Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. That could be the difference between winning or losing the Big 12 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.
The big name that departed too soon was Juwan Mitchell. Coming off a successful junior campaign, the former starting MIKE backer elected to transfer to Tennessee due to the new staff. How will they replace his production?
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. 8 - LB David Gbenda
Finding a replacement for Ossai will be a priority due to the positional need for a pass rush. Adding a starter to pair along with DeMarvion Overshown will be the next big step.
With Overshown out due to shoulder surgery, the young Longhorn linebackers were given a chance to strut their stuff early. Gbenda constantly looked to be ahead of the learning curve, closing gaps and ending pursuits with stops behind the line of scrimmage.
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“David Gbenda has been terrific. Been very, very impressed with him,” Sarkisian said last April. “He is flying around the football field, playing physical. He’s got a real leader’s mentality.”
Gbenda has been waiting for his chance, the timing just never has been right. Coming out of Katy, he played in four games during the 2019 season to save his redshirt eligibility.
With the success of Mitchell and Overshown, Gbenda primarily was used on special teams. When on the field for the defense, it was hard to look away from the upside his speed and decision-making skills live and in person.
Gbenda had four tackles against Oklahoma. He then added three tackles and an interception at Kansas State in the regular-season finale before recording four stops in the Alamo Bowl against Colorado.
His teammates all agree the potential is blooming at the right moment.
“David’s communication skills are very good,” defensive tackle Keondre Coburn said. “He’s going to be a very exciting player coming up this year. So I’m really excited for him.”
Sarkisian has been impressed with Gbendas work ethic to improve in a new defensive front. Last April during the Orange-White game, he was the most productive player, registering a team-high seven tackles.
Overshown likely will return to his natural WILL position for the start of the 2021 campaign. That leaves Mitchell's MIKE role open for Gbenda to grab. Granted, his skills better transition when playing in space, but Sarkisian believes his physical traits could transition to anywhere on the field.
Losing Mitchell on paper will sting. After April's spring practice, the Longhorns might actually upgrade overall with Gbenda as the new starter for years to come.
CONTINUE READING: Former Longhorns Commit Quinn Ewers Comments of Players Leaving Texas
Can you see Gbenda as the next big-name LB? Comment and join in on the discussion below!
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