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Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Position breakdown: Defensive tackle

By Carter Strickland

AUSTIN, Texas -- Brandon Moore left and barely an eye was batted.

In years past maybe losing a consistent starter on the defensive line who will likely have a decent NFL career would cause panic. Not in 2013. Not with what Texas should have to offer at the defensive tackle position.

Chris Whaley
Senior Chris Whaley will battle for the starting spot at defensive tackle.
Quite frankly, Moore, a one-year player, might have left because he might have been left behind by the emergence of talent on the Texas defensive line. Hard to imagine but his 6-foot-6 frame could have been squeezed out of the rotation by the likes of rising sophomore Malcom Brown.

It’s Brown on which this line will hinge next season. As the 2012 year progressed, the then true freshman emerged as having the talent, skill and potential to be one of the better defensive tackles in the Big 12.

He is not there yet. But he has also only been with Texas six months. This will be his first spring and first full offseason. And he will be surrounded by veteran players at his position. That should help in both guidance and motivation. As for the rest of the defensive tackles, Texas once again will be four deep and could, if it wants to dip into some younger players, go as deep as five.

Ashton Dorsey: The senior only started two games in 2012 but proved to be a valuable backup when healthy. He will once again be a backup but seeing as Texas likes to rotate the tackles to keep them fresh get plenty of playing time. Because of his experience he brings stability and an in-depth knowledge of the Big 12 to the table.

Desmond Jackson: Jackson will most likely be the starter next to Brown in 2013. He is short but powerful and can use that leverage to get underneath the offensive linemen and move them at will. One drawback with Jackson is that he will not draw too many double teams. But he can take advantage of those situations in which Brown draws the double team. Although he does not possess great vertical speed, he is quick enough to plug a hole and has the strength to reach out and arm-tackle the opponent. Just don’t expect him to chase down too many quarterbacks.

Chris Whaley: Whaley is the best overall athlete at the defensive tackle position. He started nine games in 2012 and could grab that starting role this year over Jackson. Those two should battle it out for the spot next to Brown. He is larger than Jackson and has better feet and hands. He just does not possess the same power or ability to get leverage. When Texas faces a more mobile quarterback it might elect to go with Whaley over Jackson as he is the better runner of the two. But, again, both Jackson and Whaley will play a tremendous amount for Texas.

The others: Texas will have three young players working at defensive tackle this spring, Hassan Ridgeway, Paul Boyette and Alex Norman. Ridgeway was moved from end to tackle and the coaches like what they see in him. All three will have a chance to get quality snaps in the spring. It’s doubtful one will be able to rise past the aforementioned four and get some playing time. But their development will be crucial as Texas did not take any defensive tackles in the 2013 class. So the Longhorns will be counting on these three in 2014 and beyond.