Chris Whaley

Defensive tackle Malcom Brown is the highlight of Texas’ NFL draft prospects. He might hear his name called in the first round Thursday night, and four other Longhorns could be taken.
Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

After seven rounds and 256 selections in the 2014 NFL draft, Texas had no names on the selection board.

But by the time Mr. Irrelevant — the name given to the last player drafted — was picked in the 2015 NFL draft, Texas had made its presence felt.

Five Longhorns, the most since 2010, were selected in this year’s draft, which was hosted in Chicago over the weekend. The Longhorns first got on the board Friday, when the New England Patriots drafted defensive end Malcom Brown No. 32 overall, and the team’s involvement ended when the Dallas Cowboys selecting tight end Geoff Swaim with the 29th pick of the seventh round.

“It was just a relief — the past four or five hours have been pretty intense,” said Swaim, who will be joining former Texas teammates Donald Hawkins and Chris Whaley, in a statement. “It’ll be cool to play with the guys that I’ve known and have a relationship with.”

Defensive backs Mykkele Thompson and Quandre Diggs were taken in the fifth and sixth rounds, respectively, of the NFL draft. The New York Giants selected Thompson with the eighth pick in the fifth round, while the Detroit Lions picked Diggs with the 24th pick of the sixth round.

“It’s great,” Diggs said of being drafted on the same day as Thompson, who is one of his closest friends. “Mykkele’s my brother; that’s my best friend. He’s one of the people who definitely pushed me.”

Another person who pushed Diggs was head coach Charlie Strong, whom Diggs developed a close relationship with in Strong’s inaugural season at Texas.

“He can cover and may not have top-end speed, but he makes up for it with his intelligence,” Strong said. “He plays within himself, studies receivers, studies splits [and] studies everything the offense does.”

The Philadelphia Eagles selected linebacker Jordan Hicks with the 20th pick in the third round.

“I’ve been talking to [Philadelphia] for a while, actually,” Hicks said in a statement. “I went on a pre-draft visit there and had a great time, felt really comfortable and enjoyed meeting with all the coaches and getting a feel for the place.”

Four other Longhorns found teams in the NFL after the draft ended. Once the draft is over, players have the chance to sign with teams as rookie free agents.

Wide receiver John Harris will be joining Hicks after signing a free agent deal with the Eagles, while long snapper Nate Boyer signed as a free agent with the Seattle Seahawks. The St. Louis Rams picked up running back Malcolm Brown, and defensive end Cedric Reed signed with the Buffalo Bills. 

“It was great,” Boyer said. “[Seahawks] coach [Pete] Carroll called me, actually. He called and said, ‘I want to invite you out to training camp,’ and he actually said, ‘I hope you accept my invitation.’ Obviously, ‘yes’ was the answer to that.”

Before playing at Texas, Boyer was a member of the Green Berets. He joined the team in 2012 with no prior football experience.

“The thing about Nate is he’s such a hard worker,” Strong said. “Any time someone represents your country, when you talk about courage, you talk about honor, that’s what it’s all about. I love him so much.”

By the end of the weekend, the Longhorns had nine players headed to the NFL — a distinct turnaround from last year.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

It was third and four for the Sooners with the game tied at 3. Chris Whaley dropped into coverage and into the perfect spot as the blitzing safety, Adrian Phillips, forced a pass right into Whaley’s hands. Whaley rumbled down the field, bulldozing the “Belldozer” to score his first collegiate touchdown and help the Longhorns grab a 10-3 lead they wouldn’t relinquish in the 2013 Red River Rivalry. 

The fact that Whaley’s biggest play in burnt orange was a touchdown wouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone in 2009; after all, Whaley was ranked by ESPN as the 72nd best recruit in the nation as a running back coming out of high school. But now, coming out of college, he is the 27th best defensive tackle, according to NFLDraftScout.com.

Whaley’s journey from running back to potential NFL defensive lineman spanned over five years at Texas. In 2009, then-head coach Mack Brown opted to take Whaley as the lone running back for the class, but he was redshirted in his first season on the 40 Acres.

