Texas Football: An In-Depth Look at the Longhorns Secondary

You can reasonably claim all that stood in the way between the Longhorns and a National Championship last season was its secondary. Let's take a look at what the backend will look like for Texas football this fall.
Jahdae Barron, Texas football
Jahdae Barron, Texas football / Tim Warner/GettyImages
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Derek Williams Jr., Texas football
Derek Williams Jr., Texas football / Mikala Compton/American-Statesman / USA

Field Safety

The aforementioned Mukuba has a beat on the starting field safety spot. Last year, the position was occupied by the trio of Jalen Catalon, Kitan Crawford, and Michael Taaffe. The latter is the only returner to the 2024 roster.

Taaffe had a phenomenal 2023 season, starting nine games and earning an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention nod. I have no doubt the staff has 100 percent confidence in his ability to play in the SEC. That said, Coach Sark constantly harps on getting his "best five" on the field in the secondary. Mukuba is one of those five; this is the most logical spot for him to start.

I wouldn't expect anyone other than Mukuba and Taaffe to get meaningful snaps at field safety in the fall, but keep an eye on freshman Xavier Filsaime in practice reports. He has passed the eye test thus far.

Boundary Safety

Derek Williams Jr. will be the starting boundary safety in 2024. The five-star sophomore played in 13 games last season, registering 42 tackles. He has the makeup of an SEC safety and is in line for a monster season in his first year as a starter.

Behind Williams, I expect fellow sophomore Jelani McDonald to find his name on the two-deep. A late riser in the 2023 high school class, McDonald came to Texas with the "athlete" distinction but has found a home on the defensive side of the ball.

McDonald was primarily a special teamer last season but has the build to be a versatile weapon for the Texas defense. Defensive Coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski has moved McDonald around all spring, and by all accounts, he has passed every test thrown at him. In an April presser, Coach Sark noted that the sophomore had "made tremendous strides at safety."

Freshman Jordon Johnson-Rubell is a name to watch at boundary safety in the coming years.