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Texas S BJ Foster is emerging as an elite blitzer and key to the Lightning package

Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando believes that if Foster says the course and stays humble, he could be a player we’re talking about 10 years from now. He might be underselling the Angleton product.

Quentin Jammer. Quandre Diggs. BJ Foster.

The Angleton-to-Texas defensive back connection was a family affair until Diggs started showing an interest in the younger player.

If he even needed it, Foster was mentored by his fellow Angleton standout, who played an active role in ensuring that the younger player followed in his significant footsteps by choosing Texas.

There was a fundamental difference between the two players, however. Where Diggs was the undersized athlete at 5’9 who had to wait until the second Junior Day in 2010 to receive his offer — a major sign of the Longhorns not valuing Diggs especially highly, despite the fact that he grew up around the program — Foster was the 6’1 standout who received his offer from former head coach Charlie Strong and his staff in April of 2016, nearly a year earlier than Diggs received his offer.

So Diggs opted not to waste any of the time that Mack Brown had wasted on him.

“C’mon home.”

Despite 27 offers and an eventual consensus five-star ranking as the nation’s No. 24 prospect and No. 3 safety, Foster heeded the call from Diggs in June of 2017.

Now a freshman safety making an impact at the Joker position in the team’s Lightning package, Foster is quickly making himself indispensable to the defense with his hard-hitting style and elite ability as a blitzer.

“I don’t really know where he fits in terms of the guys I’ve seen, but he’s up there,” defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said on Wednesday. I had asked him where Foster ranks as a blitzer in terms of freshmen safeties that he’s coached.

“You usually don’t see 19-year-old kids do what him and Caden are doing right now,” Orlando added.

“As a blitzer, very dynamic. If we have a chance to blitz him, we’re going to try to blitz him because he has really good vision and a way of contorting his body to get through blockers. You saw that versus Oklahoma, you saw that versus Baylor — he has a really natural wiggle to him.”

Oklahoma v Texas Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Hip flexibility and overall flexibility are the roots of explosiveness, but what Orlando is saying that makes Foster so special is that he has the processing speed to make it all matter. Much like a quarterback has to slow the game down mentally to find success — perhaps the most important aspect to elite quarterback play at any level — Foster is able to use his vision and processing speed to take advantage of his elite quick-twitch athleticism and flexibility. That wiggle that Orlando mentioned, which served Foster well as a running back in high school.

The blitzing ability of Foster will be key moving forward because his development in concert with the demands posed by opposing offenses will necessitate consistent usage of the Lightning package with the freshman safety as the Joker — a.k.a the sixth defensive back on the field, and the one with the largest blitz responsibilities.

Earlier in the season, Texas didn’t face as many teams utilizing the same type of Air Raid attacks that the Horns will see in coming weeks. Foster wasn’t quite as ready from a developmental standpoint and missed the first half of the TCU game due to a targeting call against USC.

In Manhattan, Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder made the decision to go with his running quarterback, Alex Delton, which limited the deployability of Foster in the Lightning package.

However, with Oklahoma often flexing out their tight end and Baylor often operating from a similar mentality, Foster was able to repeatedly demonstrate his value as a blitzer.

In those two games combined, Foster recorded 3.5 tackles for loss, his entire output for the season. He had a sack against the Sooners and a huge play on 3rd and 1 deep in Texas territory against talented left tackle Bobby Evans where he used his feel for the game and ability to change direction and contort to serve as the first and most crucial wave of defense in stopping that play when he juked Evans outside and then sliced inside of him. Oklahoma had to settle for a field goal.

Foster made a similar play against Baylor to pressure the quarterback coming from the boundary.

On a blitz in the Oklahoma game, he recorded his only sack of the season when he used his motor to run through the running back, who was able to get Foster off his feet, but Foster kept battling and was able to sack Kyler Murray. The third-down sack forced a punt.

Later in the press conference, Orlando noted that the defense has been a work in progress in the sense of determining which players fit best in which roles. Foster plays a key part in that, as his dynamic ability as a blitzer has provided the solution that Orlando needed at the Joker position to replace the departed Jason Hall, the pioneer of that role following its installation after the Iowa State game last season.

Take the last three plays against the Bears, for instance — Orlando sent Foster on a blitz on each of those plays and Foster either pressured the quarterback or opened up an opportunity for another player to pressure the quarterback.

Texas survived, as Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer wasn’t able to come close to completing any of those passes.

Baylor v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

With Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and Texas Tech all looming in the final five games, there will be plenty more opportunities for Foster.

“You’re looking at a whole stretch of teams that are similar — high-octane, spread teams, and to have someone like him who has developed as fast as he has, we feel comfortable playing him on every down. That’s really unique, and we’re really fortunate to have that kid,” Orlando said.

“Is he going to be up there? I believe so, and I don’t like to talk really high up on young guys, but the way those two guys are developing, as long as they stay the course and they stay humble, which they are, and they keep working, they can be the ones that we talk about 10 years from now.”

On Monday, head coach Tom Herman was asked how much the older defensive backs have mentored the historic 2018 recruiting class. His answer was telling in terms of the job done by the coaching staff evaluating players who fit the culture and the job done by the parents and high school coaches of those players.

“I don’t think it’s been necessary, to be quite honest with you,” said Herman. “I think that those young DB’s have been really, really mature from the time they got here, whether it was Anthony, Caden and BJ coming in the spring, or Jalen coming in fall camp, those guys have been — they don’t need much mentoring and the mentoring that they get is from one of the best DB’s coaches in the country in Jason Washington and the best defensive coordinator in the country, Todd Orlando.

“And so, yeah, the older guys do what they can, but I think it’s a testament to how mature these young guys were when they got here in terms of their, I don’t know, necessity, for that.”

The question, then, becomes whether Foster can stay the course and stay humble. His background provides a potential answer.

Foster’s high school coach at Angleton called him a cowboy — a fitting term for a kid who liked to spend his time with quarter horses named Diamond and Princess. He was an introvert who enjoyed riding his horses or enjoying the alternative transportation of a four-wheeler with his friends.

At one point, Foster wanted to be a rodeo cowboy and a roper. His parents created incentives to encourage their son to achieve those dreams.

On-field success in little league football earned a dirt bike, but quickly created the realization for his parents that the standards would have to increase. Foster was just that good, earning the dirt bike with 10 touchdowns through only three games in a 10-game season.

Genetics helped, too — Yolanda Royston, his mother, was a standout volleyball player at Sam Houston State. His older sister excelled in basketball and softball.

Like fellow freshman safety Caden Sterns, Foster is on the path to becoming another standout player at DBU. Texas is fortunate to have him as he continues the tradition of standout defensive backs from Angleton.

In Detroit, Quandre Diggs is smiling — Angleton, represent.

After all, Foster has that dog in him, and a whole lot more, so he can be one we talk about 10 years from now. Maybe longer.

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