The beneficiary of that increased focus on Orakpo was then-junior Sergio Kindle. At that point two years into his career, Sergio Kindle had played in 19 games as a back-up linebacker and special teams player, but had no career starts.
This season, it is Kindle who is getting the All-American and watch list royalty treatment while junior Sam Acho notched his first career start against ULM after two seasons of back-up and special teams work. Acho, a Business Honors Program student, is proud to be starting opposite Sergio Kindle.
‘This is my third year here, and I'm finally getting a chance to get on the field a lot more like how I would like. It does make it more special, because I've worked hard. I'm not where I want to be by any means, but I'm glad I got a chance to go out there and play to the best of my ability," Acho said about his starting experience on Saturday.
Acho understands why teams identify Kindle and slide their protections to in his direction.
"He deserves all the (blocking) concentration he gets. He is so athletically gifted. At the same time, it is easy to be lazy when you are that gifted athletically, but he is one of the hardest workers on the team," praised Acho. "Even if you just watch Sergio on tape, his motor never stops running…If we could have guys play like Sergio all the time, we'd have a great defense."
When Kindle was asked how many double teams he saw last year, he quipped, "not too many" in reference to Orakpo's presence last season. But will that hamper his ability to post huge tackle and sack totals as "the guy" this season?
"I don't see that as a problem. It's basically opening up doors for other guys," Kindle said. "If I get double teamed, that means he (Acho) should be free to do something good."
On Saturday, Acho posted four tackles, two pass break-ups, and one fumble recovery while Kindle had a quieter statistical night with two assisted tackles, one fumble recovery, and one quarterback hurry. No Longhorn recorded a sack although the defense did hit the ULM quarterback 14 times. Kindle only played 31 snaps as his role was limited in the blowout win.
"Basically, I was just doing my job," Kindle said. "I wasn't worried about tackles, but executing the defense and my assignment on the defense. If tackles don't come my way, that means one of the other ten guys is getting it, so that's always a plus in my book."
For a Longhorn defense that led the country in sacks last season with 47, the opportunities will be there for both Sam Acho and Sergio Kindle to notch double digit sack totals, just like Brian Orakpo (11.5) and Kindle (10) did in 2008.
Acho also has presents a significant mismatch against offensive guards when he slides inside in certain pass rushing situations since he is so much quicker than most defensive tackles. His mental acuity also helps in that situation.
"He's always been an intelligent guy, and it seems he knows the defense in and out playing three different positions on the defensive line. I'll tell you what, I don't know if I could handle it. The guy is taking it in stride and doing well and has the most production at the game this weekend," Kindle said of his counterpart.
Orakpo and Acho should get plenty of pass rush opportunities this Saturday as Wyoming brings a high-flying offense courtesy of former Missouri offensive coordinator and new Cowboy head coach Dave Christensen. Last season in Austin, Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel threw 41 times in a blowout loss. Daniel was sacked twice by the Longhorns. Kindle recorded one of them while linebacker Jared Norton got the other. Norton will miss this week's game versus the Cowboys with a shoulder injury. The Longhorns also recorded nine hurries on Daniel.
Expect both Wyoming quarterbacks, junior college transfer Robert Benjamin and freshman Austyn Carta-Samuels, to experience similar heat from a defense that sorely wants to post its first sack of the season.