Among the most notable position changes being explored during Texas’ spring football drills involves Alex Okafor, a starter last season at defensive tackle. He has moved back to defensive end, the position he played in high school and as a freshman in 2009.
Okafor, who will be a junior next fall, moved from defensive end to defensive tackle during fall drills last season because of a lack of proven depth at that position. Although he tried to add weight as the season progressed, Okafor (6-foot-4, 262 pounds) lacked the ideal bulk as an inside run defender and struggled _ along with the rest of his teammates _ during a 5-7 season when the Longhorns allowed seven different opponents to rush for at least 100 yards (including two 100-yard rushers in a 39-14 loss to Kansas State).
The Longhorns finished 0-6 in contests where an opponent had a 100-yard rusher. By contrast, Texas did not allow a 100-yard rusher during the 2009 regular season, when the Longhorns finished 13-1 and played for a BCS national championship.
Okafor’s return to defensive end suggests that first-year defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is comfortable with the progress being made by young defensive tackles Ashton Dorsey, De’Aires Cotton and Taylor Bible _ none of whom made major on-field contributions in 2010.
During a recent interview, Diaz said Okafor projects as a more valuable asset at end.
“Instead of being good enough inside, we want to see him be special outside,” Diaz said. “We feel like he is a guy that can really solidify us at that position.”
Asked about his latest position switch, Okafor said: “If feels good to be home.”
Okafor said he learned of his latest position move roughly two weeks before the start of spring drills and embraced the idea immediately.
“It just made sense,” Okafor said. “I’m definitely excited. I’m going to try my best to stay out there, since we have a lot of young talent coming in at defensive tackle. I feel like I can help at end.”
_ Jimmy Burch