Desmond Jackson

Running back Malcolm Brown carried the ball 20 times for 82 yards and one touchdown in the Longhorns annual Spring game Saturday. Texas’ run game was solid throughout the contest, but the Longhorn quarterbacks struggled all afternoon. 

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

On the first snap of the spring game, sophomore running back Jalen Overstreet took the handoff and burst outside for 22 yards. It was a poor start for the first-string defense playing against offensive backups on a drive that culminated in the only points the starting defense allowed. During this drive, the starters surrendered 70 yards, including the two longest plays it would allow all day.

But that would be the only drive during which the starting defense looked bad. 

Texas, who wore dark jerseys and featured the majority of the first team players easily beat the Longhorns, who sported white uniforms and were made up mostly of second and third string players, 38-14.

Once the defensive line started to have its way with the second-string offensive line, this contest was dominated by the defense. The starting defensive line finished with 15 tackles, three sacks and five quarterback hurries. Among these were a quarterback hurry by junior defensive end Shiro Davis that led to an interception return for touchdown by senior safety Mykkele Thompson.

Senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson, who finished with a Texas-high six tackles, thought the defense performed well after struggling the first series.

“Overall, the first series to me is the one that, to me, sticks out because we had a couple of critical errors,” Jackson said. “We had missed assignments, a couple of bad tackles, a couple of bad angles, but, overall, we had got our butterflies out, and we were able to just go in there and make the adjustments and say, ‘Everybody calm down. Just relax and have fun, but let’s get our assignments done.’ As soon as we did that, that’s when we started going out there and executing.”

Executing may be a bit of an understatement, as the defense held the second-string offense to only 32 yards the rest of the way before being pulled to start the fourth quarter.

But it wasn’t only the starting defensive linemen who dominated. Freshman defensive end Caleb Bluiett showed a lot of potential, recording two sacks and a game-high eight tackles against the starting offensive line.

One of the keys to the defensive line is communication between ends and tackles. Since assistant head coach Chris Rumph took over both positions, he’s run the merged group through the same drills in practice. This move should help the units stay in sync and avoid critical errors. It’s a move junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown thinks could help the team.

“We are all on the same page really,” Brown said. “We aren’t being taught one thing then being taught something different. We are all taught the same thing. We all do the same drills and everything. It’s nice, and it has its perks.”

After the first series, the defensive line disrupted the game. With solid outings from senior defensive end Cedric Reed, as well as Brown and Jackson, Texas’ front should be poised for another dominant campaign in 2014.

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: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Carrington Byndom’s season hasn’t been what many expected, as he has struggled and been inconsistent at times.

But against Texas Tech’s No. 12 offense, Byndom had his best game of the year and the rest of the Texas defense followed suit.

He and fellow cornerback Quandre Diggs were forced into key roles early in their careers at Texas. The two were consistent last year and key facets of Texas’ No. 11 defense. But Byndom’s injuries and tackling struggles has had opposing receivers licking their lips in anticipation of matching up against the Texas secondary.

If his play against Texas Tech is any indication, things may be turning around for Byndom. Maybe it was the defense’s impressive second half against Kansas, but there was something different about Byndom and the defense when they thwarted the Red Raiders.

“I think I just brought a lot of confidence this weekend,” Byndom said. “Knowing that they were going to throw the ball a lot of times, I was going to get a lot of opportunities. So I think I just brought the confidence that I was lacking into this week.”

His confidence was apparent. While the defense’s main issue has been stopping the run, Texas has allowed some costly plays through the air as well. Texas has allowed passes of 82, 75, 44, 73 and 80-yards in games this year.

Texas Tech’s Seth Doege went 26-for-44 with 329-yards when he faced the Longhorns in Lubbock. Doege leads the country with 31 touchdown passes, but the struggling Longhorn defense held him to just one touchdown strike.

“We had our best game but that doesn’t mean we should start feeling highly about ourselves,” defensive tackle Desmond Jackson said.  “We just have to keep moving forward.  We can’t say ‘We have arrived now’ we just have to keep moving forward and everything will fall into place.”

Byndom broke up the Red Raiders’ game tying two-point conversion attempt in the third quarter. In addition, he sealed the win when he blocked a Red Raiders’ field goal attempt in the fourth quarter. Had the Red Raiders made the field goal, it would have been a one-score game.

“He has to be one of the stars of the game,” head coach Mack Brown said. “I thought he played with confidence. I thought he might get an interception because they were throwing it his way a lot today. But he played with a lot of confidence, and he’s more healthy, too. He’s been banged up all year, but really proud of him. He was happy after the game.”

