2013 Texas Preview - Defense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview & Analysis - Texas Longhorns Defense
Preview 2013 - Defense
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What You Need To Know:
There's speed, experience, athleticism and talent to that most programs could only dream of having, but now everyone has to actually play after allowing 404 yards and 29 points per game. The pass rush was fantastic last season and it should be even stronger with Jackson Jeffcoat returning healthy to go along with a great rotation in the interior. The back seven can move, but now someone has to tackle after a painfully soft season in all phases. Getting linebacker Jordan Hicks back from a hip injury should help in a huge way, but the lightning fast defensive backs have to be more physical.
Star of the defense: Senior DE Jackson Jeffcoat
Tackles: Steve Edmond, 103
Sacks: Jackson Jeffcoat, 4
Interceptions: Quandre Diggs, 4
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore DT Malcom Brown
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Peter Jinkens
Best pro prospect: Jeffcoat
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Jeffcoat, 2) LB Jordan Hicks, 3) CB Quandre Diggs
Strength of the defense: Athleticism, Pass Rush
Weakness of the defense: Tackling, Consistency
The loss of star Alex Okafor should be helped by the return of senior Jackson Jeffcoat after getting knocked out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle. The former superstar recruit was supposed to be the program's next great pass rusher from the start, and while he has been fine and showed off with a good sophomore season making 63 tackles with six sacks and 18 tackles for loss, he hasn't quite ripped it up to the All-America level projected coming out of high school. Even so, he's been really, really good making 31 tackles with four sacks and 11 tackles for loss in his six games of work last year, and he's primed to do even more now that he's in a salary drive for the NFL. With elite athleticism and room to add a little more weight to his 6-5, 245-pound frame, there's still another level to hit.
With Jeffcoat out, 6-6, 250-pound junior Cedric Reed was able to show off a little more making 46 tackles with 2.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss. A pure pass rusher, he has a great burst off the ball and a world of talent to do even more in the rotation working behind Jeffcoat at the Buck position. Extremely active, he gets behind the line without a problem, but like almost everyone else up front, he has to be more physical against the run. He could end up starting on the other side of Jeffcoat, but only if he can push out senior Reggie Wilson from a job. the 6-3, 259-pounder was considered to potentially become the team's best pure pass rusher when he first kicked off his career, and while that hasn't happened, he has been durable in a reserve role for the last three years making 31 tackles with two sacks and three tackles for loss last season.
There's a Malcolm Brown in the offensive backfield, and there's a Malcom Brown on the defensive front. The 6-4, 315-pound sophomore will get a long look at the starting nose tackle job now that he appears to be ready to handle the work. One of the nation's top defensive tackles in last year's recruiting class, he jumped in and saw time in every game last season making 25 tackles with two tackles for loss, and now he could turn into a little more of an anchor. He's not going to get behind the line, but that won't be his job. Working behind Brown is 6-3, 292-pound senior Chris Whaley, a nine-game starter last season who made 22 tackles with four tackles for loss. The former high school running back has tremendous athleticism and he carries his weight well, but he too often looked like he was on skates when blocked.
Looking to finish off his career as a key factor at defensive tackle is 6-2, 295-pound senior Ashton Dorsey, a spot-starter who came up with 28 tackles and ten tackles for loss, getting off the ball in a hurry and making several plays behind the line. While he's not massive, he's a solid interior defender who's always working and always getting around the ball. Also in the rotation on is 6-1, 300-pound junior Desmond Jackson, a starter for most of last season making 33 tackles with two sack and seven tackles for loss. A typical Texas superstar recruit three years ago, he has the quickness and he has the experience, but he has to be far, far stronger against the run.
Watch Out For … Jake Raulerson. Already loaded up with defensive linemen, the Longhorns only picked up one in the latest recruiting class. The 6-5, 262-pound Raulerson wasn't a five-star end prospect, but he's still a good one with good versatility spending his high school career at right tackle and on the nose, but he'll be a physical end.
Strength: Getting behind the line. The Longhorns are loaded with big pass rushers who can get to the quarterback and make things happen in the backfield finishing sixth in the nation in tackles for loss and 19th in sacks – leading the Big 12 in both areas.
