Jackson Jeffcoat

Wide receiver John Harris is one of several fifth-year seniors making an impact for the Longhorns this season. 

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

In January 2010, the Longhorns received commitments from two of the nation’s top defensive prospects — now-senior linebacker Jordan Hicks and former Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat — helping Texas secure a class that was supposed to bring championships.

But instead, the next four seasons brought disappointing results leading to eventual changes in the program. Now, Texas’ few remaining 2010 signees, entering their fifth season with the Longhorns, hope to use 2014 to alter the perception of their class and their legacies.

“All of us fifth-year guys, we want to finish this right,” senior wide receiver John Harris said. “[When] we came in here, it was a year they went to the National Championship a year before. And to come in the next year and go 5-7 was a little bit tough. There might have been a little complacency.”

Harris is one of Texas’ fifth-year players taking advantage of the opportunity to play for a new coaching regime. Harris made several big plays for the Longhorns in the Mack Brown era, but, after missing the last 10 games of 2011 with injuries, he struggled with consistent reps. In the first game under new head coach Charlie Strong, Harris hauled in seven receptions, marking a career night after only catching nine passes in his first three seasons.

“He’s done what he’s needed to do to prove to the coaching staff and to the team that he’s a great player and that he deserves to be out there,” Hicks said. “He’s proving that to the world right now.”

Hicks is also looking to put together a healthy senior season after missing 19 games in the past two years because of various injuries. In addition, fellow senior linebacker Demarco Cobbs missed 15 games, including all of 2013 to a knee injury. Both Hicks and Cobbs recorded the first interceptions of their careers in their return this past Saturday.

“We are rooming together, so we’ve talked about this first game all offseason,” Hicks said. ”It’s been over a year since he’s played in a game, and I haven’t played since last year, so we’ve worked together. We’ve poured our hearts out into this game, coming back and making sure when we do come back that we were going to be in top shape.”

With injuries already affecting Texas this season, the three fifth-year seniors will try to lead the Longhorns past adversity. It’s the last chance to redeem a class currently remembered for missed opportunities and losses.

”We haven’t gone to a really big BCS bowl game since we’ve been here,” Harris said. “So I think just to finish this year right and try to help Texas get back to a 10-win record or 11-win record would be great for us to leave out of here. We just want to help get back Texas where it needs to be, and we want to start that with Coach Strong.”

Senior defensive end Cedric Reed had an impressive 2013 campaign but was overshadowed by All-American Jackson Jeffcoat. This year, Reed looks to take advantage of his situation and turn into “the guy” for the Texas defense.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Last August, senior defensive end Cedric Reed was nothing more than “the other guy.” 

Star defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat was returning for his senior season as the leader of the Texas defense, and hardly anybody even knew who the other defensive end was.

Now, just a year later, Reed is one of the most recognizable names on the Texas roster and has taken over as the leader of the Longhorn defense.

It may have been overshadowed by Jeffcoat’s incredible campaign last year, but Reed’s 2013 season was impressive in it’s own right, and the numbers back it up. Reed, a native of Cleveland, Texas, finished the season with 79 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. If he weren’t playing alongside a consensus All-American, he might as well have been the best defensive player on the team.

Since then, Reed has been working with the new Texas coaching staff to improve his game, as he looks to replicate Jeffcoat’s accomplishments from last year.

“Just being with [strength] Coach [Pat] Moorer in one offseason, it is amazing to see what happened,” Reed said. “I put on about 10-15 pounds, and I can definitely feel it out on the field. It hasn’t slowed me down a bit.” 

The physical improvements may be more obvious to the average eye, but it is Reed’s improvements on the mental side of the game that have impressed his coaches most.

“I can see plays more now,” Reed said. “With [defensive line] coach [Chris] Rumph I see a lot more things. My awareness is high. I think I am a better player than I was last year.”

It is to nobody’s amazement that the 6-foot-5-inch senior’s game has improved drastically compared to where he was last summer. But even Reed, who has always been quiet, has been surprised by how much he’s developed as a leader in his final season.

