Jordan Hicks

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.

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

While no Longhorns were drafted in the 2014 NFL draft, the one-year drought is likely to end this weekend. 

Texas has five prospects who are projected to hear their names called at the draft, including defensive tackle Malcom Brown, linebacker Jordan Hicks,     cornerback Quandre Diggs, defensive end Cedric Reed and running back Malcolm Brown.

“It feels like just yesterday I was walking on this campus as a young, 220-pound freshman not knowing anything,” Hicks said. “After five years, just to be here and to be going through this process, it’s really rewarding for all of us.” 

Malcom Brown may be the first Longhorn picked after he shot up draft boards while racking up 72 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks last season. His 6-foot-2, 319-pound frame is ideal for the NFL, and he’s the No. 20-ranked prospect, according to NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. 

“Malcom Brown to me is a first-round guy all day long,” Mayock said on NFL.com. “He’s a low-risk investment and a really good football player.” 

While Malcom Brown will find his new home early, Hicks is also a standout prospect. 

Hicks came to Texas as a five-star prospect but battled injuries, causing him to fly under the radar as a pro prospect. He impressed scouts, however, during his senior year and in pre-draft workouts, which was enough for him to earn a fourth-round grade, according to NFL.com. 

While Malcom Brown and Hicks are highly touted prospects, Diggs and Reed will likely find more modest roles in the NFL despite being perennial mainstays in Texas’ defense. 

Diggs is undersized at 5 feet 9 inches and will most likely make his living on special teams, and Reed lacks the athleticism that NFL scouts desire. Both are projected to be picked during the fifth round or later.

The Longhorns’ main offensive prospect is Malcolm Brown, who led Texas in total rushing yards last season but still feels he has a lot to prove at the next level. 

“I feel like I have a lot to show people that I haven’t been able to show these past couple of years due to injuries, and things didn’t go completely my way,” Malcolm Brown said. 

While NFL.com projects Malcolm Brown to be a late-round pick, several scouts think he has NFL-caliber skills. 

“[Malcolm Brown] possesses the size, toughness and ability to play on all three downs, and that will catch the eyes of teams looking for depth at running back,” NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein said on NFL.com. 

While these Longhorns were longtime contributors for the program, their chapters at Texas will come to a close as they find a new home and a new start this weekend. 

“It’s definitely a different feeling not being a student and not being a current athlete here,” Diggs said. “At the same time, it’s time for a new journey in life.”

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Senior linebacker Jordan Hicks has been through it all.

High expectations? Check. He signed with the Longhorns as a five-star recruit and was a member of a highly touted recruiting class signed on the heels of Texas’ loss in the 2010 BCS Championship game.

Losing seasons? Check. He played in all 12 games during Texas’ disastrous 5-7 2010 campaign.

Coaching changes? Check. In his five seasons at Texas, he has played for four different defensive coordinators, including recently fired Florida head coach Will Muschamp his freshman year.

Injuries? Check. He suffered a season-ending hip injury in the third game of 2012 and tore his Achilles in the fourth game of 2013. These difficulties staying on the field in recent seasons have put in perspective the importance of staying healthy.

“It’s something I cherish every time I go out there is my health,” Hicks said. “It’s a blessing to be out there playing, feeling as good as I am.”

All of these experiences have culminated into the Texas defense relying on Hicks’ awareness to put them in position to succeed.

“What’s great for us on defense is you have Hicks, and Hicks is kind of the leader,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “He lines up everyone, gets everybody in position.”

But this season, he has made a more obvious impact on the box score. Through Texas’ 12 games, Hicks recorded a team-high 140 tackles, which is one away from 10th place on Texas’ single-season list.

Of the 136 tackles he has made, 74 of them were non-assisted, which is one more than he recorded in his first four seasons at Texas. His improved abilities to tackle in the open field are partially responsible for the senior’s stats.

“Everybody’s trying to get linebackers in space and create that mismatch, especially with wide outs, but I’m confident in my ability,” Hicks said. “I just play. I try to take good angles, really on my pursuit.”

Hicks ranks fourth on the team in interceptions with two and second in tackles for loss with 13, in addition to 3.5 sacks on the season. His versatile contributions do not go unnoticed by his teammates.

