Randall Following Lamarr Houston's Footsteps

Last season, Texas fielded a defense that ranked among the best units in the country. And according to Coach Mack Brown, the defensive tackle spot is really the only position keeping the Longhorns from getting there again this year.

"It's our true key on defense," Brown said Wednesday at the final Big 12 Media Day. "Kheeston Randall is here with us today. He's a junior. He needs to step up and play like Roy Miller and like Lamarr Houston from last year.

"And then we've got numbers at that position, but we do not have quality experience," Brown said. "We have to look at a number of guys to see what fits. We can go to a three-four, we can move Sam Acho in there. We'd rather not move Sam in. All of a sudden, you're looking at Calvin Howell, Tyrell Higgins, Kyle Kriegel, you're looking at freshmen. That's one of the keys for us to determine in preseason."

Brown said that the Longhorns could field another elite unit this season should that position develop.

"I think it could be as good as we've had," Brown said. "We just have to figure out the interior lineman issue. Somebody who hasn't played has to step up and make some plays and get more experience. I think Kheeston Randall is like the ones we've had."

Randall played in all 14 games a year ago, tallying 23 tackles, three for loss and two sacks. He also had nine quarterback hurries. But Randall came alive in the spring, and has shown teammates through summer workouts that he's ready for a much bigger role in the fall.

"He's very athletic, very strong. He's big, quick," Acho said. "I think he can be a great player."

Randall wasn't highly touted coming out of high school (he was a three-star player, while Miller and Houston were five and four stars, respectively), but Acho said that it was often easy to underestimate a tackle.

"I feel like at defensive tackle, it's similar to the offensive line," Acho said. "You're not going to get the publicity of the quarterback or a linebacker or defensive back."

Indeed, Texas's back seven has earned plenty of publicity this season, and rightfully so. The defensive back group might be the best in the country, while the linebackers are the top group in the conference and also among the nation's best. Add in a strong end group, one that Brown called "very, very good," and the tackles are the only group on the defense yet to earn rave reviews.

At the same time, Randall said the talented defense made it easier for the tackles to perform.

"I know if I handle the blocking situation right, I have Keenan (Robinson) or Emmanuel (Acho) making the tackle," Randall said. "It eases a lot of the pressure off you."

Not that Randall feels a lot of pressure. Sam Acho called Randall "just a funny guy," and said that he was always joking. Randall said he wanted the defensive tackle group to "just have fun."

"When you're out having fun, hanging out with teammates, that's the way football should be," Randall said.

Randall said he had been hanging out with the two freshmen, Taylor Bible and Ashton Dorsey, since the two arrived on campus.

"They're real students of the game," Randall said. "Anything that I can tell them to help them, they're willing to listen. They both like watching film, so we do that a lot, too."

Randall said the whole line worked together on rushing the passer and getting quicker off the ball.

As to which players will be manning the trenches with him, Randall said he didn't know.

"That's for the coaches to decide," Randall said. "They've all been working hard. We've all been working together, ends and tackles, in seven-on-seven, with Mad Dog working on strength and conditioning.

"We're just focusing really hard to do what we have to do to carry on that UT tradition."

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