“When we were at workouts, I said something, and I turned around and these little freshmen had these little puppy faces, and they were just looking at me like, ‘What do we do next?’” Reed said. “It just surprises you how much your leadership grows when you become a senior. Rumph got after me a little bit when he first got here because I was all quiet, and it just wasn’t me. But I think I really surprised myself with some of the leadership roles I’ve put on for him.”

Just as Reed was an unknown commodity a year ago, junior defensive end Shiro Davis is the unproven guy this year. If Davis can benefit from Reed’s improved leadership skills, don’t be surprised to see this article again next year, with Davis replacing Reed. The only question is, who will be “the other guy?”

Former Texas wide receiver Mike Davis contests a call in the Aug. 31, 2013 game against New Mexico. Davis was one of several Longhorns who went undrafted in this year's NFL Draft. 

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

The 2014 NFL Draft is in the books, and for the first time since 1937, no Longhorns heard their names called.  
 
Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat was expected to go in the middle of the draft after outperforming his position in four of the six events in the combine. Instead, he was passed over for other defensive ends perhaps as a result of his injury prone history. Jeffcoat signed with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent.
 
As of Sunday night, six other Longhorns have inked deals with NFL teams after being undrafted. Wide receiver Mike Davis is headed to the Oakland Raiders, while cornerback Carrington Byndom agreed with the Carolina Panthers.
 
Defensive tackle Chris Whaley will stay in state as a Dallas Cowboy, as he tries to battle back from his season-ending knee injury suffered against West Virginia in November.
 
Offensive lineman Trey Hopkins is going to Cincinnati Bengals, while offensive lineman Donald Hawkins will be a Philadelphia Eagle.
 
The 2014 NFL Draft class was primarily composed of players who graduated high school in 2009, 2010 and 2011. During this stretch, former head coach Mack Brown inked the third, second and fifth-ranked classes in the country respectively according to ESPN. 
 
New head coach Charlie Strong had four former players drafted from Louisville, including three in the first round. He did this despite only signing one recruiting class in the ESPN top 25 over the three-year stretch (No. 22 class in 2011).
 
Since the 2010 BCS Title game loss to Alabama, Texas fans have often complained about the lack of player development at Texas and changing that perception will fall on Strong and his staff.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Longhorns eligible for the upcoming draft displayed their talents in front of NFL scouts Wednesday at the team’s Pro Timing Day.

Senior cornerback Carrington Byndom was among the players who impressed scouts. Byndom ran a 4.37 40-time. He was not invited to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine in February.

“I had to come out today with a lot to prove and today was my day to kind of show everybody what I can do and what I’m capable of,” Byndom said. “I think a lot of scouts had me running a lot slower than that, so to come out and run that is really good. I could have done a little bit better on my position work, but there’s still time for that. But overall, pretty good day.”

Byndom said he has heard rumors about where or if he will be drafted in May.

“I can’t really listen to all that,” Byndom said. “If my name gets called, then my name gets called. If it doesn’t, then let’s see if we can make a team.”

Senior defensive lineman Jackson Jeffcoat posted high numbers at the combine with his 4.63 40-time and his 36-inch vertical jump. He only participated in the bench press Wednesday because he said he did not think he performed well with it in Indianapolis. 

“I went out there and showed I was in shape, showed that I’ve been working,” Jeffcoat said. “The goal was to show that I can move in space, change direction and show that I can play defensive end and outside linebacker. When it comes down to it, they want to see my film and they want to see me move out here.”

Senior wide receiver Mike Davis said he thought he could have done better.

“I’m just shooting for whoever calls me,” Davis said. “I feel scouts know who I am. I take pride in my route-running ability. As a receiver, I’ll be able to separate, and I feel like I can do that really well and I can play inside and outside.”

Senior safety Adrian Phillips said, from what he was told, Longhorn Network clocked his 40-time at a 4.37, but the scouts measured his time at a 4.44. 

“My fieldwork was exceptional,” Phillips said. “I think I did really well on that. I dropped the ball. I was mad about that. I wanted to go perfect on that. Other than that, I feel like everything I came out and showed what I was and did my best and hopefully the scouts like it.”

Senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley returned to the Pro Timing Day after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the West Virginia game last year. Whaley only participated in the bench press, and he said he maxed out at 22 reps at 225 pounds. Whaley measured in at the Pro Timing Day at 6-feet-3-inches, 273 pounds, nearly 30 pounds lighter than he was while he played last year. He said he was happy he lost weight during the process of his recovery.

“I kind of started running a little bit, and it’s progressing really good,” Whaley said. “I got all my range and motion back. Not all the flexibility back yet, but it‘s close and it’s getting there and I am about a month ahead of schedule.”

Texas senior DE Jackson Jeffcoat was a consensus All-American in 2013. He is projected as a second-day draft pick.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Jackson Jeffcoat ended his career on top, despite much adversity throughout his four years in Austin.

Jeffcoat is one of just five consensus All-American defensive ends in school history. He served as a captain in 2013 and was a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award given to the nation’s top defensive player each year. He also earned the 2013 Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year award and was a first-team All-Big 12 choice.

Jeffcoat’s stature at 6 feet 5 inches and 250 pounds makes him appealing to NFL scouts as he attempts to follow his father’s NFL footsteps — he is projected as second-day draft pick. Teams will examine his injury history closely in the evaluation process, but Jeffcoat is accustomed to overcoming adversity.

In 33 of his last 36 games, Jeffcoat had at least one tackle for a loss, and he had 12 sacks over his last 19 games. He was also the only FBS lineman in the 2013 season who led his team in tackles.

Those accolades create a great resume, but they did not come easy.

Jeffcoat appeared in eight games as a true freshman and was forced to sit out four of the team’s contests due to a nagging ankle injury. Despite the ankle issues, he posted 15 tackles, 2.5 sacks and six tackles for a loss.

His sophomore year was much more typical for the former top-overall national recruit. He collected 71 tackles, 21 for a loss. His eight sacks ranked him fifth in the Big 12, and he tied for third in the conference in tackles for loss. In the final game of the Lone Star Showdown, Jackson picked up five tackles, one tackle for a loss and ruptured his left pectoral muscle in a dramatic 27-25 victory over Texas A&M. After the Longhorn season concluded, Jeffcoat underwent surgery to correct the issue.

Health would still prove fleeting for Jeffcoat as he entered his junior season. Jeffcoat started the first six games of the year, amassing four sacks and 11 tackles for loss. His early season success ended at the Red River Rivalry when Jeffcoat suffered a season-ending right pectoral injury. Before the injury, draft experts predicted him as a first or second round draft pick. Despite the end to his junior campaign, he still finished the season as second on the team in tackles for loss
and sacks.

Despite numerous injuries to other teammates, Jeffcoat managed to remain healthy his senior season and started all 13 games. He ended the year with 86 tackles, 22 tackles for loss and 13 sacks.

Texas wins if…

...its defensive ends are the force they have been throughout most of the season. Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed have both wreaked havoc on Big 12 quarterbacks, registering 10 and eight sacks, respectively. That trend will have to continue in Waco on Saturday for the Longhorns to have a chance to pull the upset. The once-prolific Baylor offense has fallen on tough times the last two weeks. Through six Big 12 games, the Baylor offense was averaging nearly 600 yards and 57 points per game, helping the Bears earn a Top 5 ranking. Oklahoma State was the first team to derail Art Briles’ offense, holding the Bears to 17 points in its only loss of the year. Last week in Fort Worth, TCU held Baylor to just 27 points, also well below their season average. Bears starting left tackle Spencer Drango is out for the remainder of the season with a back injury, so Jeffcoat’s and Reed’s job of getting to the quarterback should be a little easier Saturday. If those two can create pressure and save Greg Robinson from having to blitz, it will allow the Longhorns secondary to better deal with the weapons the Bears will trot out at wide receiver. Antwan Goodley has amassed more than 1,200 yards receiving for the Bears this year, so any help the secondary can get from the pass rush will go a long way. Texas wins if they can make Bryce Petty’s life hell on Saturday.

