Editor’s note: Senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat is the first of five “Players to Watch” who will be featured leading up to the Orange-White scrimmage Mar. 30. The second, senior wide receiver Mike Davis, will be featured Thursday.
Jackson Jeffcoat has his father’s walk and competitive nature.
That’s what his mom says anyway.
While Jackson’s father, Jim, has two Super Bowl rings from his playing days with the Dallas Cowboys and over 100 sacks in 15 NFL seasons, he’s not pressuring his son to do the same.
“There’s always going to be people saying, ‘Oh well, this guy’s the son of an NFL player, he should be doing this, he should be doing that,’” Jeffcoat said last fall. “My dad’s been helpful with that. He said, ‘You can only be yourself. Don’t try to be who I am, take your own path and do what you do.’”
In his first three seasons at Texas, the path the defensive end began to carve for himself had many considering him among the top defensive players on the team. As a highly-touted freshman recruit, Jeffcoat was thrust into collegiate play early on, starting two games in his first year and playing in six more.
He shined in his starting role as a sophomore, racking up 71 tackles and eight sacks, and was placed on the Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award watch list in July 2012. He injured his pectoral muscle and underwent surgery in January 2012.
Jeffcoat’s junior year kicked off with a promising start. He started the first six games of the season and had racked up four sacks and 11 tackles for loss. But in Oklahoma’s 63-21 stomping of Texas, he suffered a season-ending right pectoral muscle rupture that required surgery.
Jeffcoat underwent successful surgery on Oct. 19, and despite the injury, his impact on the team could hardly be ignored. He was still second on the team in tackles for loss and sacks and tied for second on the team in forced fumbles.
Five months later, “Action Jackson” is back. Perhaps not in full effect, but head coach Mack Brown seems confident about Jeffcoat’s recovery.
“Jackson Jeffcoat looks very good,” Brown said. “I think he will be limited but he will be able to do a lot of drills. We’ll just keep him out of contact throughout the spring.”
Brown also said Jeffcoat is an obvious leader on the team heading into next season.
“You have to think that up front, Jackson is going to be a leader,” Brown said. “Because he’s played a lot. He’s got to stay healthy.”
Staying healthy will be a major focal point in Jeffcoat’s senior season, particularly for a Texas team that is now without Alex Okafor, who led the team in sacks, and also leading tackler Kenny Vaccaro — both likely early picks in next month’s NFL draft.
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said his group of defensive ends are making steady progress in spring practice but need the influence of Jeffcoat as a player and a leader.
“What we have now is depth, competition and numbers, but we are still a ways away,” Diaz said. “We need to get Jackson Jeffcoat back in the mix to help lead these guys.”