In 2010, Whaley saw limited playing time and began bulking up, ultimately getting too big to play running back.

That spring, Whaley finally made the move to the defensive line.

The 2011 campaign was filled with collegiate firsts for Whaley as he recorded his first tackle in the season-opener against Rice, his first sack against Kansas, his first start against Baylor and his first fumble recovery against California in the Holiday Bowl. 

With elevated expectations in 2012, Whaley struggled to make a significant impact on a historically bad Texas team against the run.

But 2013 was a different story for Whaley, starting with the Red River Rivalry. 

The Longhorns entered the game as huge underdogs, but thanks to Whaley’s pick-six, they were able to dominate the Sooners. 

Two weeks later, Whaley scored his second touchdown of his career on a momentum grabbing “scoop and score” against Kansas, becoming the first defensive tackle in school history to score two defensive touchdowns in a season.

His elevated play had him climbing the draft boards. Draft experts began talking about Whaley as a potential Day 3 name.

Then a season-ending knee injury against West Virginia abruptly ended his Texas career and his climb up the draft boards. 

Whaley was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, but it is unknown if he will be able to participate as he recovers from his knee injury. Currently, he is expected to go late in the draft or to have to sign on as a free agent. 

If Whaley can sell himself like former Texas running back-turned-Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton, he should be able to make an NFL roster. Physically, both Melton and Whaley are officially listed at 6-feet-3-inches and 295 pounds, but Whaley actually has an extra season of collegiate experience on the defensive line. Whaley also needs to prove that his knee has recovered. If he can do this, his knack for making the big play late in his college career should help him make an NFL roster.

Read about the three other Longhorns who will be entering the NFL draft:

Jackson Jeffcoat

Mike Davis

Anthony Fera

Photo Credit: Albert Lee | Daily Texan Staff

Junior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson hasn’t had quite the season he wanted.

After starting 11 games as a sophomore last year, the Houston native played the first nine games this season as a backup. But in Texas’ overtime thriller against West Virginia, defensive end Chris Whaley got carted off the field with a season-ending knee injury, forcing Jackson to step in his place in the interior of the defensive line

“I mean, the only thing I can do is just play my turn,” Jackson said. “That’s the bottom line. I’m not going to sit here and say I’m going to replace Chris because I can’t.  Chris is his own type of person so the only thing I can do is just be the best person I can be and that’s me being Desmond Jackson and playing the way that I play.”

Although it wasn’t where he wanted to spend his junior season, Jackson believes that his time on the sideline has benefited him in a way that can only helped him as he tries to fill in for Whaley.

“You know, I know for a fact that I haven’t had the season I’ve been really proud of, but I can honestly say this year has made me a better teammate and to appreciate the work and the effort that my teammates have done,” Jackson said. “So when my opportunity came, I just wanted to make the most of it and just be able to help my teammates when they needed me the most.”

While Jackson has tough shoes to fill, he has already proved he can become an impact player. Against the Mountaineers, he recorded eight tackles and two sacks to help guide Texas to its sixth straight win.

Nicknamed “Tank” for his strong build and tough nature, the 6-foot-1, 301-pound Jackson has continuously proved he had the potential to make an impression on his teammates.

“I knew Tank had it in him the whole time,” junior defensive end Cedric Reed said. “I was just waiting for him to have a game like that.  He’s one of the strongest guys in the weight room and one of the hardest workers and I knew as soon as he had a chance he’d take it and he’d cherish it. There was a couple times I watched him, I’ve seen him just throw a couple guys out of the way.  He was throwing guys.”

Beyond the field, Jackson has earned his nickname for his continuous work ethic that never stops.

“They call him ‘Tank’ for a reason,” Mack Brown said. “He loves to play. He’s one of those [players] that has the motor running all the time and he practices like that.”

There are a variety of reasons to like Jackson, whether it’s his talent, hard work, or maybe even his last time.

“[I like him because] his last name ends in ‘s-o-n’ like me,” defensive coordinator Greg Robinson said, laughing. “He’s getting an opportunity and he’s a good football player. And I just see that he is just developing.”

