Texas football: 3 underclassmen poised to breakout in 2024

Texas Spring Football Game
Texas Spring Football Game / Tim Warner/GettyImages
3 of 4
Liona Lefau, Savion Red
Liona Lefau, Texas football / Tim Warner/GettyImages

2. Liona Lefau, Soph, LB

Jaylan Ford was the epitome of a player phenomenally developed in Austin. The Lone Star (TX) High School product was rated as a three-star recruit in the class of 2020, holding just six Power Five offers.

Ford broke onto the scene his junior season, where he totaled a career-high 119 tackles (61 solo), ten tackles for loss, two sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, four interceptions, two quarterback hurries and two pass breakups. This earned him All-Big 12 First Team Honors and a spot as a third-team All-American.

He followed that up with another 100+ tackle season last fall and was once again selected as a first-team All-Big 12 linebacker.

With Ford's departure to the 2024 NFL Draft, a massive void opens up in the middle of the defense. The offseason will consist of a very talked-about battle for the starting middle linebacking role, but all signs point to sophomore Liona Lefau as the guy who will step in.

The Kahuku (HI) High School product was rated as a four-star prospect by 24Sports and the No. 32 linebacker in the country in the class of 2023.

Lefau is an incredibly instinctual player who everyone inside the program raves about.

A spring practice report from CJ Vogel of TFB Texas on April 6 (donor content) mentioned that “Lefau has been incredibly impressive since arriving on campus” this offseason. Two aspects of Lefau’s game that Vogel pointed out in this piece late this week were his impressive size and play recognition.

Listed back in August at 6-1, 227 lbs, you can expect Lefau to come into the 2024 season closer to Ford's play weight of 240 lbs. He has the size and athleticism of an SEC middle linebacker and pairs that with an uncanny ability to diagnose plays.

In 2023, Lefau was essentially the fifth linebacker in a four-man rotation. He played just 46 defensive snaps and did not grade out particularly well. That said, he played an integral role on Texas's special teams unit, which graded out as one of the best in the nation.

The question becomes, does the sophomore have the ability to lead and quarterback a defense? Transitioning from a special teams player to a starting middle linebacker on a top-five team in the country is a tall ask. However, the Hawaii product has the mental and physical makeup to be the next great linebacker to wear the burnt orange.