Juco DT Moore making big impression

AUSTIN, Texas -- By the end of Texas' first spring practice the rumbling had started.

"He's a full-grown man."


One week into spring and junior college transfer Brandon Moore has continued to prove the first impression was not the wrong one.

"I watch pass rush every day, because I like to see the big boys getting after it," said safety Kenny Vaccaro. "And I've seen Brandon Moore just completely dominating on the pass rush side of the ball for us."

And to think it took some convincing from the assistants for Mack Brown to go after the junior college defensive tackle. OK, not too much convincing. Moore is 6-foot-6, 330-pounds, after all.

"Brandon is just a big body," said defensive end Alex Okafor. "I mean, whether his pass rushing move works or not, he's not getting drilled off the ball. That's what you look for with a guy like that."

Texas is looking for a guy just like that to replace Kheeston Randall and settle in next to Ashton Dorsey now that Calvin Howell has left the team.

For defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's defense to work, he needs a solid push from the inside and for the tackles to tie up offensive linemen. That doesn't allow the linemen to get to their second level of blocks, the linebackers.

So now the linebackers -- Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond in particular -- can race to the ball without having to engage or go through a blocker. Sounds simple. And with someone like Moore it can be.

"He definitely brings that workman mentality," Okafor said. "He just grinds."

Moore isn't the only one grinding on the defense. Two other newcomers, Duke Thomas and Alex De La Torre, are working to find a spot on the defense. But whereas Moore has experience and is expected to contribute right away, Thomas and De La Torre have room to grow and time in which to do it.

Thomas has been working at cornerback behind starters Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs.

"He's quick," Vaccaro said. "He's fast. He is playing great for us. He is learning quick."

It's possible Thomas could work his way into some playing time, but Josh Turner will be ahead of him on the depth chart. Defensive backs coach Duane Akina is also working multiple players at multiple positions in the secondary so there are several older players who might be able to work both corner and safety spots.

Still the coaches like what Thomas can do when he gets his hands on the ball.

"Duane [Akina] really liked him because he can catch," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "We got to do a better job with the interceptions."

Texas also has to do a better job with kickoff returns. Once Fozzy Whittaker went down Texas became average at best. Thomas is one of several candidates for the return spot.

"You see his ability with the ball in his hands on his kickoffs and his punts," Brown said. "Got really good vision. Again, a track star with very good track times."

As for De La Torre, his impact has been minimal during the first few spring practices. Because of the injury to Demarco Cobbs, Texas has been scrambling to plug in linebackers and fill the gap. While De La Torre eventually might get more playing time this spring as Cobbs is held out, so far he has not managed to turn that many heads on the field.

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas sports and recruiting for HornsNation

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