On Thursday, Texas Longhorns junior Joseph Ossai was named to the preseason watch list for the 17th annual Lott IMPACT Trophy. Named after Pro Football Hall of Fame member Ronnie Lott, the trophy is awarded to college football’s defensive IMPACT player of the year. IMPACT stands for Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity.
Ossai started all 13 games for the Longhorns in 2019. He led the team with 90 total tackles (62 solo), 13.5 tackles for a loss, nine quarterback pressures and five sacks.
He capped off his sophomore season with a dominant performance in the Alamo Bowl win over Utah, where he earned Defensive MVP honors after registering nine tackles, six tackles for a loss and three sacks.
His three sacks were the most by a Longhorn in a bowl game since Alex Okafor set the school record (4.5) during the 2012 Alamo Bowl. Ossai is the only FBS player over the last 20 seasons to record at least six tackles for loss and three sacks in a bowl game.
He will look to build on his Alamo Bowl performance under new defensive coordinator Chris Ash this season. As Ash seeks to build his defense around the defensive line play, expect Ossai to be used more frequently as a pass rusher instead of a blitzing linebacker. Head coach Tom Herman expects that Texas will “major” in a four-down front under Ash, but Ossai is versatile enough that he’ll still drop into coverage at times, too.
While converting to the Jack linebacker position in Ash’s primary 4-3 defensive scheme, he has the potential to emerge into one of college football’s top edge defenders.
Ossai, along with redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Keondre Coburn and junior safety Caden Sterns, each have NFL potential written all over them. The development of these three players from Herman’s first full recruiting class will largely dictate how much the Texas defense improves in 2020.
The hybrid edge rusher position is becoming more and more common in today’s NFL. Five edge rushers were selected within the first 50 picks in this year’s NFL Draft, including LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson — who was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars at pick No. 20. A strong junior season could bolster Ossai into a first round pick just like Chaisson was.