Weakness: Holding up against the run. This group was shockingly - shockingly - soft against anyone trying to run the ball. Soft, ineffective and inconsistent, despite putting up massive numbers behind the line, the defense still allowed 192 rushing yards per game and 29 scores. In 2011 the defense allowed just 96 rushing yards per game.
Outlook: A tremendous disappointment against the run last season, it might not take more than a few tweaks to be far better. Getting behind the line won't be a problem for a line full of multi-million dollar talents, but getting a full season out of Jeffcoat would be nice and getting more out of the tackles against the run is a must. On skill and upside, this should be the best line in the Big 12 – emphasis on the word should.
Unit Rating: 8
The linebackers didn't quite get the job done last season after losing Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho, but this is still a very athletic, very talented group that should have no problem swarming around the ball. Leading the way is 6-3, 255-pound junior Steve Edmond in the middle after finishing second on the team with 103 tackles with a sack, six tackles for loss and a pick. Big, fast and athletic, he's a huge hitter who can fly all over the field, but he has to be more effective against the run to go along with the thump. While he has all the tools and he's experienced, he'll have to hold off sophomore Dalton Santos, an extremely fast 6-3, 250-pounder with sideline to sideline range. Mostly a special teamer last season, he still saw plenty of work on defense making 26 tackles with three tackles for loss.
Bringing even more speed on the outside is 6-1, 213-pound sophomore Peter Jinkins, a good recruit last season who might not have the size, but he can move. A backup as a true freshman, now he's being given every shot at a starting job after making 29 tackles with a sack and a pick in a reserve role, coming up with nine stops in the bowl win over Oregon State. He showed his upside in the bowl, while 6-2, 233-pound junior Tevin Jackson adds more size and experience to the position. Able to play anywhere in the linebacking corps, he's at his best on the outside making three sacks and six tackles for loss with 30 tackles including seven against the Beavers.
A big help for the unit is the return of junior Jordan Hicks from a hip injury that kept him out for most of last season. The lone returning starter to last year's corps, he came up with 23 tackles and three tackles for loss in his three games of action including 12 against New Mexico. At 6-2 and 235 pounds he has good size on the strongside and is as good and as sound as any of the team's linebackers. The Ohio native was snagged away from Ohio State and was a special recruit in a haul of special recruits two years ago with next-level athleticism and tremendous ability. He has the potential to be special as long as he's 100%. When he was out, 6-3, 239-pound junior Kendall Thompson was able to step in and start for most of the year finishing with 60 tackles with two sacks and eight tackles for loss. Very versatile and very experienced, he can move around where needed, but he's best on the outside and in space.
Watch Out For … Deoundrei Davis. Texas only brought in two linebacker recruits, but Davis is a special one. At 6-3 and 215 pounds he's built like a safety, and his size is going to be a factor, but he can fly and he could turn into a whale of a weakside linebacker when he bulks up a little bit. Once it all comes together, he's going to be a tone-setting difference maker.
Strength: Athleticism. There might be a few issues, and consistency is a problem, but there's no denying the raw speed and tremendous athleticism at all three spots. No matter what the combination, the Longhorns will fly around.
Weakness: Tackling. The overall numbers weren't all that bad, but this wasn't a physical enough group and there were far too many plays made down the field. The line was the biggest culprit, but the linebackers were part of the problem against the run, too.
Outlook: Expect more. Edmond is a nice piece in the middle, but Santos is a strong option, too. However, the key will be the speed of Jinkens on the outside and the return of Hicks on the other to give the corps a tackling element sorely missing at times in Big 12 play. On raw athleticism alone this will be a terrific unit.
Unit Rating: 8
The secondary has to tackle better and has to be more consistent, and it has to do it without its best player, Kenny Vaccaro, at strong safety. Looking to take over in the role is veteran Adrian Phillips, a 5-11 201-pound senior who finished third on the team with 72 tackles with two picks working mostly at free safety. A corner for part of his career, he can play anywhere in the secondary and he's still improving. A star high school wide receiver, he quickly made the move over to the defensive side and has been a natural. Also looking to see time at Vaccaro's position is Kevin Vaccaro, a special teamer who made four tackles, but has a lot of his brother's skills. The 5-10, 180-pound sophomore is nowhere near the same player, but he'll see time.
