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Texas LB Breckyn Hager could play some DE this year

The characteristic Hager reckless abandon helps the sophomore excel as a downhill player.

Breckyn Hager during offseason workouts
Breckyn Hager during offseason workouts
via @CoachBedfordUT

Watch clips of the Texas Longhorns in practice and sophomore linebacker Breckyn Hager is often quick to stand out -- he's the one flying around everywhere with bad intentions. In that regard, he's simply following in his father's footsteps, as Britt Hager was one of the nastiest and the most prolific tackler in school school. In fact, the former All-American still holds the single-season (195) and career tackles (499) records in Austin.

The disregard for the safety of himself or anyone else with which the younger Hagers plays has made him a valuable commodity for a Texas defense that likes to bring pressure.

"When I look at Hager, when I want to pressure a guy, quarterback look out, because Hager is coming full speed," defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said on Wednesday. "He's one of our best blitzers."

Texas head coach Charlie Strong agreed earlier in the spring, noting that Hager simply has a nose for putting himself in a middle of plays.

"The thing about Hager is that he's one of those guys that can find the football," Strong said. "That's what he's really good at, because when a ball is there he's going to be around the ball and he'll be able to find the ball and he'll make some plays."

However, as evidenced by a shaky start against Baylor in the season finale last season, Hager still has to improve in some technical areas of the game, including playing consistently assignment-sound football, as he missed multiple assignments during that game in Waco.

"He still has a long way to go as far as pass drops right now, but as far as run fits, as far as blitzing, he's our best blitzer, to be honest," Bedford said. "You remember, he played defensive end in high school and he has some defensive end pass-rushing ability.

Bedford went on to recount a story about Hager moving to defensive end in a recent scrimmage because the pass rush was struggling. With Hager's characteristic "reckless abandon," he was able to make some plays, according to Bedord.

"That's his spot," said the Texas defensive coordinator.

From a larger perspective, the continued issues with the pass rush are frustrating after the defensive ends struggled in that area last year. Junior Fox end Naashon Hughes in particular is a good athlete in space, but doesn't have that same natural pass-rushing ability that Hager possesses. And with sophomore Derick Roberson limited this spring because of a concussion, there's not a lot of depth there due to sophomore Charles Omenihu's move over to the strong side until Erick Fowler arrives this summer.

So Hager's services may be in demand there this fall as the Texas coaches work to give the sophomores some more versatile roles in the defense. Last season, those players struggled at times being able to line up and know their respective assignments, but the growth from having more maturity and greater experience should pay off in expanded roles.

"When he's in the game, we try to find ways to get him involved rushing the passer because he's caused some havoc," Bedford said.

Considered a future weakside defensive end by 247Sports out of Westlake, Hager is now up to 6'3 and 230 pounds, so he's in the range that is considered ideal for a Fox end. As a result, he could see an expanded role with more time spent as a blitzer and as a Fox end as Strong, Bedford, and the rest of the defensive staff work to put playmakers in a position to make plays in 2016, as Bedford put it Wednesday.