“He’s in every play, and he’s a leader for us, and we’re just proud to have him this year,” senior cornerback Quandre Diggs said. “He’s been a tremendous boost to the whole team. “

Although Hicks likely would qualify for a sixth year of eligibility, it does not seem like that it is something he will pursue. On Monday, a tweet indicated that he accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl, meaning that his Longhorn career will likely conclude in the team’s bowl game.

Tennessee LB sends twitter into chaos- Will he be at Texas next fall?

Twitter can connect people from around the world with just 140 characters. And in the past couple of years, it has also become a quick and easy tool for athletics to communicate.
On Monday night, University of Tennessee commit Cecil Cherry went on a Twitter frenzy when the three-star linebacker tweeted out “Hook ‘Em” to his over 2,800 followers a week after taking an official visit to Austin for the West Virginia game. He immediately received backlash – some too inappropriate to print – from disgruntled Vols fans. And over the course of the next three days, Cherry continued to tweet and retweet all sorts of Texas-positive pictures and notions, causing the recruiting world to speculate on his previous commitment to Tennessee head coach Butch Jones.
If Texas could flip Cherry, it would be another big get for head coach Charlie Strong and the 2015 class. His Hudl film shows that he has good speed for his size, coming in at 6-feet and 230-pounds, which he has been able to display on a few interceptions this season and last. His biggest strength is his hard hitting, however. Cherry has a great ability to square up a ball carrier and hit him with textbook form, plus a little extra ‘oomph’ for good measure. The Florida product could be a great replacement for stud current linebacker Jordan Hicks, though his size could be an issue at the next level. He shows good ability to stay with his assignments in coverage, and keep everything in front of him.
While he played fullback as well in high school, with some solid numbers, he hasn’t been recruited on the offensive side of the ball. His quick feet allow him to change directions quickly and make tackles in the open field, which will help him get over his size disadvantage.
Overall, Cherry is a solid linebacker with a lot of upside and little down-side. The biggest issue most see with him stems from his Twitter use, as we’ve all seen what happens when these recruits let the attention go to their head early on and use social media to air out all their dirty laundry.
Though Cherry has said many times that he’ll final decision will come February 4th, on National Signing Day, at this point I’d be shocked if he wasn’t set on coming to the Forty Acres next fall. Strong’s defensive reputation and ability to recruit Florida, coupled with Cherry’s admittance that Texas is his “dream school,” makes his commitment almost certain, if not announced.
Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

Over the years, Texas fans have grown accustomed to gaudy statistics from the team’s pass rushers. In 2008, defensive end Brian Orakpo led the team with 11.5 sacks. In 2012, defensive end Alex Okafor recorded 12.5 sacks, and, last season, defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat led the team with 13 sacks.

The above examples blow sophomore defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway, who leads Texas with five, out of the water. Despite the lack of individual production, the Longhorns are averaging three sacks per game — their highest average over the first 10 games of a season since 2008.

This is largely a result of consistency and depth along the defensive front, as seven different players have dropped the quarterback at least twice.

Despite none of the players recording elite numbers, the Longhorns have proven they have an abundance of talent leading the way on the defensive side of the ball this season.

Senior linebacker Jordan Hicks is finally healthy and has acted as the quarterback of the defense.

“Just think about the term linebacker,” said Vance Bedford, defensive coordinator and secondary coach. “It means he is half of a lineman and half of a defensive back. He’s in the middle of our defense and controls our defense.”

With 110 tackles on the year, Hicks is tied for the most by a player in a power-five conference. He has also picked off two passes and has recorded 1.5 sacks.

But Hicks does not lead strictly by example. He is extremely vocal, which is a very important characteristic of a linebacker.

“You need a guy who can do it by example but also a person who’s vocal,” Bedford said. “Jordan Hicks has been that guy for us this year.”

Despite receiving many accolades, such as being named a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award, Hicks is quick to tell you his success is not all his own doing.

“I haven’t had a perfect game out there, never will, but I feel like I’m playing my best ball, and, obviously, I have a lot of confidence right now and a lot of credit to the guys in front of me,” Hicks said. “Having Hassan Ridgeway and Malcom Brown ahead of me is kind of nice.”

Brown, a junior defensive tackle, has arguably been Texas’ best player this year, and the coaches have taken notice of his performance.