Byndom said the defense’s lack of success has been frustrating for him to witness. While Byndom took steps forward, the defense followed and did the same by only allowing Texas Tech two touchdowns and forcing three field goals. It was clearly the Longhorns’ best  performance of the year.

Though Iowa State is not one of the top teams in the Big 12, this game will be another important test for the defense.

“For our defense, we’re definitely improving and growing up as the season has gone along,” Byndom said. “It’s still a work in progress, but each week we’re continuing to get better, and we still have a long way to go.”

Printed on Friday, November 9, 2012 as: Byndom turns corner after key victory

Sophomore defensive teckle Desmond Jackson pummels Mississippi’s Bo Wallace in Oxford.  Jackson has played in all 17 games in the last two seasons (Daily Texan file photo).

Photo Credit: Andrew Torrey | Daily Texan Staff

Sophomore defensive tackle Desmond Jackson may not be the tallest player on the defensive line, but he is certainly the strongest.

When he arrived on campus in the spring of 2011, his teammates were shocked to see what he was capable of bench pressing.

At that time he could bench 400 pounds. Now, he is benching 525 pounds, more than any other member of the team.

“I remember coming in and seeing that someone from the 6 o’clock group had done 20-something reps, and I was like, ‘Wow, who’s this dude?’” junior offensive lineman Trey Hopkins said. “And from then on he just got going.”

Jackson’s teammates call him “Tank.” He has certainly earned that name.

As a freshman, he appeared in all 13 games, recording 10 tackles and two sacks. His first start for the Longhorns was against New Mexico this season. So far in his sophomore campaign, he has three tackles for a loss.

Head coach Mack Brown has been pushing the Longhorns to be more physical than ever this season. As a member of this dynamic defensive line, Jackson has played a significant role.

“I feel we’ve been really physical on defense, which is something that we’re trying to improve on both sides of the ball,” Brown said. “In fact, we’ve become a much more physical football team than we’ve been in the last five or six years."

Jackson stands at 6-foot-1 but competes for a spot with defensive tackles who are all taller than him.

His strength hasn’t stopped him from getting teased by his teammates. But he’s an underclassman, so it comes with the territory.

“I got picked on the first day I stepped on campus,” Jackson said. “Nobody’s really seen a short guy like me come through since Casey Hampton came through.”

Hampton, who now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is the same height as Jackson. Hampton has been selected for the Pro Bowl five times and was a first-round draft pick in 2001. Being the short guy on the line can’t be too much of a disadvantage.

Hopkins said Jackson’s height is beneficial.

“Being a shorter guy, Desmond has a naturally low pad level,” Hopkins said. “He does even better than that by keeping his knees bent with very good leg drive, and he just has a naturally quick get off. He’s very good at keying in on snaps. He’s a strong guy and uses that to his advantage.”

Fellow defensive tackle Chris Whaley said Jackson always has a smile on his face and is a leader of the team, even though he is only a sophomore.

“He’s a great player and a great person,” Whaley said. “He practices hard and he plays hard. He has a great personality.”

Last year, Jackson’s steady improvement was obvious. He had two tackles in each of the final three games he played in and had sacks in the last two games, including the Holiday Bowl. This season, he is earning more playing time on the defensive line.

His strength and drive will help the defensive line take on the high-powered West Virginia offensive line and Heisman hopeful quarterback, Geno Smith.

With a nickname like Tank, what else would you expect?

Up:

Desmond Jackson
The freshman is listed as the second option at nose tackle after senior Kheeston Randall. Texas’ defensive line went through its share of struggles last year, and Jackson has proven in the offseason that he can turn things around for the line. What Jackson lacks in height (he’s 6-foot-1) he more than makes up in energy on the field. If teams run on the Longhorns like they did last season, Jackson could be in line for some serious playing time.

John Harris
Harris is another young player who really impressed over the summer. In three receiver sets he will get the nod behind Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis. He redshirted last year, so he brings a little more experience to the table. He possesses good size at 6-foot-3 and should be a valuable tool for newly appointed quarterback Garrett Gilbert.

Joe Bergeron
Big Joe is officially listed as the backup to Fozzy Whittaker at tailback, however there is an “or” differentiating Bergeron from fellow freshman Malcolm Brown and junior D.J. Monroe. Bergeron came in under the shadow of Brown, but he has really made strides and should see considerable action in the backfield. A powerful back, Bergeron also has surprising speed.