6-2, 183-pound junior Mykkele Thompson has been a terrific special teamer and a kick blocker as well as a nice all-around safety. He has to be more physical, but the spot-starter is experienced getting the call in six games last season and finishing with 59 tackles. However, he only broke up one pass – he can do far, far more. Even among Texas defensive backs Thompson is a special all-around athlete with state championship-level long jumping skills and track star sprinter's speed. Also in the free safety equation is junior Josh Turner, a corner who has seen enough time at safety to be used in any situation. The 6-0, 177-pounder is a blazer who could shine as a nickel and dime defender, using his Oklahoma state championship level track speed and tremendous range to get around the ball, making 49 stops with two picks and a sack.
Junior Quandre Diggs is one of the team's fastest players with next-level warp wheels to go along with his 5-10, 200-pound size. The veteran earned All-Big 12 honors in his first year as a corner making 48 tackles with 13 broken up passes with three picks, while last year he made 59 stops with a team-leading four interceptions with seven broken up passes. It's not his job to make big hits, but unlike other Longhorn defensive backs, he can tackle. On the other side will once again be 6-0, 180-pound senior Carrington Byndom, a long-time starter who has been one of the main men in the secondary over the last three seasons making 55 tackles with three picks and six broken up passes. One of the few minor bright spots against Oklahoma, he made ten tackles, but he needs to do even more when the ball is in the air.
Watch Out For … Antwuan Davis. The Longhorns are a bit thin a corner depth, so there's a good chance the 5-11, 192-pound rookie could see time right out of the box. Extremely fast with good size and good hitting skills, he has it all and he could end up getting a long look at safety if needed. Really, really fast, his wheels are too terrific not to see time on the outside.
Strength: Safety. It's not easy to be better after losing a playmaker like Kenny Vaccaro, but there's enough experience in Phillips, Thompson and Turner to hope for a strong year. As long as Phillips doesn't have problems with his shoulder, the safeties will be strong.
Weakness: Tackling. There were a few too many big plays allowed, and it wasn't the shutdown group is was expected to be, but overall one of the biggest issues was tackling. It wasn't a physical enough group even with Vaccaro coming up with 107 tackles.
Outlook: There's a world of athleticism and skill, and no one will out run this group, but the production needs to be better considering the pass rush will be fantastic. Injuries could be devastating if they hit early on, but overall there are several nice prospects ready to do more.
Unit Rating: 8
The Longhorns need more out of the placekickers. Sophomore Nick Jordan doesn't have a cannon, and it showed with almost no ranged and hitting just one of six chances from 40 yards and beyond. Sophomore Nick Rose was the main man on kickoffs and has the leg that Jordan doesn't, and he might get to show it off if Jordan struggles at all.
Also potentially in the hunt for placekicking duties is senior Anthony Fera, an all-star transfer from Penn State who never quite got into the swing of things thanks to a groin injury. He missed two of his four kicks, and now he's mostly going to work as the top punting option with a great leg and nice range taking over for Alex King and his 45.3-yard average.
Corner Quandre Diggs used his phenomenal speed to average a whopping 20.1 yards per try on punt return two years ago and a not-that-bad 8.2 yards per try last year. Receiver Daje Johnson is the most promising option on kickoff returns after averaging 20.8 yards per try, but several speedsters will get their shot.
Watch Out For … Fera. He's too good to not get more work in as a placekicker. While Jordan might seem to have a good grasp on the gig for the moment, Fera nailed 14-of-17 kicks for Penn State in 2011 and showed excellent range. However, if he's not the placekicker he should do a good job as for …
Strength: The punting game. Fera's a good one who should do a nice job in place of King. Texas finished fourth in the nation in punting, and that's despite not getting a whole bunch of help from ...
Weakness: The coverage team. The kickoff coverage was a problem allowing 22.3 yards per try, while the punt coverage team gave up 10.1 yards per attempt.
Outlook: Average over the last several years, the special teams needs to find the right parts for the right spots. The kicking game needs to settle down, Diggs has to revert to his 2011 form and the punting game has to maintain the 2012 high level.
Unit Rating: 6
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