In 2011, the Longhorns brought in 22 new commits who created a bond that promised to help change the fortunes of a Texas program that went 5-7 the previous season.
Head coach Mack Brown has been recruiting players who grew up watching the Longhorns in their glory days. One of those recruits, who vowed to do just that, was a young Cedric Reed from Cleveland, Texas.
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz intended to redshirt Reed his freshman year but didn’t get that opportunity because of injuries on the team. Instead, Reed played in seven games, recording only three tackles.
Through his sophomore season, though, the 6-foot-6-inch defensive end played in all 13 games, making six starts as Jackson Jeffcoat missed the second half of the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Reed was given the opportunity to prove himself, forced to grow up quicker than anticipated, and he did not disappoint.
Reed recorded 46 tackles, eight for a loss, great numbers for someone who didn’t start for half the season. In addition, he averaged 5.5 tackles-per-game in the six contests he started.
“He had some injuries, had to throw him in the fire [his freshman year],” Diaz said. “He improved last year, was able to learn under Alex [Okafor] and Jackson [Jeffcoat]. Then Jackson got hurt and he started to kind of step into that role. He had a good bowl practice and was rewarded by some big plays in the bowl game.”
Coaches and teammates have only seen improvement from the lineman as he continued to impress during the spring and fall camps. In the first game of the season, Reed recorded six tackles, just one shy of his single-game high, including a third-quarter sack. After the Longhorns scored touchdowns on five straight drives to take a 35-7 lead, Reed wrestled New Mexico State quarterback Andrew McDonald down to the ground, forcing a three-and-out and showing the season opener’s outcome was decided.
“As time has gone on, he’s continued to improve throughout the offseason,” Diaz said. “You want all your players to have that type of game to show all their hard work is paying off. There are other guys whose hard work is playing off as well. Ced had the big plays come his way on Saturday.”
Reed, who wears number 88 — to be similar but slightly different from his father who wore 86 — is a tall athlete. His long arms create separation between himself and offensive linemen, giving him the opportunity to sneak away or just push his opponent back to the quarterback.
This is a spot where Texas has been lacking the past few years. Last season, Texas’ defense was the worst it has been, statistically, in school history and had tremendous trouble stopping the run game.
“I think we set the season up right,” Reed said. “We weren’t sure we could tackle but I don’t think we missed many tackles. I think we came out with a fire and a great intensity that we wanted to show the country that we can play, that we’re not the team we were last year, and that we’re a lot better.”
Fans shouldn’t be surprised by Reed’s newfound success, though. Picture a jack-in-the-box. The main attraction — in this case, Reed’s abilities — has always been in there, it just took a little work to get it out.
“Cedric was my roommate for two years,” junior Quandre Diggs said. “I know exactly how he is. He’s one of those guys that I knew was going to have a good year. It’s just something he’s been ready to do. He played great on Saturday. He’s one of those silly guys off the field that just wants to have fun. On the field, he’s so serious. You look at us two from when we got here as boys, now we’ve become men.”