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In order for Texas to take a step in the right direction, they need to revamp the personnel on both sides of the ball.
This holds especially true on the defensive side, as the Longhorns are expected to lose multiple starters and key contributors to graduation, the transfer portal, or the NFL Draft.
It is unknown if defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski will be back next season, but regardless if he is or not, Texas’ defense needs a major upgrade. While they do have a good amount of promising recruits coming to join the team this offseason, having someone with college experience under their belt is just as valuable, if not more.
The major needs have been blatantly obvious this season. The defense certainly could improve at the linebacker position, such as having a more athletic linebacker that can tackle consistently and help with stopping the run. The other major need includes the pass rush, as Texas’ pass rush has been nonexistent all season. Finally, a cornerback to replace Josh Thompson who accepted an invitation to the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
There are many talented players in the transfer portal already, and the talent pool is growing by the day. Here are five players that Texas should pursue on the defensive side of the ball.
MJ Tafisi - LB - Washington
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Tafisi is a solid linebacker who has accumulated 20 tackles on the year and has played in a variation of the Kwiatkowski defense. Him playing for Kwiatkowski while he was at Washington can be a major asset to a defensive group at Texas that seemed to never fully grasp his scheme. Tafisi would likely be an upgrade over Luke Brockermeyer, and given his experience, may be able to play either position if Jaylan Ford assumes the starting role.
Antonio Doyle - LB - Texas A&M
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Doyle has experience at both linebacker and as an edge rusher, and is someone who could possibly be looking for an opportunity to shift back to his natural position as a linebacker. In spring ball, he was working with the starters at linebacker while at Texas A&M, and is widely viewed as someone who can come in start at a Power Five program right away. According to 247Sports’ transfer rankings, he is ranked as the No. 6 transfer in the portal. Texas could use his upside, and potentially sculpt him into the linebacker that would perfectly fit the scheme. He already has a relationship with Jeff Banks, as he was recruited by Banks when he was at Alabama, so that could work in the favor of Texas.
Navonteque “Bugg” Strong - LB - LSU
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Navonteque “Bugg” Strong is the former No. 1 junior college linebacker, and had played in every game for LSU before deciding to transfer. He accumulated 17 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack and one pass breakup this season. He racked up 13.5 sacks at the junior college level, and could come in and do what none of the three graduate transfers this season couldn’t, which is generate a pass rush for Texas.
Marcus Bradley - DL - Vanderbilt
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Like Doyle, Marcus Bradley was a highly touted four-star recruit that just didn’t get the opportunities that he was hoping for at Vanderbilt. He may have had off-the-field issues, which could have factored into why he left the team, as that is what head coach Clark Lea hinted at when addressing his departure. If Bradley can stay out of trouble, he is someone that can play defensive end or tackle depending on the scheme and can certainly make up for the loss of Keondre Coburn up front for Texas as they look to rebuild that unit completely.
Elias Ricks - CB - LSU
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Likely one of the hottest names on the market, Ricks is a former five-star that many view as still having a great chance of being an early round draft pick when he decides to head to the NFL. The California native exploded onto the scene as a freshman recording four interceptions for LSU, and had done pretty well this season prior to being injured. He was heavily recruited by Jeff Banks when he was at Alabama, which could mean the relationship is still there. Ricks is good enough to come in and start right away for Texas, and likely be one their best defensive players. This would be a major upgrade at the corner position for Texas.