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

When Chris Whaley toppled after a West Virginia player collided with his knee, Texas fans held their breath in collection.

When the cart came out to remove Whaley from the field, people had to think the worst.

But when Whaley, a former running back who transformed his entire career through hard work and perseverance, started to cry as the cart steered him off the field, it sent a collective shudder through Longhorn Nation.

There’s nothing worse than seeing a player’s season end on a seemingly innocent play. And for it to happen to someone with a personality like Whaley’s, it’s crushing.  

“It was devastating for me,” junior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson, who replaced Whaley, said. “It hit my heart once I saw him get carted off and he was crying.”

This came from the player who’s starting job Whaley snagged at the beginning of the season, and the sentiment is shared throughout the team. The injury could not have happened to a more beloved player. He’s a team leader and the emotional cornerstone of the defense.

It’s tough to fully describe the repercussions of Whaley’s loss emotionally, but that’s not even taking into consideration Whaley’s significant on-field production. The senior is the anchor of the Longhorns’ defensive line, providing a quicker, agile complement to sophomore Malcom Brown at defensive tackle. Brown eats up blockers with his 6-foot-4, 305-pound frame, providing Whaley, with his running back-like quickness, one-on-one opportunities to rush the passer.

Whaley’s thrived in his role. In nine games, he totaled 25 tackles, five tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception and a pair of memorable touchdowns. These are numbers not easily duplicated, even for a player as experienced as Jackson. The junior started 11 games last season, and showed flashes of brilliance against West Virginia last week with a career-high two sacks.

He’s a capable replacement, but not ideal. Jackson, who is nicknamed “Tank” for a reason, is a traditional nose tackle, but will be forced to play out of position next to Brown. This may not seem like a huge issue. Each defensive lineman is cross-trained, but it will hinder the Longhorns’ strongest unit — something that could be devastating for a defense that’s struggled this season and is about to enter a stretch against three of the most potent offenses in the FBS.

Whaley, like Johnathan Gray, who is also out for the season following the West Virginia game, will be with the team constantly for the remainder of the season. Their leadership will still be important, but it’s not nearly as effective on the bench as it would be in the fourth quarter after making a huge sack.

Whaley is now rolling around campus on a scooter, and it’s easy to envision him delivering impassioned speeches to his teammates from a low vantage point. But no speech can plug the hole his 6-foot-3, 295-pound frame creates on the defensive line.

Photo Credit: Joe Capraro | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns overtime win against West Virginia on Saturday extended their win streak to six games and allowed them to rejoin Baylor atop the Big 12 standings.

The night remained far from perfect for Texas, as the Longhorns suffered a pair of critical losses in the victory. Senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley (knee) and sophomore running back Johnathan Gray (Achilles) each sustained injuries requiring surgery in the game, ending both of their seasons.

Gray enjoyed a breakout season through his first nine contests, leading the team with a career-high 780 rushing yards on 159 carries while scoring four touchdowns. Despite this prolific start to the season, Gray believes junior running backs Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron are capable of filling his void.

“Malcolm and Joe can handle the workload for sure,” Gray said. “Those guys are more mature and older, so I have faith in them to get the job done and do what the coaches ask of them.”

Brown is expected to receive the majority of Gray’s carries after compiling 379 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in his past four games. Bergeron also figures to see a considerable spike in touches as the new backup running back, especially after receiving just 16 rushing attempts in the past six games.

Texas also faces the tall task of replacing Whaley, who accumulated 25 tackles, two sacks and five tackles for a loss in nine starts this season. Whaley also scored a pair of defensive touchdowns, one on an interception return against Oklahoma and the other on a fumble return against Kansas.

“When you have somebody like Chris Whaley — who’s such a big-time leader — go down, you need people to step up,” senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. “We all have to raise our play without him.”

Junior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson turned in an impressive performance Saturday after Whaley went down, racking up eight tackles and two sacks in the victory. He is slated to be the starter this week in Whaley’s absence, with freshman Hassan Ridgeway stepping in as the backup. 