 

Texas loses if…

...it can’t get the ground game going. The best way to slow down a high-flying offense such as Baylor’s is to keep it off the field as much as possible, and that is done by successfully running the football. It won’t be an easy task. The Baylor defense has the No. 26 rushing defense in the country, so the offensive line will have to take it upon themselves to be more physical the Baylor front seven to move the ball. A gameplan like the one the Longhorns employed in their game against Texas Tech, when they rushed for 281 yards, should do the trick Saturday at Floyd Casey Stadium. While running for 280 yards will be a daunting task, Oklahoma State proved that you can move the ball on the ground with success against Baylor. If the Longhorns cannot get the ground game going, it will force Case McCoy to go from game-manager to game-changer, and that has proven to be problematic in the past. Texas loses if they can’t move the ball on the ground.

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

Senior quarterback Case McCoy played as big a role as anyone in Texas’ six-game winning streak to kick off conference play.

After entering the second half of the Longhorns’ Big 12 opener against Kansas State on Sept. 21, McCoy started and won each of Texas’ next five games, throwing for 1,141 yards and seven touchdowns against six interceptions over that stretch.

The senior was unable to replicate this success against No. 12 Oklahoma State in his last game, though, throwing for a season-high three interceptions while failing to connect on a touchdown pass in Texas’ 38-13 loss. McCoy accepted the blame for the loss after his season-worst performance, but he remains confident in the Longhorns’ ability to finish the season strong.

“I, being the quarterback, I being the leader on this team, have to take full responsibility for that,” McCoy said. “From my position, I didn’t play well enough to even give us a chance to win... We’re two weeks past that now. These guys haven’t given up. We understand that if we win two more ballgames, we’re putting numbers on the wall and we’re still sharing a Big 12 title.”

McCoy addressed the team following the loss and admitted that he needs to play better moving forward. Following his subpar performance, head coach Mack Brown said McCoy remains as vocal as ever in the locker room.

“Case has really stood up and he’s accountable for our team, as a quarterback should be,” Brown said. “He’s been a very good leader with this group and he’s been very honest with them. He stepped up after the game the other day and he’s been very vocal at practice.”

Senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat appreciated McCoy’s accountability, but he said the rest of the team was quick to assume much of the blame as well.

“We told him ‘Hey, it’s not on you,’” Jeffcoat said. “‘You’re not there only person out there playing. It’s on all of us. It’s on the whole team; defense, offense, the whole team.’ We told him we just need to get that stuff corrected.”

The most pressing thing that needs to be corrected is the turnovers. Texas lost the turnover battle, 3-1, for the first time this season against the Cowboys, and McCoy knows the importance of keeping the ball out of the opponent’s hands.

“I understand I touch the ball every play,” McCoy said. “I understand that you have to make plays as a quarterback to win games, but also your No. 1 job is to take care of the ball. I didn’t do that. That shows, when you lose the turnover battle like that, the score doesn’t usually go in your favor.” 

Texas maintains the ability to win at least a share of the Big 12 title this season, but it needs to defeat Texas Tech to keep its hopes alive. To do this, the Longhorns likely need a big performance on offense to keep up with the high-scoring Red Raiders, and no player figures to be more important in this
than McCoy.  

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns’ 38-13 loss to No. 12 Oklahoma State ended their six-game winning streak and complicated their run toward a Big 12 title. Here are four takeaways from Saturday’s game:

Struggle against the QB run

After allowing 259 rushing yards to BYU’s Taysom Hill in Week 2 and 83 rushing yards to Iowa State’s Sam Richardson in Week 6, the Longhorns did not surrender more than 34 rushing yards to an opposing quarterback in their next four games.

The Texas defense reverted back to its early season form against Oklahoma State, though, surrendering 95 yards and two touchdowns on the ground to senior quarterback Clint Chelf.