Dominique Jones/D.J. Grant
This combo has the not-so-easy task of revitalizing the tight end spot on a team that definitely felt its absence a season ago. Jones saw limited action last year after converting from defensive end, however he did notch a touchdown as a tight end. Grant also converted to tight end after being plagued by injuries in his first two seasons as a wide receiver. Both players are 6-foot-3 and have soft hands. After a dismal year for the tight end position in 2010, it is quickly becoming one of the better units on the team.

Down:

DeSean Hales
The junior has appeared in more than 20 games, but has yet to eclipse the 100-yard mark for his career. Hales is a quick, smart player but has yet to display anything of note in game situations. He is still listed as Mike Davis’ backup, but for those who knew of Hales two years ago it is surely not where he was projected to be at this stage in his career.

Connor Wood
After a four-way battle in the offseason for the starting quarterback spot, Wood finds himself in the “or” column at third string. Wood could be on the move as rumors have begun to swirl regarding a possible transfer. He’s got the talent to start at any other school, but circumstances have not lent themselves to his favor.

Quincy Russell talks to reporters in the halls of Sam Houston High School on Feb. 2 for national signing day. Russell failed to qualify academically and will not be at Texas this fall.

Photo Credit: Shereen Ayub | Daily Texan Staff

Almost every year, Texas has a football recruit who fails to qualify for enrollment. Last year, it was Tevin Jackson, who was granted admission a few months ago by the NCAA Clearinghouse. In 2008, Antoine Hicks didn’t make the grade and instead attended TCU, where he is now a starting wide receiver. This time around, it’s San Antonio Sam Houston High School defensive tackle Quincy Russell.

The Army All-American hadn’t been taking classes for the first term of summer school, causing speculation that he may not be eligible for fall competition. Tuesday, Sam Houston head coach Gary Green told Orangebloods.com that Russell had in fact failed to qualify and that he would be looking to enroll at a junior college. Green also said that Texas might still be interested in Russell in a few years as a JUCO recruit.

It’s a sad turn for Russell, who was in line to be the first major college football player out of Sam Houston since Green became coach.

“I couldn’t be more proud,” Green told The Daily Texan on national signing day in February. “I told Quincy last year, ‘You’re going to be the first.’ I knew he was going to be great.”

Rivals.com ranked Russell as the No. 11 DT in the country, and the 6-foot-3, 289-pounder possessed abilities as both a run-stopper and a pass-rusher.

Of all the incoming recruits not named Malcolm Brown, Jaxon Shipley or Quandre Diggs, this might have been the one guy Texas could not have afforded to lose. In seven losses in 2010, the Longhorns were gashed for an average of 188 yards on the ground and saw eight rushers eclipse the 100-yard mark. The run defense was already looking like the team’s weak spot heading into this season, with Kheeston Randall looking like the only sure thing at defensive tackle. Russell was a heavy Texas target, and one of just two tackles signed in the 2011 class — with Desmond Jackson being the other.

With Russell failing to qualify, here’s a look at who will be needed to contribute big minutes at the defensive tackle rotation this season:

Kheeston Randall, 6-5, 295 lbs. — A shoe-in to start.

Ashton Dorsey, 6-2, 295 lbs. — The roster says he’s 6-foot-2, but he looks a few inches shorter than that. Regardless, Dorsey did receive strong reviews from the coaches during spring practices, and is the likely second starter.

Calvin Howell, 6-4, 290 lbs. — After redshirting in 2009, Howell saw limited action in 2010, with just two total tackles on the year. But the future could be bright for the former member of the Rivals’ 100 if he gets more playing time.

Greg Daniels, 6-5, 270 lbs. — Coaches hope that Daniels, a converted defensive end who redshirted last year, can make the sort of transition Lamarr Houston did when he went from outside to inside.

Desmond Jackson, 6-1, 278 lbs. — The luxury of redshirt year would have been nice for the incoming tackle, but he now might be forced into action.

Others to Keep an Eye On:

Taylor Bible, 6-3, 310 lbs. — It has been a watch-and-wait year for Bible, who came to Austin highly regarded and, to the disappointment of the coaching staff, highly out-of-shape. He was actually expected to contribute a bit last year, but wasn’t conditioned well enough to see the field, resulting in a redshirt season.

De’Aires Cotton, 6-4, 295 lbs. — Yet another redshirt, Cotton was a member of the three-tackle 2010 recruiting class, but has been a bit of a forgotten name under the shadows of Dorsey and Bible. But Texas will take all the help it can get.