“I think he’s at an All-American level,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “The way he’s playing, it’s amazing. It’s fun to watch.”

Brown is tied for second on the team with 4.5 sacks, but his impact on the field goes beyond his personal stats. Brown often draws double teams from the opposing offensive linemen, which helps explain why his numbers are not as dominant as his talent might suggest.

He also has the potential to become a top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and have a long, successful NFL career.

“If you ask me right now, I think the young man is a first round pick,” Bedford says.

Other players, such as senior defensive end Cedric Reed, have also made their presence felt on the unit. Reed is coming off the best game of his career, during which he tripled his sack total for the season.

Reed and the defense’s ability to pressure the quarterback could be on display again in Stillwater, Oklahoma, this weekend against a Cowboy offensive line that allows three sacks a game to conference foes, most in the conference. That’s something worth remembering as, since sacks became an official stat, the Longhorns have not lost to Oklahoma State when they win the sack battle.

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

Entering the weekend, the Texas football season had been mostly noted for its missed opportunities. The Longhorns entered their matchup against No. 23 West Virginia 0-4 against top-25 teams, riding a seven-game losing streak against ranked teams.

All of that changed Saturday when the Longhorns played their best half of the season in the game’s first 30 minutes, and the defense held strong in the second half to beat the Mountaineers, 33-16.

The win marks the first time Texas has notched consecutive victories under first-year head coach Charlie Strong.

“It’s a really good win for our program,” Strong said. “We just, week by week, we continue to get better.”

The Longhorns managed to strike first on a 2-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes to senior tight end Geoff Swaim. The Mountaineers responded with a 48-yard kick return and managed to drive the ball inside the Texas 2-yard line.

However, the Longhorns held tough against the wall near the end zone, stuffing the Mountaineers on third-and-goal at the Texas 1-yard line. The Mountaineers came away from the drive with a field goal, but the goal-line stand made a statement.

“I think that kind of set the momentum,” senior linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “The crowd was into it; the defense was able to stop them. We got a few tackles for losses and held them there on the goal line. That’s gigantic.”

The Longhorns gashed the Mountaineers on the ground to the tune of 227 yards, including 101 yards by junior running back Johnathan Gray. Senior running back Malcolm Brown added 90 yards on the ground on 20 carries.

The duo was especially effective during the second quarter, in which the Longhorns scored 17 unanswered points, highlighted by two long runs from Gray.

The first went for 39 yards and a score, while the second run followed a 25-yard run by Brown, in which Gray hit the hole for a 40-yard gain. Gray capped the drive from two yards out to give the Longhorns a 21-3 lead.

“[The] offensive line did a great job opening holes,” Gray said. “They knew what we had to do to get the job done tonight, and they did it.”

On the other side of the ball, senior defensive end Cedric Reed dominated the Mountaineers’ offensive line with three sacks. Reed’s penchant for finding the quarterback was akin to his play last season, marking a bounce-back performance after recording only 1.5 sacks through the first nine games this year.

“Tonight, after I got that first sack, I went up to Coach [Chris] Rumph and told him, ‘Sacks come in bunches, so you better watch out,’” Reed said.

The Mountaineers ended up outgaining the Longhorns by nearly 100 yards but were held to a season-low 16 points and did not get into the end zone until early in the fourth quarter.

Texas won the battles on third and fourth downs, allowing West Virginia to convert only 3-of-17 third-down attempts and 3-of-5 fourth-down attempts.

“We had to win on third down, and we were able to win on third and fourth down,” Strong said.

The win was a step toward bowl eligibility for the Longhorns, who are now 5-5 on the season and need to win at least one of their final two contests. Despite defeating a top-25 opponent at home for the first time since 2008, some players were hesitant to call Saturday a signature win.

“I wouldn’t say that,” Reed said. “It’s just another win — another Big 12 win."

Texas picks up another big time recruit

After a rough loss in Manhattan, Kansas, on Saturday, Head Football Coach Charlie Strong was able to pull out a recruiting win on Sunday afternoon when Cameron Townsend, a 2015 4-star OLB from Missouri City announced his commitment to the Longhorns, choosing Strong’s team over Oklahoma and Oregon State.

Townsend’s announcement makes him the 18th commit in the class of 2015, currently ranked 16th in the country and first in the Big 12 by ESPN.

