The expectations surrounding hybrid edge rusher Breckyn Hager and linebacker Gary Johnson are high not only around the Forty Acres, but across the entire college football landscape. That was especially evident on Monday, as the two Texas Longhorns seniors were named to the Bednarick Award watch list, which is presented annually to the nation’s top defensive player.
Since the award’s inception in 1993, no Longhorn has ever earned honors as the recipient of the Bednarik Award.
An honorable mention All-Big 12 selection as a junior, Hager appeared in all 13 games last season, with four starts coming against Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia, and against Missouri in the Longhorns 33-16 Texas Bowl victory. Hager finished the 2017 campaign with 23 tackles and four sacks, with two of those coming in a key effort in limiting Oklahoma State to just 13 points. However the raw numbers don’t actually portray just how impactful Hager proved to be once he cemented his role in the rotation down the stretch.
Johnson, a JUCO transfer, also saw action in every game last season, with starts coming against Kansas State, Baylor, TCU, Kansas, West Virginia, Texas Tech, and Missouri. After emerging throughout the second half of the season, Johnson finished fourth on a stout Texas defense with 60 tackles — 10 of which came in a career-best performance against Missouri — in addition to two sacks and four quarterback hurries.
After being limited to begin the 2017 season, Hager and Johnson are each expected to be focal points in Todd Orlando’s defensive scheme in 2018.