While the injuries to both Gray and Whaley are substantial, Texas is no stranger to losing key players on both sides of the ball. The Longhorns lost junior linebacker Jordan Hicks to an Achilles injury after the fourth game of the season, while junior quarterback David Ash played in just one of Texas’ last seven games after suffering a concussion on Sept. 7 against BYU.

Because of this, head coach Mack Brown believes the Longhorns possess the ability to weather the injuries to Gray and Whaley as they have in the past.

“This team has been very resilient,” Brown said. “It’s been next man up. It’s time to get someone else ready to play. As disappointed as you are and as much leadership as you lose, the guys just said, ‘It is what it is’ … They just understand that’s part of the deal.”

The Longhorns remain confident in their ability to carry on without Gray and Whaley, and they expect their depth to allow them to combat this new list of critical injuries.

Texas suffered a pair of serious blows in Saturday night’s overtime win in West Virginia, as sophomore running back Johnathan Gray and senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley each sustained season-ending injuries in the victory,

Texas said on Sunday that the injuries to both Gray (Achilles) and Whaley (knee) require surgery. Whaley’s injury occurred in the first quarter, while Gray’s took place in the third.

Gray enjoyed a strong start to the season, rushing for a team-high 780 yards on 159 carries while scoring four touchdowns on the ground. The sophomore compiled 56 yards on eight carries on Saturday before injuring his Achilles on a non-contact play.

Whaley also turned in a number of strong performances, recording 25 tackles and two sacks in nine games. He scored a pair of defensive touchdowns, one on an interception return against Oklahoma and the other on a fumble return against Kansas. 

STOCK UP:

DT Chris Whaley (Sr.)

The big man in the middle of the Longhorn defense has been everywhere lately, returning a third-quarter fumble 40 yards to the house against Kansas on Saturday, his second momentum-turning touchdown in the last three games. Prior to Whaley’s 40-yard scamper — he was recruited as a running back, after all — the Longhorns were up 14-6 and struggling to distance themselves from the lowly Jayhawks, who are winless in the Big 12. Fueled by the senior’s deceptive speed and knack to make heads-up plays, the Longhorns were handed a comfortable lead that they didn’t relinquish.

 

DE Cedric Reed (Jr.)

Speaking of defensive linemen making plays, did you happen to notice who caused the fumble that Whaley recovered? Reed was a force against the Jayhawks, sacking quarterback Jake Heaps twice and harassing him all game. Although he only had two sacks in the past four games, the Reed has provided a consistent threat opposite Jackson Jeffcoat and helped this Texas defense develop a nasty attitude upfront. If he can put it all together and continue to play like he did against Kansas, watch out — this once-maligned defense will really start turning heads.

 

RB Malcolm Brown (Jr.)

If it wasn’t clear before, it sure is now — Malcolm Brown is back, and he loves playing the Jayhawks. The junior out of Cibolo ran like a man possessed on Saturday, racking up 119 rushing yards and four touchdowns for the Longhorns. That performances marks the second time Brown has had a huge day against the Jayhawks, as he also ran for 119 yards to go along with two touchdowns in a victory in 2011. Having scored six touchdowns in the past two games, it’s obvious he has emerged as Texas’ primary goal-line threat.

 

STOCK DOWN:

QB Case McCoy (Sr.)

Although McCoy has been the talk of the town lately after leading the Longhorns to a stunning upset over the Oklahoma Sooners and a crushing victory over TCU, he has struggled with inconsistent play and costly turnovers. Saturday marked the second straight game he has thrown multiple interceptions, giving him five in the past three games. With the way Longhorns have been dominating their opponents with a punishing running game, McCoy needs to realize that protecting the football comes first and foremost.

 

WR Mike Davis (Sr.)

Mike who? This isn’t the first time Davis has appeared on this list, and for good reason. The senior wideout has been a ghost, topping 60 yards only once in the past five games while netting a single touchdown. “Magic” has been anything but lately, as his one reception for five yards against Kansas showed.

Photo Credit: Colin Zelinski | Daily Texan Staff

The 6-foot-3, 295-pound defensive tackle slinked back in coverage and, much to the chagrin of Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell, plucked his pass out the air for an interception.

