Following a fumble by Texas Longhorns sophomore running back Daniel Young in the fourth quarter against the Iowa State Cyclones with Horns holding on to a 14-point lead, for a moment it appeared that the team might blow another fourth-quarter lead.
Instead, freshman B-backer Joseph Ossai created separation against the Iowa State right tackle and burst inside for a strip-sack of Cyclones quarterback Kyle Kempt that was recovered by senior defensive end Charles Omenihu to effectively end the game.
The 6’4, 245-pounder was a big late addition to the 2018 recruiting class out of Conroe Oak Ridge as a top-200 prospect nationally and the No. 11 weak-side defensive end.
As a freshman, Ossai has played in every game, mostly on special teams, but he’s a player that defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has increasingly tried to get on the field. Against the Cyclones, it paid off, as Ossai had two other tackles in addition to his big play late.
Since Ossai hasn’t seen a great deal of playing time at B-backer, I asked Orlando what makes Ossai special.
“Obviously he’s a really long guy, but he’s really quick twitch, very powerful,” Orlando said on Tuesday. “When he plays long — that’s the one thing that I probably didn’t give Joe enough credit for when we were recruiting him — when he throws out of his hips, he’s a really powerful guy.”
So the physical attributes are there for the native of Nigeria who didn’t see a football game until he was 10 years old. Ossai grew up playing soccer and running track, then split his time with basketball in high school. As a freshman, he played safety at Conroe before transferring to Oak Ridge and spinning down to linebacker.
Ossai was able to pick up the game quickly because Orlando describes him as one of the most conscientious players on the team. Throughout the season, Orlando has praised the preparation ability and dedication of freshman safeties Caden Sterns and BJ Foster and said that Ossai works even harder. No small compliment.
Intelligence helps, too — Ossai was a two-time Academic All-District selection in high school.
Of course, he’s not just a nice kid playing football.
“He’s got a little bit of a mean streak to him, too, that you really can’t coach,” Orlando said.
Because Ossai has all the ingredients of a future impact player, Orlando has been working to make sure that the freshman understands the defensive scheme inside and out.
Now that Ossai has achieved a level of mastery, look for him to see the field more often in the final two or three games of the season.
And take comfort in the future of the Texas pass rush, because the early returns indicate that the Longhorns could have a long-term solution at the B-backer position.