The Longhorns were headed into the spring with just two full-time defensive ends, sophomores Jackson Jeffcoat and Reggie Wilson. So the staff made three key moves: shifting Dravannti Johnson from a SAM/DE to a full time end, bumping Alex Okafor back outside from defensive tackle, where he started eight games a year ago, and moving Chris Whaley from H-back. Cedric Reed, a high-potential player with an outstanding frame, will join up in the fall.
Those moves panned out, with Okafor closing out the spring by looking like a potential All-Big 12 candidate. Okafor and Johnson are the oldest players at the position, and they're both only juniors, which means that the Longhorns have six scholarship players, four of whom are sophomores or younger, and no players set to graduate after this season. A couple of defensive ends, who could redshirt a year and then move into the rotation when Okafor and Johnson leave would be a nice fit.
The Longhorns did just that, getting Hassan Ridgeway and Caleb Bluiett. Ridgeway has emerged as one of the top couple defensive ends in the state, wowing attendees at a recent Nike camp with his raw power and athleticism. He's still learning to play the position, but figures to factor in at least as a strong-side end who can hold up against the run and who has the speed to pursue. Bluiett is the opposite, a slightly undersized end with great pass-rushing skills. Whether he'll be able to stop the run, and develop into a three-down lineman will be his biggest challenge. Texas lost the state's top end, Mario Edwards, to Florida State, and the Longhorns are still looking for an elite pass rusher to add to the stable.
Both Ridgeway and Bluiett are excellent players, though neither is necessarily an elite guy. Ridgeway, thanks to his frame and overall athleticism, is the higher potential guy, though it's unclear how high his ceiling goes. Bluiett is probably somewhat underrated on a national scale, just because he's somewhat of a late bloomer. Both players will be fun to watch this spring and fall. Texas likely won't get another crack at Edwards, and the Longhorns aren't pursuing Devonte Fields, arguably the state's second-best defensive end. Instead, they'll try to pull in a player from out of state. Keep an eye on a player like Aberdeen (Miss.) product Channing Ward.