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Todd Orlando challenging Texas DE Charles Omenihu to improve his run defense

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To become a complete player, the senior needs to continue to cultivate an edge when he’s not rushing the passer.

NCAA Football: Texas at Kansas Gary Rohman-USA TODAY Sports

When Texas Longhorns defensive end Charles Omenihu decided to return for a final season on the Forty Acres, his biggest motivations were becoming an All-American and breaking the school’s single-season record for sacks.

“I felt like I could give more to the university, felt like I could play and put more on film,” Omenihu said in March. “I felt like this team is going to be a team that does big things. But again, it’s a day-to-day process for me and everybody. So I had that feeling and I decided that I wanted to come back.”

Beyond Omenihu becoming an All-American and racking up sacks, however, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has a different idea about how his senior standout can take the next step this fall.

“I think Charles has just got to keep working on the run game. We’ve been talking to him about it,” Orlando said last week.

While the 6’6, 275-pounder did have seven tackles for loss last season, he really stood out as a pass rusher, tying for the team lead in sacks (4) and quarterback hurries (6). In run defense, seven other players on the team finished with a higher Pro Football Focus grade than Omenihu (78.6). Two of those players return along the defensive line — seniors Breckyn Hager and Chris Nelson. Considering that Hager is shorter, lighter, and lacks Omenihu’s wingspan, the separation in results comes down to a combination of effort and technique.

Matching the effort of Hager is a tall task, but improving in that area is something that Orlando wants to see.

“What he can do elite in the pass rush game, we’ve got to make that the same in the run game,” Orlando said. “He’s taken some pride in it. We’ve been on him, and he knows he has to get better at it. I think he is developing a little bit more of an edge to him when it comes to the run game.”

The physical talent is definitely there — few players have Omenihu’s athleticism, length, and mass to hold up against at the point of attack. As Orlando noted, though, the NFL wants players who can excel against the run on first and second downs, not just one-dimensional pass rushers.

“He’s going to have a future at the next level,” Orland said. “There’s no doubt about it. They’re not going out and drafting third-down specialists. That’s not how it runs.”

With junior Malcolm Roach now spending his time at the Rover and linebacker positions, there’s less high-level competition for reps — Omenihu is the clear starter at one of the defensive end positions opposite of Hager. So the opportunity is there for Omenihu to reach his lofty goals.

To truly prepare himself for the NFL, though, Omenihu needs to do more than sack the quarterback at a higher rate than last season.

As a senior leader, it’s time to lead by example in both phases.

The mantra is simple — Do. Your. Job.

“Everything will fall into place if I’m doing my job and my teammates are doing their job,” Omenihu said recently. “Everybody’s going to eat and everybody’s going to work to what they want to do.”