While the debate rages about which school is really DBU, the Texas Longhorns are quietly becoming one of the premier programs at producing defensive lineman.
According to NFL.com as part of the "U-Who?" series measuring draft picks over the last 15 years and the quality of professional production, the Longhorns rank No. 2 on the list of top-10 programs, behind only the LSU Tigers:
First-round picks past 15 years: 4
Top three rounds: 9
Total drafted: 16
The skinny: The Longhorns have been able to cobble together quite a collection of defensive linemen over the years. Very few Texas players flamed out in the league, and most had productive careers -- 12 of the 16 picks became quality starters in the league. No class on this list produced as many Pro Bowlers as UT, and big names like Casey Hampton and Brian Orakpo help headline an impressive group of players who made an impact in the trenches.
Defensive tackle Malcom Brown is the latest defensive lineman from Texas to go in the first round and has all the characteristics of a productive NFL player capable of turning in a long and distinguished carer, like so many of his peers before him.
In fact, what lands the Horns so high on this list despite not having as many overall draft picks as three other schools on this list or even as many first-round picks is the fact that 75% of the defensive linemen drafted during the time span considered became productive NFL players.
But while the past success only provides bragging rights and a potential recruiting tool, the long-term forecast for Texas benefits from the presence of new defensive line coach Brick Haley, who sent 10 of the 21 LSU defensive linemen drafted in the last 15 years to the NFL himself in only six years in Baton Rouge. Regardless of whether that's more a result of recruiting or development, the results speak for themselves.
The question moving forward? Who's next? Junior defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway looks primed for a breakout season and could leave early if he even comes close to tapping his massive potential, but beyond Green Mile, it may take the emergence of a young player like potential edge-rushing superstar Derick Roberson for the Horns to produce another draft pick in the next several years.
Could junior Caleb Bluiett elevate his play enough to hear his name called in the 2017 NFL Draft? Or sophomore Naashon Hughes in the 2018 NFL Draft? If history is any guide, the needed development will happen for one of the aforementioned prospects and, after that, the odds are high that they will produce at the next level.