Some prognosticators and one knowledgeable football guy I hold in high regard said this was the number 1 one group that needed improvement for the defense to show great strides. We’re going to include interior guys and edge guys in this discussion because they serve similar function - rush the passer and close down running lanes. As a team, we have 125 total pressures thus far in 2022. Last year, we had 148 for the season. We have 23 hits on the QB. Last year, we totaled 27. Of those pressures, the LBers contributed 31 last year versus 19 thus far in 2022. This year DMO likely has a few as an edge so I’d say LB production is not that different from this year. Sacks are only about half that of last year, but I believe our sack total versus WVU exceeded any conference game total from last year. Coburn, Sorrell and Ovie have all exceeded their pressure totals from last year and at least equaled their sack totals. Our top 4 interior guys have PFF grades of 73+. Coburn is in excess of 83. Last year our best upfront (all interior and edges) was 72. Overshown has some impact rushing the passer, but we get cleaner looks when DBs come. All Dline guys have better pass rush grades this year. Coburns pressure rate this year is at 16% versus less than 2% last year. The run game. PFF grades have Ojomo down 4 points from last year. Sweat down 5-6. Collins about the same but everyone else up. Murphy up almost 20. Of particular note is that DMO is up 50 points. Jerrin T is up 40+. Ford is up about 15. My personal observations for whatever that may or may not be worth to you are as follows. I’ll give you a little confirmation bias too. To date, we’re not creating more negative plays necessarily but often those negative plays are for bigger yardage. We had quite a bit last year for very little lost yardage - all of Fords were for 1 yard, sacks in back to back games for 1 yard each. To provide a little context here, I’ve watched every game of Sarks tenure at least twice with some more than that. Many of those I’ve watched live in addition to the broadcast. With that being said, it is a completely different effort from the front 4 in the run game. We reset the LOS pretty well. There are fewer instances of the Dline getting knocked back. Gap integrity is far better. The LBers job is much, much easier. They aren’t significantly better at taking on blocks, but they are less hurried to find the ball carrier because of the guys upfront. The DBs also are helping with gap integrity a great deal, which was my #2 defensive priority for the year. There are few running lanes to be found. Many tackles are being made because the RB is forced to get upfield to get as much as they can. In run defense, you’d be hard pressed to convince me everyone is not playing better than last year. Opposing Olines are getting to the 2nd level far less often and when they do it is not as quickly. As to the pass game, there may be questions of rush lane integrity, but it’s better than last year. The push up the middle is tremendous compared to last year. The numbers reflect that. This has resulted in a great deal of underneath throws but has limited downfield opportunities. Assuming we continue to have success getting after the QB, one of my biggest concerns is a lack of patience at the second level when a previously dropped LB decides to rush the passer because we aren’t getting pressure. Tech had a big conversion due to that. Bama hit a TD pass because of it. There were issues last year too. It’s more big impact plays than huge chunks of yards. Our biggest challenges may be yet to come. TCU presents potentially more of a challenge than Bama with their WRs and Duggan’s willingness to run plus it’s a long season so someone else will get us when our energy is not so high. KState will pose a big challenge to run lane integrity and quite possibly physicality. I’ll probably never feel comfortable against OU until the final scoreboard reads Texas Wins! There’s a long way to go. Defense always starts upfront. Recruit these positions like crazy. Lots of bodies are needed. One or two physical freaks are great, but they still need to do their job and play with discipline. These guys make the back 7s job easier.