The quarterback racked up five carries of 10 yards or more, three of which came in a first quarter scoring drive that ended with Chelf running it in from 18 yards out. His 95 rushing yards and 9.5 yards per carry led all players and left a sour taste in defensive coordinator Greg Robinson’s mouth.

“It was unacceptable, unacceptable,” Robinson said. “It shouldn’t have happened.”

Disappearance of the pass rush

A major factor in Texas’ struggles against Chelf was its inability to generate pressure in the backfield.

After racking up 24 sacks in their first six conference games, the Longhorns failed to record a sack for the first time since the start of Big 12 play.

Senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said the Cowboys used extra blockers throughout the game to account for Texas’ pass rush.

“They were blocking with most of their guys,” Jeffcoat said. “They’d bring the fullback in the back and block with him or they’d get it out pretty quick. Seven-man protection. They were getting it out fast.”

Running backs underwhelm without Gray

Texas remained devoted to the run in its first game without sophomore running back Johnathan Gray, but it failed to continue its recent efficiency on the ground.

The Longhorns averaged just 3.5 yards per carry, and their 151 yards on the ground were their lowest total since the game against Iowa State. Junior running back Malcolm Brown led Texas with 73 yards on the ground and scored the Longhorns’ lone touchdown, but he averaged just 2.9 yards per attempt.

One bright spot on the ground was junior running back Joe Bergeron, who racked up 49 yards on a season-high 10 carries. Bergeron accounted for Texas’ longest run of the game with his 21-yard effort in the second quarter. 

Return of Mike Davis

After hauling in just seven passes for 190 yards in his last four games, senior wide receiver Mike Davis bounced back Saturday with his best performance since Week 2.

Davis led Texas with nine receptions for 112 yards, and his 41-yard grab was Texas’ longest offensive play of the game. He was the only player on the Longhorns to account for more than 50 yards through the air.

Following Saturday’s big performance, Davis now leads the Longhorns with 589 receiving yards and is second on the team with 42 receptions.

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.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Four years ago, defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat came to Texas with a goal. That goal was to win a BCS game.

However, now his class is the only class in a decade at Texas to not be part of a BCS team. But this year Jeffcoat is playing better than he ever has, setting Texas and his defensive line up for that goal.

“I feel like maybe my senior year in high school I was playing this well, I was getting a little bit like that,” Jeffcoat said. “But nothing like this before.”

This season alone, the senior from Plano has 36 tackles, six sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery. He was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week after his contribution against TCU and was also named one of 16 semifinalists for the Bednarik Award, honoring the nation’s best defensive player.

One of the biggest changes for Jeffcoat, which propelled him to the level he is at, is his concentration and focus.

“The plays are slowing down,” Jeffcoat said. “Everything slows down. That’s how when you play the game for a while, you start seeing things a lot faster, but the plays go a lot slower.”

Jeffcoat, who came to Texas for the family atmosphere, has helped the defensive line turn into the powerhouse it is. He helped foster the change that was needed after back-to-back losses against BYU and Ole Miss.

“I think our guys are comfortable now,” defensive end Cedric Reed said. “Everybody knows what they have to do. Everybody knows their assignments.  The defense is just clicking. It’s amazing actually. If we don’t get there, we know there’s going to be a pass breakup or something like that.  It’s a great feeling.  It’s great to watch.”

While Jeffcoat and the defense has turned the corner since they were outscored 84-44 in those two losses, Mack Brown thinks there is still room to improve if they want to detain a BCS title.

“Jackson Jeffcoat [and the others] are rushing the passer as good as anybody in the country,” Mack Brown said. “To hold a team like TCU to 40 yards rushing is a great compliment.  We can still get better.  We had some mess-ups Saturday night.  We got beat on the trick play.  We have some things we can continue to improve.”

The goal for Texas is to win out and capture the Big 12 title. To do that, its first goal is Kansas.

“It’s funny how things have changed [since the losses],” Jeffcoat said. “We’re still just as hungry.  This is a big game anyways because it’s a conference game. These are must-win games. We have to win it. We have to approach this game, be prepared, ready to go.  In this conference, you really don’t have bad teams.”