In 2020, the engine of the Texas Longhorns defense was edge rusher Joseph Ossai, an eventual third-round draft pick who led the team with 16 tackles for loss and five sacks.
Ossai’s early departure to the NFL and a lack of returning depth at the position put pressure on new head coach Steve Sarkisian to make impact additions to address the pass rush after the Longhorns finished tied for 93rd nationally in sacks per game, even with Ossai.
Sarkisian and his staff quickly landed LSU transfer Ray Thornton and then Alabama transfer Ben Davis and Notre Dame transfer Ovie Oghoufo.
On Thursday, when asked who was standing out on the edge, Sarkisian praised Oghoufo for his work in preseason camp.
“I think the one guy who’s really jumped out to me has been Ovie,” Sarkisian said. “He’s a physical guy, explosive, he plays hard. He’s smart. He’s got great work ethic, so he’s probably the first guy that jumps out.”
Sarkisian went on to recognize Thornton and Davis, but both are super seniors who, while highly ranked out of high school, never produced much on talented rosters in Baton Rouge and Tuscaloosa. Since Thornton arrived, most of the praise he’s received has been about his work ethic and leadership — indeed, both key attributes as Sarkisian builds program culture — and less about his impact on the field, which was minimal in the Orange-White game.
So there’s not much reason to expect that Thornton and Davis will suddenly impact players for the first time in their college careers.
Like Thornton and Davis, Oghoufo arrived at Texas with limited production in his three years at Notre Dame. He redshirted in 2018 and then played sparingly over his last two seasons with the Fighting Irish, recording 2.5 sacks in 20 games. In 2020, the 6’3, 237-pounder served as a backup to senior Daelin Hayes, a multi-year starter who received an extra year of eligibility after a season-ending shoulder injury in 2019.
With three years of eligibility remaining, there’s some upside left for Oghoufo to tap into and although his on-field highlights at Notre Dame are limited, the overall picture of Oghoufo as an athlete supports Sarkisian’s statements. He looks twitchy and explosive off the edge, showing signs of violence with his hands and evidence of a strong motor. In coverage, he has the athleticism to turn and run with running backs.
Sarkisian expressed confidence in the nucleus of veteran players at the edge and defensive end positions, a group that includes another super senior, Jacoby Jones, but among the three transfers, Oghoufo is the best bet to regularly make plays this season.