When Texas coach Tom Herman fired defensive coordinator Todd Orlando and hired Chris Ash as his replacement, it was a desperate move made to improve one of college football’s worst units in 2019.
Texas ranked 108th in total defense, 97th in pass efficiency defense and 86th in sacks. And that’s not even considering the missed tackles.
Considering that Texas consistently resides in the top 10 in recruiting, the results didn’t match the purported talent.
For that, blame the scheme as much as coaching staff, per former Texas defensive lineman Malcolm Roach, who believes the switch to the 4-3 under Ash from Orlando’s gimmicky 3-3-5 base will pay off for the unit as well as the individual performances.
It’s too late for him as Roach is working out at the Michael Johnson Performance center in McKinney training for the upcoming NFL scouting combine in hopes of improving his stock for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Roach is one of four Longhorns invited to the combine. The others are receivers Devin Duvernay and Collin Johnson and safety Brandon Jones.
Roach had just three sacks last year in the limiting 3-3-5 that focused on blitzes from the safeties and linebackers to get to the quarterback rather than defensive linemen.
But he believes the scheme change will benefit the returning defensive lineman like Marquez Bimage, Taquon Graham and Joseph Ossai, who is moving from linebacker to defensive end.
“I would have loved to be in a 4-3,” Roach said. “I think it’s a smart move. You have pass rushers out there, Taquon Graham, Marquez Bimage, Joe Ossai — guys that can get after the quarterback. You have to use those guys. That was the biggest thing that we got caught up in, not using our weapons to our full advantage. Now they brought in a new staff, giving those guys the opportunity to rush the passer and show what they have.”
Ossai led the Longhorns with five sacks last year. No defensive lineman had more than Graham’s 3.5. Again, Roach had three.
He believes the scheme under Orlando held them back up front.
“We understood the reason why we were running what we were running,” Roach said. “That style of play didn’t transfer to the NFL and the NFL didn’t understand what type of player this guy was. Or what type of player they would be getting because of the scheme we ran. I just feel 3-4 didn’t let us showcase our abilities the way we wanted to. But we understood why we were running it. I feel the 4-3 will help those guys to show their talents and more people will come out of Texas.”
And while you may scoff a player with eight career sacks complaining about the scheme holding him back, know that Roach’s invite to the combine was no accident. NFL scouts believe he is a player with upside and potential to be drafted which is why he is heading to the very selective scrutinizing process in Indianapolis.
According to former Cowboys scout and NFL combine consultant Gil Brandt, 13 teams voted for Roach to be in the combine. He played in eight games in 2019, including seven starts.
Roach, who is hoping to run the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds, believes his versatility in being able to play every position on the line is a plus for him.
He understood his sack numbers weren’t going to be high at Texas because of the scheme so he focused on improving as a run stopper and disrupting the backfield.
Roach hopes to follow in a recent Texas tradition of defensive linemen having a bigger impact in the NFL than in college.
He says the best is yet to come from him.
“The NFL is going to use your ability,” Roach said. “They are not paying you a lot of money for you to go out there and do something you are not good at doing. That is the thing about it. I feel a lot of people that come out of Texas are a lot better pros than they are college players. We are just coming to the scheme. We don’t have a lot of say so in what we are running. In the NFL, they use you to the best of your abilities. A lot of guys are better pros than college players coming out of Texas. Yeah, I hope the same for myself.”
This story was originally published February 14, 2020 5:00 AM.