There are holes in Texas' defensive line. Can 6-1, 308-pound Byron Murphy help fill them?

Austin American-Statesman
Texas defensive lineman Byron Murphy II rushes Alabama quarterback Bryce Young last September at Royal-Memorial Stadium. Murphy, who has three career sacks, hopes to help beef up the Longhorns' new-look defensive front.
Near the beginning of football practice, Texas' defensive linemen participate in a drill called Stumble Bum.
The point of the drill is simple. One lineman acts as a ball carrier while another tries to knock the ball loose. It's designed to help the Longhorns create turnovers.
On Thursday, Byron Murphy II was asked which UT lineman was the best at holding onto the ball. Murphy volunteered his own name. T’Vonde Sweat also got a nod because the senior is "a strong guy."
Why did Murphy pick himself?
“I played running back since I was 5 all the way until the ninth grade.”
Oh, yeah? Why isn’t Murphy a running back anymore?
“I ate myself out of the position,” he wryly replied.
The 6-foot-1, 308-pound junior admitted that his heart is still at running back. Texas coach Steve Sarkisian has occasionally lined him up in the backfield as a blocker in a goal-line package, so he's holding out hope that he'll get to carry the ball again one day.
But Murphy knows his primary job now is to stop running backs. It's great that he can hold on to the ball in Stumble Bum, but Texas is more concerned with him and his teammates forcing the football onto the ground.
High on Texas' defensive to-do list: force turnovers
Last year, the Longhorns created turnovers at opportune times. Linebacker Jaylan Ford pounced on fumbles in UT territory during the final minutes of 24-21 and 34-27 wins over Iowa State and Kansas State. Defensive back Jahdae Barron scored two defensive touchdowns, and D'Shawn Jamison returned an interception 69 yards for a score.
But for the season, Texas recovered only four fumbles and intercepted 10 passes. There were 103 FBS-level teams that forced more takeaways. Illinois and Western Kentucky led the country with 32 each.
Earlier this week, UT defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said creating turnovers is an area of emphasis for the Longhorns as they enter the 2023 season. By his count, Texas missed out on 21 opportunities for additional turnovers last season.
"We've just got to keep harping on it as coaches," Kwiatkowski said. "Then as players, it's like the good teams that I've been around that have gotten turnovers, it's like a feeding frenzy. It sort of feeds off itself. The whole group, they get that synergy going, and they come in bunches. There's no magic pill or call or anything, it's just keep working at it."
Longhorns are looking for sacks, too
Another area of emphasis for Texas? Sacking the quarterback. The 2.08 sacks that UT averaged ranked 77th nationally last year.
The Longhorns haven't finished a season in the top 50 nationally for sacks since 2017. What can the defensive line do to help the Longhorns improve in that category? On Thursday, Murphy gave his thoughts:
"Pretty much by really working together, being on the same page, getting better at technique, reading," he said. "Just having a better understanding of what the O-line is doing and what they're giving us or what they're showing us."
Murphy, who has three career sacks, will be tasked with leading that push up front. Earlier this summer, he joined four of his teammates on the Big 12 preseason team. He was placed on the media-created honor roll alongside defensive linemen from Cincinnati (Dontay Corleone), Oklahoma (Ethan Downs), TCU (Damonic Williams) and Texas Tech (Jaylon Hutchings).
During the spring, Ford and veteran receiver Jordan Whittington were asked to pick players who would stand out on defense this season. Both chose Murphy.
"He's incredible," Ford said. "For his size, to be as fast and strong, I definitely thought that stood out for me (during winter conditioning). I can't wait to see how that translates."
Said Whittington: "Are y'all going to tweet this? He says I never say nothing. Byron Murphy is going to have an amazing year. There it is."
Murphy is coming off a season in which he recorded 26 tackles, three stops behind the line of scrimmage and two quarterback hurries. He produced those numbers while playing on a line that underwent a makeover during the offseason. Gone is Keondre Coburn, a sixth-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs. Gone is Moro Ojomo, the Philadelphia Eagles' seventh-round selection. Gone is Ovie Oghoufo, who transferred to LSU after starting 12 times for Texas in 2022.
Texas still has talent in the trenches, though. When asked this week who was the toughest teammate to block, offensive lineman Christian Jones said Barryn Sorrell and Jaray Bledsoe are problems off the edge. Jones added that trying to block interior linemen such as Murphy, Sweat, Alfred Collins, Vernon Broughton and Minnesota transfer Trill Carter wasn't a picnic, either.
"We've got plenty of depth," Murphy said. "I feel like everybody can play. We've just got to keep working and continue to get better each and every day. But I feel like everybody can play; we all can play. I don't see no drop-offs."

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