AUSTIN, Texas — If the most effective leadership in college football is player leadership, the most effective position changes are player-led position changes.
So it was for Texas Longhorns junior DeMarvion Overshown, who flashed with four tackles, including two tackles for loss, against the UTEP Miners on Saturday in his debut as the starter at Will linebacker.
As Overshown related to the media on Tuesday during a conference call via Zoom, the offseason position change came about when he went up to new defensive coordinator Chris Ash following a voluntary workout prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
He’d been working with the safeties, the same position he played during his two injury-shortened season on campus and the position at which he was recruited out of Arp in 2018 as an Under Armour All-American and the the nation’s No. 52 player, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
The conversation with Ash revolved around Overshown’s desire to know what his new coordinator and position coach thought about his skill set and where he might be the most effective. The two discussed what teams are looking for at the next level and the development of Overshown’s 6’4, 220-pound frame.
In February, Texas head coach Tom Herman officially announced Overshown’s move to linebacker in an effort to boost the overall athleticism at the position and find Overshown a path towards playing time with so much competition at safety. It’s a move that the Longhorns flirted with due to injuries when Overshown arrived as a freshman, but Overshown’s own knee injury during preseason camp derailed that experiment and much of his freshman season.
Linebackers with the speed and range of safeties aren’t a new phenomenon in college football and the embrace of hybrid players at the professional level mean more opportunities for those with Overshown’s skill set.
Take Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons as an example. Simmons is a player Overshown models his game after — the 6’4, 238-pounder was a backup safety for Clemson before spinning down to the Sam/nickel position for the Tigers last year.
Simmons served as an all-purpose defensive weapon capable of covering opposing wide receivers like a defensive back (three interceptions) and rushing the passer (10 sacks), eventually earning the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker.
Overshown said the position change was made easier by the blueprint laid out by Simmons. After all, Simmons did become a top-10 draft pick last April.
It’s not a one-to-one comparison since Simmons was asked to play the equivalent of the Spur position in Ash’s defense, but there similarities in the size, range, and physicality of both players. The big physical difference is that Simmons was heavier last season than Overshown is this year, as Overshown wasn’t able to benefit from spending a full offseason adding weight on the Forty Acres.
As a result, Overshown isn’t quite where he wants to be physically — he wants to get to 230 pounds eventually — but the coaches have told him that his weight doesn’t matter that much because he’s always been a hitter who plays with a high degree of physicality.
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As a sophomore in high school, Overshown played defensive end and also spent time playing some linebacker in certain packages for former defensive coordinator Todd Orlando last season.
So it clearly wasn’t a difficult transition for Overshown to make.
“At first I had a little nerves, but it felt so natural once I started moving around,” Overshown said. “Just doing what I was coached over fall camp and over the little bit of spring training that we had.”
The feedback from coaches that Overshown shared with the media matched his play on the field — Ash and position coach Coleman Hutzler praised Overshown for finding the ball, getting off blocks, and using his range to pursue ball carriers from sideline to sideline.
On this play in the third quarter, Overshown is lined up on the backside of the play outside the offense’s left hash and quickly has to deal with an offensive linemen in his face at the second level. Overshown keeps working towards the football and eventually pursues the ball carrier around 30 yards to the opposite numbers while still making the play behind the first down marker and the line of scrimmage.
DeMarvion Overshown said he felt some nerves in his first start at Will, but the position quickly felt natural to him. Here's some proof that shows off his remarkable range. pic.twitter.com/vhU1AuXTvI— Wescott Eberts (@SBN_Wescott) September 16, 2020
Another impressive play by Overshown featured the junior scrape exchanging — moving laterally to maintain leverage on a quarterback run, then putting his foot in the ground and exploding downhill to make another tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
And if the first play shown above provided some illustration of Overshown’s ability to defeat blockers at the point of attack, this play below shows how just explosive and violent Overshown can be as an athlete.
It happened on one of UTEP first plays on Saturday, a 3rd and 1 that ultimately forced a punt thanks to the efforts of Overshown and his teammates.
In high school, DeMarvion Overshown played so fast and so physical that playing around the LOS never felt like a difficult ask for him, but it's still good to see a play like this from him on UTEP's first drive. #HookEm pic.twitter.com/JXpl8nvY7h— Wescott Eberts (@SBN_Wescott) September 16, 2020
“What I like about Will linebacker in this defense is that it’s basically just playing safety closest to the action,” Overshown said. “That’s what I like — I like to be involved in all the action and I like to get physical.”