Conference Preview: Defensive Line

On one hand, the Texas defensive line has been better than expected. On the other, it's been a slight disappointment.

Coming into the season, it appeared that the Longhorns had a weakness at defensive tackle and a bevy of talented defensive ends. While the ends haven't played poorly, they haven't really been able to show off their ability due to a number of teams getting the ball out too quickly to allow for sacks. That's something that will change somewhat once conference play starts.

And so it bears mentioning that ends Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat, with one tackle-for-loss and no sacks between them, have been beating their men on a regular basis. At some point, it stands to reason that those hurries (they each have three despite the aforementioned limited chances) will turn into sacks. At this point, it's just a waiting game.

While the ends haven't really gotten a chance to show what they can do, the tackle position has been better than most thought it would be, thanks to the emergence of Ashton Dorsey at the position. After missing the first game with a suspension, Dorsey has come back to make five tackles, including two for loss, a sack and two quarterback hurries, in the next two games, both against solid competition.

Dorsey's play has to be a scary development for offensive lines, who have spent most of the early games double- and triple-teaming Kheeston Randall in an attempt to keep the potential All-American out of the backfield. And Calvin Howell and Desmond Jackson have combined to make up a strong second unit as well. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said that the Longhorns were looking for a four-man rotation to roll with, and the Longhorns found one earlier than they expected to. That's a big positive.

Altogether, this is a line that, in the past two games, has been largely dominant against the run, and has forced turnovers in the passing game. While the sacks haven't appeared yet, there's not a lot else to ask for.

Quick Hit Analysis: The Longhorns were gashed for big run plays in the season opener, and three times against UCLA. Other than that, they've been unbelievably stout, and have become the foundation behind which Diaz's blitz-happy scheme can thrive. Finding the second starting defensive tackle was a tremendous boon.

Grade: B+

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