full speed is expected.
When Graham elected to opt-out for the bowl game, then-coach Tom Herman elected to go with Collins in the starting lineup. So far, Sarkisian has been pleased with the development of Kwiatkowski's system.
“I think Alfred has really come on here," Sarkisian said in April. "He’s pretty long, he’s quick for a big man, which can cause some issues for us."
For defensive lines, starting roles are based on the play at hand. Rotating size and speed are commonly based on the formation the offense appears to be running. For Collins, this might make him the ideal Graham 2.0.
The defensive tackle won't be limited to playing inside, but based on how Kwiatkowski uses the "JACK" backer role, expect Collins to work both off of the guard and tackle. Coburn is expected to remain up the middle as the nose tackle. Ojomo will primarily see reps off the edge.
Collins' role will be mixed between keeping his shoulder low against the run and bulldozing weaker offensive linemen to allow pressure up the middle. If all goes according to plan, Collins might be in the running for an All-Conference finish.
Can you see Collins as the next big-name DL? Comment and join in on the discussion below!
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