This upcoming season, the Texas Longhorns defensive unit will no longer be college football's best-kept secret.
With key returnees such as All-Big 12 defensive end Barryn Sorrell and super senior defensive tackle T’Vondre Sweat, the Longhorns defense has the potential to become one of the most productive units in the country.
Perhaps the most important component of this returning unit is interior All-American linebacker Jaylan Ford. Last season, Ford broke out as one of the top playmakers at his position. In 12 starts, Ford registered a career-high 119 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, four interceptions, and two sacks. To put his production into perspective, of the 13 games he played last season, Ford recorded double-digit tackles in seven of them.
Despite being draft eligible this year, Ford made the decision to put his NFL dreams on hold to return for his senior year. In his mind, the Longhorns program has not reached its true potential, even after finishing the 2022 season with a promising 8-5 record.
For the Longhorns this season, anything short of a Big 12 title would be considered a disappointment by head coach Steve Sarkisian's standards. Inevitably, Ford should play a big role in their success, not only as the leader of a rising defensive unit but also as a presence that could help elevate everyone around him.