Texas Longhorns 2013 Spring Football: Defensive Line Preview

Is Cedric Reed the next great Texas DE? - US PRESSWIRE

The Texas defensive line for 2013 features a two-deep full of talented options, but nobody looks like THE guy that an opposing offense must account for. Does somebody step up?

Departures: Alex Okafor, Brandon Moore

Additions: Caleb Bluiett (moved from TE)

Projected depth chart:

Position

No.

Player

|

No.

Player

|

No.

Player

Buck

44

Jackson Jeffcoat

|

1

Shiro Davis

OR

92

Reggie Wilson

Tackle (Nose)

99

Desmond Jackson

OR

90

Malcom Brown

Tackle

85

Ashton Dorsey

|

96

Chris Whaley

|

81

Hassan Ridgeway

Strong End

88

Cedric Reed

|

92

Reggie Wilson

Storyline: The single largest problem facing the 2012 Texas Longhorns was a dreadful run defense. While not the primary culprit, the Texas defensive line deserved a share of the blame (whether it was their fault or not). After the loss of Jordan Hicks early in the year, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz attempted to scheme his way to better defense, choosing to twist and stunt his defensive linemen repeatedly.

Without solid linebacker play to limit the damage on poor stunts, the early half of the year showcased long runs by Texas opponents where the defensive line seemingly ran away from the run plays intended hole. However, the second half of the season featured considerably less stunting and, starting in the Kansas game, a considerably better run defense.

At defensive tackle, Texas enters its second year lacking an alpha dog at defensive tackle. There's no Kheeston Randall, Lamarr Houston, or Roy Miller anchoring the defensive front. The most likely candidate to take that seat is sophomore Malcom Brown, the former 5-star recruit out of Brenham that flashed in limited opportunities last year. Brown will be pushed by junior Desmond Jackson, nicknamed Tank for his squatty build and elite level man-strength. Seniors Ashton Dorsey, the most consistent option at DT, and Chris Whaley, the speedy pass-rushing specialist round out the tackle rotation. The name to keep an eye on: redshirt freshman Hassan Ridgeway, who grew out of defensive end and could be an athletic threat to the DT rotation.

On the outside, Jackson Jeffcoat returns for his senior year following season ending pectoral surgery, but will be out for the spring rehabbing that pectoral. His absence gives senior Reggie Wilson and sophomore Shiro Davis the opportunity to get a leg up on prime rotation minutes for the fall. Consider me convinced junior Cedric Reed has locked down the strongside end position. Reed, built in the mold of Alex Okafor, is long, athletic, strong, and ran away with the end position opposite Okafor late in the 2012 season.

Battle to watch: While the easy answer for which battle should be the focus this spring would be who emerges at defensive tackle, I'm sure 2013 continues to see the DT rotation that kept fresh bodies on the field and prevented any one player from establishing himself as the anchor. I think the most interesting battle is who emerges at the buck end position in Jeffcoat's absence, opposite Cedric Reed.

Senior Reggie Wilson is the presumed favorite, but never consistently produced in his opportunities thus far. Some recruiting analysts had him rated higher than Jackson Jeffcoat out of high school because of his raw skills. The clock is almost up for Wilson to fulfill that potential.

The contender is Shiro Davis, the late LSU flip that unfortunately saw his redshirt burned after watching Jeffcoat's season end last year. Davis has a frightening frame and quickness off the edge that draws comparisons to Brian Orakpo. It will be excellent to see what work Davis has put in the weightroom, and how much he's refined his craft.

Overview: The defensive line features plenty of bodies to watch this spring, with Jackson Jeffcoat the only player expected to contribute in the fall that won't participate in spring drills. Ashton Dorsey and Chris Whaley are known commodities, and the only thing to watch between the two is whether Dorsey receives a siginificant share of DT snaps and whether Whaley has developed in run support at all. Desmond Jackson and Malcom Brown are both young guys that could become primary options at DT, and it will be interesting to watch if Brown is able to emerge as a dominant force inside. Alex Norman, Paul Boyette, and Hassan Ridgeway all come off redshirts, though Ridgeway is the only option likely to contribute.

For the defensive ends, the biggest question is whether or not Cedric Reed is able to step in and fill Alex Okafor's shoes. Okafor takes 12.5 of Texas's 35 sacks in 2012 with him to the NFL, and Reed will have to complement a healthy Jeffcoat to replace that production. All eyes then move to Reggie Wilson and Shiro Davis, in what looks to a battle between two of the most talented physical specimens on the roster.

What do I want to see from the position the most? If I'm to believe football games are won on the offensive and defensive lines (and I'm inclined to do so), then I want to see the defensive line go head to head with the offensive line and see the players at each other's necks. In the first open practice last spring, the practice ended by pitting offensive and defensive linemen head to head and letting them attack each other. It was easily the most intense, and exciting, portion of the practice, an intensity that looked to disappear during the fall.

What can I go without seeing? Well, anything resembling a defensive line stunt. Yeah, I can live without any more of those, Coach Diaz. Thanks.

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