August 26, 2009

Countdown to kickoff: No.9 Lamarr Houston

Name: Lamarr Houston

Position: Defensive tackle

Classification: Senior

Prep credentials: The former Colorado Springs star was a four-star prospect (5.9) who was ranked as the nation's No.86 overall prospect and No.6 strong-side defensive end by Rivals. Houston was ranked as the state of Colorado's No.2 overall prospect by Rivals.com (behind Butch Lewis).

Click here to see Houston's high school film

2008 stats: Houston played in 12 games (eight starts) as a junior and recorded 22 tackles, seven tackles for loss 1.5 sacks, 11 quarterback pressures and five pass break-ups.

2008 Honors: None

Career stats: Houston has played in 36 games (19 starts) at defensive end/defensive tackle, registering 102 tackles, seven sacks, 21 tackles for loss, 37 quarterback pressures and nine deflected passes.

Click here to see Houston's 2008 highlight film

Best game in 2008: Houston was voted the team's most productive performer for his game against Rice, but that's not the kind of game a talent like Houston wants to hang his hat on. His three tackle/two tackles for loss/sack/quarterback pressure against Oklahoma State have a real snapshot of the kind of impact player Houston can be when he's healthy and on his game.

Scouting Report: When Houston arrived at the 2008 season this time last season, expectations were extremely high. Perhaps no player on the Longhorn team had a higher NFL stock coming into the season, but an ankle injury kept him from realizing his potential, as his numbers dipped across the board from his sophomore season. Therefore, as Houston awaits his senior season, he has one final shot to realize the potential to be a great college player that many believe he possesses.

At 6-2, 300 pounds, Houston is probably the team's most versatile defensive lineman. Whether he's playing over the center, at three-technique or lined up wide at defensive end, Houston is an incredibly quick off the ball and when he's at his best, he's nearly impossible to block with one blocker. Quicker than he is outright fast, Houston ability to get off the ball quickly and possess great pad level/leverage when engaged with opposing linemen make him an extremely difficult guy to keep out of the opposing team's backfield.

Like most of the other defensive lineman on the Texas roster, if there's a question mark about Houston's ability, it centers on whether he can hold up against a power running game at the point of attack. There's no question that his game is speed/quickness and he's not the prototypical nose-tackle that's going to eat up double-team blocks and hold down a spot on the field. Although Houston has emerged as one of the strongest players on the team, he's just not the kind of player that you want bear wrestling at the line of scrimmage for 60 minutes.

Overall, there hasn't been a player on the Texas defense that has been as good in camp this month on a day-in/day-out basis as Houston, who has all of his physical tools at his disposal after fighting through his troubles as a junior.

The big hope… In his final season on the 40 Acres, Houston finally develops into an All-Big 12 lineman and anchors the heart of the Longhorns defense for the entire season.

The big worry… If Houston gets banged up or doesn't quite take the next step in his evolution, the Longhorns already thin defensive tackle unit will look even thinner, which could mean the difference between a championship this season or not.

Did you know? Houston is a two-time member of UT's Athletics Director's Honor Roll

NFL Scouting report:"This is the guy that I keep thinking is going to show as a real star before it's all said and done. As you know, I've been a big fan of his for a couple of years now and it's pretty easy to explain why - NFL teams are forever looking for defensive linemen that are versatile and can do more than one thing. Houston can play up and down the line of scrimmage, and he's a plus-athlete, which makes him a handful for almost every offensive lineman he faces. He's a very strong inside pass rusher that uses his hands to separate from blockers and once he gets that separation, it's hard to get back on him as an offensive lineman because he's so quick. Two years ago I thought he was a first round pick in the making and then he disappeared last year. (Will Muschamp) says that was due totally to injury and he expects (Houston) to have a big year. To me there's no question that he's a guy that will play in our league for a very long time. The only question is whether he's going to have the kind of season that makes him a household name before the draft."

The bottom line: It's pretty clear how important Houston is to this team as the season approaches because he's the only plus-defensive tackle on the roster. If Kheeston Randall and Ben Alexander are serviceable parts for the defense, Houston has to be a big-play provider and the anchor the unit. If he fails for any reason, whether it's through injury or inadequate performance, this program's hopes for a championship of any kind will take a sizable hit. Point blank - if Houston isn't special in 2009, it's going to be tough to have a special season.

No.10 - Dan Buckner
No.11 - Eddie Jones
No.12 - Tre Newton
No.13 - Emmanuel Acho
No.14 - John Chiles
No.15 - Kheeston Randall
No.16 - David Snow
No.17 - Curtis Brown
No.18 - Malcolm Williams
No.19 - Keenan Robinson
No.20 - Vondrell McGee
No.21 - Blake Gideon
No.22 - Adam Ulatoski
No.23 - Ben Alexander
No.24 - James Kirkendoll
No.25 - Jared Norton

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