But Chris Whaley didn’t stop there. That’s when his natural instincts kicked in. With the ball high and tight, Whaley streaked toward the goal line, belly bouncing along the way. The former running back wouldn’t be stopped even with Oklahoma defenders charging towards him — he doesn’t get the chance to score often.

“When I saw the quarterback, I wasn’t going to be denied,” Whaley said. “I wasn’t going to let him stop me.”

Whaley’s score against Oklahoma was the first of his Longhorns career. An odd statistic when you consider Whaley entered the 40 Acres as a four-star recruit at running back, according to rivals.com. In high school, a much slimmer Whaley — roll free at 218 pounds — rushed for over 6,000 yards and accumulated 79 touchdowns. 

His future looked bright in the backfield at Texas. But there was one problem when he got to Texas; Whaley kept putting weight on his frame. With the readily available supply of food and the constant workout regimen his weight ballooned. 

So much so that Texas’ weight and strength coach Jeff Madden would joke with Whaley about switching to the defensive side of the ball. Whaley brushed off the suggestion at first. But as his weight continued to spike and the Longhorns backfield became more crowded with the addition of Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, he realized making the switch was in his, and the team’s, best interest.

“I think he was willing to do whatever was needed for the best of the team,” said senior cornerback Carrington Byndom. 

It was a selfless move. Many players would have persisted at their original spot, taking a scholarship away from a position instead of assisting one in need.  But Whaley’s pride didn’t get in the way, and the move is paying dividends for him three years later.

The transition wasn’t easy. Whaley had to change his mindset from avoiding contact to embracing it, and the technical aspect of reading blocks and footwork took some adjusting too. But eventually, he learned to appreciate the switch. After all, it’s better to deliver blows than to receive them.

Whaley’s interception return for a touchdown was the senior’s coming-out party, but opposing offensive lines have noticed him for a while. Whaley is a presence on the interior of the line, a rare blend of girth and burst that allows him to wreak havoc in opposing backfields. Despite eating up blockers at defensive tackle, Whaley’s accumulated five tackles for loss, two sacks and 24 tackles in seven games this season.

It’s easy to compare Whaley to a former Texas running back turned defensive tackle, Pro Bowler Henry Melton. Melton, now a defensive end for the Chicago Bears, made the same switch as Whaley, and serves as Whaley’s ideal blueprint as he eyes the NFL.

Whaley, despite his aggressive, energy-heavy personality on the field, seems almost docile off it. He’s reserved, respectful and always answers questions with a nod of the head and a “yes sir.” But most noticeably, he genuinely cares about the final result. After losses Whaley borders on tears, and after wins he bounds around the field with unbridled joy. These traits have transformed a usually reserved Whaley into a natural team leader.

“He’s the general of our defense,” Reed said. “He helps us get lined up, he takes it into our hands when we mess up and he just makes sure our practices are straightened up. He’s just a great leader.”

Whaley doesn’t score as frequently, and he spends considerably more on food, but he’s still making people miss. Only now, after Whaley finishes his move, he gets to hit someone after.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Since Greg Robinson took over as defensive coordinator after a Week 2 loss to BYU, the Longhorns’ newfound ability to slow opposing running games has received much of the credit for Texas’ improvements on defense. 

Just as important in this turnaround, though, has been the improved play of the Longhorns’ defensive line, and Robinson has taken notice.

“It really does start up front,” Robinson. “I just think our D-line just keeps getting better. I’m really impressed by them and we have depth at that position.”

The Longhorns enjoyed considerable success in rushing the passer to start conference play, racking up 16 sacks and 26 quarterback hurries in their first four Big 12 matchups. Senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley believes the Longhorns continue to improve each week, and he expects the defensive front to get even better as the season progresses.

“We’ve been putting some pretty good things up at the front,” Whaley said. “We’ve been getting better every week. That’s what we’ve got to continue to do. That’s the plan, for us to continue to get better and be dominant every week.”

At the forefront of this has been senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, who leads the team with six sacks, all of which have come against conference opponents. Jeffcoat also leads Texas with 11 quarterback hurries and 9.5 tackles for a loss.