At 6 foot 1, 205 pounds, Townsend has a similar, though slightly leaner, build to current starting linebacker Jordan Hicks, who despite being plagued by injuries the past two seasons has been one of Texas’ most reliable forces on defense. Townsend said one of Texas’ biggest pulls was the fact that he had “a good opportunity to play early” with Hicks’ departure after this season with the coaching staff recruiting Townsend for Hicks’ position.

On film, Townsend shows his explosiveness off the snap and quick feet, proving his reported 4.63 40 time. Townsend also showed good physicality, unafraid to go head to head with the big guys on the line as well as with receivers in the slot. On the pass rush, he comes off the edge well and is able to elude blockers on his path to the quarterback. He also makes good use of a long wingspan to make tackles when one arm is occupied by a blocker. He also shows great natural athleticism, as shown in a game his junior year where he hurdled a lineman en route to a sack.

Townsend also does a great job on the delayed blitz, which accounts for his high tackles-for-loss count.

Though, a few times on his junior year highlight tape he seemed unwilling to finish tackles, applying one hit then letting his teammates bring the ball carrier down. While he can get away with this against high school competition, a tough college running back would make him look silly. He will have to bulk up in the spring and summer, but has the frame and work ethic to get it done.

Overall, Townsend has raw talent and athletic ability that he has been able to get by on in high school. He described his current coaching staff as “offense-minded,” so it could be fun to see what Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford are able to turn him into with some closer technique coaching. Strong has proved this season that he isn’t afraid to play- and even start- true freshman, so don’t be surprised to see Townsend getting quality reps next fall if he can show a good understanding of the defense.

Texas picks up another big time recruit

After a rough loss in Manhattan, Kansas, on Saturday, Head Football Coach Charlie Strong was able to pull out a recruiting win on Sunday afternoon when Cameron Townsend, a 2015 4-star OLB from Missouri City announced his commitment to the Longhorns, choosing Strong’s team over Oklahoma and Oregon State.

Townsend’s announcement makes him the 18th commit in the class of 2015, currently ranked 16th in the country and first in the Big 12 by ESPN.

At 6 foot 1, 205 pounds, Townsend has a similar, though slightly leaner, build to current starting linebacker Jordan Hicks, who despite being plagued by injuries the past two seasons has been one of Texas’ most reliable forces on defense. Townsend said one of Texas’ biggest pulls was the fact that he had “a good opportunity to play early” with Hicks’ departure after this season with the coaching staff recruiting Townsend for Hicks’ position.

On film, Townsend shows his explosiveness off the snap and quick feet, proving his reported 4.63 40 time. Townsend also showed good physicality, unafraid to go head to head with the big guys on the line as well as with receivers in the slot. On the pass rush, he comes off the edge well and is able to elude blockers on his path to the quarterback. He also makes good use of a long wingspan to make tackles when one arm is occupied by a blocker. He also shows great natural athleticism, as shown in a game his junior year where he hurdled a lineman en route to a sack.

Townsend also does a great job on the delayed blitz, which accounts for his high tackles-for-loss count.

Though, a few times on his junior year highlight tape he seemed unwilling to finish tackles, applying one hit then letting his teammates bring the ball carrier down. While he can get away with this against high school competition, a tough college running back would make him look silly. He will have to bulk up in the spring and summer, but has the frame and work ethic to get it done.

Overall, Townsend has raw talent and athletic ability that he has been able to get by on in high school. He described his current coaching staff as “offense-minded,” so it could be fun to see what Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford are able to turn him into with some closer technique coaching. Strong has proved this season that he isn’t afraid to play- and even start- true freshman, so don’t be surprised to see Townsend getting quality reps next fall if he can show a good understanding of the defense.

Despite Texas’ 2-4 start, the team’s worst since 1956, senior cornerback Quandre Diggs and the Longhorns are confident they’ll be able to turn things around this season.

Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

For only the third time in program history, the Longhorns have started the season with a 2-4 record — their worst start since going 1-5 in the first six games of 1956. 

Despite the slow start, Texas isn’t proclaiming this year a lost season quite yet. 

“I think it all starts with the mindset,” senior linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “First of the coaching staff, and then of the leaders on this football team. You know, we’ve got a lot of people that are not allowing this thing to go south.”

