Position Preview: Defensive Ends

Just three seasons ago, defensive end was one of the biggest liabilities on the Texas football team. Players like TE Neale Tweedie and FB/LB Eric Hall were moved to the position just to shore up depth. Now, defensive end is one of the deepest and most talented units on the entire team.

Players at the position:

Christopher Brown, 6-3, 210, Soph
Tim Crowder, 6-4, 270, Sr
Brian Ellis, 6-5, 250, Fr
Lamarr Houston, 6-2, 257, Fr
Eddie Jones, 6-3, 240, Fr
Aaron Lewis, 6-4, 275, Soph
Brian Orakpo, 6-4, 238, Soph
Nic Redwine, 6-3, 225, Soph
Brian Robison, 6-3, 275, Sr

Leading the way on the 2006 squad will be senior Tim Crowder. The first-team All-Big 12 selection has started 34 games at Texas and is on the watch list for almost every defensive award there is. Crowder is up for the Bednarik Award (Outstanding Defensive Player), the Lombardi Award (Interior Player), the Lott Trophy (Impact Defensive Player) and the Hendricks Award (Defensive End). Crowder led the Horns last season with 20 QB pressures, while recording 50 tackles, nine tackles for loss, three sacks, two PBD, an INT and a forced fumble.

Starting opposite of Crowder will be fellow senior Brain Robison. Robison is also one of the more experienced players on the team, having started 27 games in his career at Texas. Robison led the Longhorns last season in tackles for loss (15) and sacks (7) and has earned honorable mention All-Big 12 each of the past two seasons. He's also got a pair of preseason watch lists of his own (Bednarik and Hendricks).

Robison is also a two-sport star, earning All-America honors in the shot put by finishing second at the 2006 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. He currently holds the Big 12 outdoor shot put and discus titles.

Taking the baton from Robison, as it were, as a two-sport star at the position is incoming freshman Eddie Jones. Jones played DH for his baseball team at Kilgore and intends to be a walk-on for Augie Garrido's squad.

"Coach Brown said that as long as I keep my grades up, I can play two sports," Jones said, "and that's what I want to do."

The 6'3", 240-pound Jones falls into the power hitter category in baseball (think David Ortiz) and he's definitely going to be a power hitter on the football field for the Longhorns. The obscenely strong Jones has one of the best shots out of the true freshmen to see playing time because of his strength, stature, and pass rush ability.

"They want to have a four-man rotation. They've already got three guys and I want to be the fourth," said Jones.

However, he'll have stiff competition for the fourth spot behind last year's returning rotation of Crowder, Robison and 2005 Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Brian Orakpo.

Orakpo was the consensus Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year pick last year and was named The Sporting News National Defensive Freshman of the Year. He also picked up first-team Freshman All-American honors by both The Sporting News and the Football Writers Association of America. As a redshirt freshman, Orakpo totaled 27 tackles, four tackles for loss, a half sack, nine pressures, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble The expectation is that there will be little to no fall-off with Orakpo in the game (and he'll be in games a lot), and he is already considered by some as the team's next great edge rusher.

Freshmen Lamarr Houston Jr. and Brian Ellis will battle with Jones for the fourth spot, but they must compete for playing time with a trio of sophomores, two of whom contributed significantly last season during the Horns' national title run.

Aaron Lewis, who saw action in 12 games as a true freshman, was "really, really impressive" during the spring, according to Mack Brown and teammates have said Christopher Brown is a real "head-knocker." He appeared in six games as a true freshman last season before suffering a leg injury. While Lewis, because of his growth, could be destined for DT, Brown needs to pack it on a bit before being more than a situation rush end. Sophomore Nic Redwine missed most of last year after also suffering a season-ending knee injury. He played defensive end during his redshirt season and linebacker as a redshirt freshman, which highlights his 'tweener status.

If you want to see how important play from the defensive end is to the Texas defense, look no further than the stat line from the Horns' thrilling 25-22 victory over Ohio State last season.

Crowder: seven tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks
Robison: six tackles, two passes deflected and one, huge, fumble recovery

Texas will look to add even more depth to the position in the 2007 recruiting class. Currently, four-star defensive end prospect Russell Carter from Westbury High School in Houston is the only defensive end committed to the Longhorns in the '07 class. If the Horns decide to add any more players to the 22-member class, they could go with another defensive end. Brandon Joiner of Killeen Shoemaker and Sam Acho of Saint Mark's in Dallas are two names to keep an eye on.

Monday, July 24: QBs
Tuesday, July 25: RBs
Wednesday, July 26: WRs
Thursday, July 27: TEs
Friday: July 28: OLs

Monday, July 31: DEs
Tuesday, Aug. 1: DTs
Wednesday, Aug. 2: LBs
Thursday, Aug. 3: DBs
Friday, Aug. 4: Special Teams

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