Junior defensive end Cedric Reed also enjoyed a strong start to the year in his first season as a starter, leading the team with 46 tackles while accumulating three sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss. Reed said the Longhorns defensive linemen maintain a strong chemistry with each other, and he credits Jeffcoat and Whaley for their senior leadership.

“We just came together as a unit,” Reed said. “Right before each game we tell ourselves we have to play like this is our last game. Chris leads us, and Jackson helps us out, and they give us inspirational speeches and they just get us going.”

In addition to the stellar play of their defensive ends, the Longhorns’ interior linemen continue to play a major role in the defensive turnaround. Whaley boasts two sacks, five tackles for a loss and an interception return for a touchdown thus far, while sophomore defensive tackle Malcom Brown recorded 6.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks in the first seven starts of his career this season.

While the Longhorns’ ability to bring down quarterbacks and ball carriers in the backfield provides negative plays for opposing offenses, the defensive line’s impact is also greatly felt by members of the Texas secondary.

 “They help us a lot,” senior safety Adrian Phillips said. “We don’t have to cover as long, and if a quarterback does get a pass off it might not be as accurate. We need our d-line to keep playing the way they’re playing. When they have chances to make plays, they make them.”

The Longhorns defensive linemen are hoping to continue making big plays each week, as every quarterback hurry, tackle in the backfield and sack makes the defense even more potent.

Senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley burst onto the scene with his 31-yard interception return for a touchdown against Oklahoma. Whaley's talent is obvious, but his teammates admire his leadership abilities on and off the field most.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

As senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley streaked towards the end zone after intercepting a Blake Bell pass in last week’s Red River Rivalry game, only one thought ran through his mind — score.

The 6’3, 295-pound Whaley, who originally committed to Texas as a running back four years ago, hadn’t found the end zone in his first three seasons with the Longhorns. Thirty-one yards after his first career interception, the senior finally registered his first score. 

“Once I caught it, I looked up and saw I had enough field to try and run it for a touchdown,” Whaley said. “When I saw the quarterback, I wasn’t going to be denied. I wasn’t going to let him stop me.”

While the interception return proved to be a significant play in the Longhorns’ upset victory over the Sooners, it hardly stands as Whaley’s only major contribution. The senior anchors the interior of the Texas defensive line as a prominent run stopper, racking up 19 tackles, three for a loss, along with one sack in six games this season.

While Whaley consistently produces in the trenches each week, junior defensive end Cedric Reed believes the defensive tackle’s biggest asset remains his ability to direct the Texas defensive front. 

“He’s the general of our defense,” Reed said. “He helps us get lined up, he takes it into our hands when we mess up and he just makes sure our practices are straightened up. He’s just a great leader.”

Senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat furthered this, saying that in addition to leading communication on the field, Whaley maintains a vocal role in the Texas locker room. 

“He’s a big vocal guy,” Jeffcoat said. “He’s the guy that will normally speak up and say what we all feel and he understands what we feel and what needs to be relayed to the whole team. He’s the guy that will speak up and make sure everyone is on the same page.”

Whaley molds his leadership role after the standout veterans who helped ease his transition to Texas as a freshman in 2009. In addition to rallying his teammates with his words, the senior believes leading by example in practice is a necessary part of guiding younger players.

“In order to be a leader you have to practice what you preach,” Whaley said. “If you’re going to preach about working hard you have to do it yourself. I go out everyday with an edge at practice. I’m going to get better every day. Some of the younger guys are watching me, so I’ve got to be a great example for them.”

Whaley experienced Texas’ most recent Big 12 championship in 2009 as a redshirt freshman. After wading through a trio of disappointing seasons over the past three years, the defensive tackle is focused on winning another Big 12 title. Only this time, he wants to be on the field.

“It would mean a lot,” Whaley said. “’09 is the last time Texas won a Big 12 championship. Being a senior and winning a Big 12 championship is a big accomplishment. It would mean a lot to me to turn it around after all those bad seasons we had the last few years.”