Although the final scores have not been working in the Longhorns’ favor, senior cornerback Quandre Diggs likes what he has been seeing week to week.

“Me being a senior, I understand that we are 2-4, but you can’t even be down because the way the team is going out and fighting,” Diggs said. “And you’ve seen it each and every week the way those guys compete their tail off in practice.”

In each of Texas’ three most recent losses, the Longhorns made critical mistakes at the most devastating times, ensuring defeat. Some of the players are confident that the team can win once it stops making costly errors. 

“It hasn’t been a whole bunch of the other team beating us other than beating ourselves,” senior running back Malcolm Brown said.

In particular, special teams have been an area of concern for Texas. The Longhorns allowed a kickoff return this past weekend against Oklahoma and a blocked field goal that led to a touchdown against Baylor earlier this month. While the errors may have lost them a few games, Texas believes its 2-4 record doesn’t accurately reflect the talent on the team. 

“And I think that’s the big thing — everybody can feel how close we are,” Hicks said. “They can just feel it. And I think that’s also a big motivating factor.”

The Longhorns look to build off their confidence in their final six games, which could end up as challenging as the first six — three opponents remaining on the schedule are ranked inside the top 15 in the polls. Still, veterans such as Diggs believe the errors will be fixed, and Texas can finish the season strong.

“I think, at the end of the year, when we look back at the end of the season, it’s going to be a success,” Diggs said. “We just got to continue to believe and just stay positive throughout it all.”           

Senior linebacker Steve Edmond led the Longhorn defense against Baylor on Saturday with a career-high 17 tackles and two sacks against the Bears.

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

Although Texas’ 2-3 record doesn’t quite reflect it, the Longhorn defense stands strong this season. The Baylor offense entered Saturday’s game ranked highly, averaging 56.8 points, 641 total yards and 401.3 passing yards per game. Unfazed, the Texas defensive line cut each of those numbers by at least 40 percent: down to 28 points, 389 yards of total offense and just 111 passing yards. Numerous players contributed to the Longhorns’ defensive efforts, but senior linebacker Steve Edmond stood out above them all.

“With 17 tackles and a sack, [Edmond] is getting better and better,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “You’d like for him to be a little more vocal because the way he plays the game, players all respect him. But the game he had on Saturday, he was very good.”

As Strong said, Edmond’s leadership style is far from vocal. He prefers his actions to speak louder than his words, and his production accomplishes just that. Edmond’s seven tackles for loss ranks second on the team after junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown. In addition, with a career-high 17 tackles and two sacks against Baylor this weekend, Edmond trails senior linebacker Jordan Hicks’ 69 total tackles by just four.

“[Edmond] and Hicks are real consistent players on the defense,” Strong said.

This consistency doesn’t come without hours of preparation. And it’s this preparation combined with Edmond’s stats that has gained his teammates’ respect. Hicks said Edmond spends hours in the film room with Strong and linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary. While analyzing footage with coaches, Edmond isn’t afraid to ask questions to better understand schemes. Hicks said Edmond works toward one goal: understanding the game well enough that he’s always on the same page as the rest of the team. Through five games in 2014, Edmond certainly has been.

“It’s his preparation,” Hicks said. “He’s going into the game prepared, taking it very seriously this year. That’s been key for him — going out able to play fast and play confident. He’s doing a great job for us.”

Without redshirt senior center Dominic Espinosa and former quarterback David Ash to lead the offense this season, the Longhorns have needed players like Edmond to have great performances. Redshirt senior receiver John Harris said the offense knows it’s not pulling its weight, but it also appreciates the defensive compensation. Harris said he finds it comforting to know that if the offense can pull it together, it won’t have to worry about the defense resulting in losses.

“You can get numb to [losing], and I’m not saying you want to get used to losing, but we want to change it,” Harris said. “If we can just get on a roll and score some points — our defense is playing great, and we can get these younger guys moving forward and learning how to play football games.”

Harris and fellow offensive players know that if they eliminate the small errors, they’ll be able to get on a roll. All it takes is some extra practice, time in the film room and asking the necessary questions to get on the same page as the team. The strategy works, and Edmond can vouch for it. And if he’s not vocal enough to vouch for it on his own, his 17 tackles against Baylor will speak
for themselves.