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Matt Rhule’s departure increases potential for Frank Okam’s return to Texas

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The former standout Longhorns defensive tackle is emerging as one of the most promising assistant coaches in the region.

NCAA FOOTBALL: NOV 05 FAU at Rice Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Tuesday morning, news broke that Baylor Bears head coach Matt Rhule agreed to become the next head coach of the Carolina Panthers, ending years of speculation about Rhule making the leap to the NFL.

Not only does Rhule’s move have significant implications for the Big 12 Conference as a whole after he turned around the Baylor in three years, going from 1-11 to 11-3 with an appearance in the conference title game, it could also result in changes to the coaching staff.

And there’s one coach in particular who could be of interest to the Texas Longhorns — former standout defensive tackle Frank Okam, a freshman All-American at Texas who twice earned All-Big 12 honors and played on the national championship team in 2005.

A fifth-round draft pick, Okam played six seasons in the NFL before getting his Master’s degree at Rice while serving as a graduate assistant in 2014 and 2015. After his elevation to the on-field coaching staff in 2016, he helped turn Brian Womac into a first-team all-conference performer in 2017.

The success in Houston helped Okam earn a spot on Rhule’s staff early in 2018. Okam moved James Lynch outside from defensive tackle to help his trajectory from a second-team player as a freshman to the team’s leader in tackles for loss and sacks and then into the team’s all-time sack leader and Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year after recording 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks.

Meanwhile, defensive tackle Bravvion Roy and defensive end James Lockhard also had strong seasons as Baylor’s defensive line emerged as the conference’s most impactful unit despite using a three-man front.

With new Texas defensive coordinator Chris Ash set to base out of a four-man defensive line, head coach Tom Herman plans to add another defensive assistant, likely a defensive tackles coach.

So even if Ash and Herman decide to retain current defensive line coach Oscar Giles and move him back into his old job coaching defensive ends, which he did at a high level during his former coaching stint at Texas, Okam could still join the staff as the defensive tackles coach.

As a recruiter, Okam doesn’t have a large body of work yet, but he’s helped Baylor remain in the mix with Texas legacy Alfred Collins and signed former TCU commit James Sylvester, the highest-rated player in the 2020 recruiting class for the Bears.

Texas could likely find a more established coach to fill the role, but if Ash and Herman decide to target an up-and-coming young assistant, then Okam returning to Austin would make a lot of sense.