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Texas HC Charlie Strong not concerned about DE Cedric Reed's production

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The numbers haven't been there yet for the senior.

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Should the lack of production by Texas Longhorns senior defensive end Cedric Reed be concerning?

Head coach Charlie Strong doesn't think so and shared those thoughts during Monday's media availability.

On the surface, there would seem to be cause for concern -- the preseason All-American and No. 1 senior defensive end on Mel Kiper's draft board entered the season with high expectations and hasn't accomplished much as a pass rusher.

Through three games, Reed has only .5 tackles loss, .5 sacks, and one quarterback hurry, hardly All-American production. And against BYU, the 6'5, 272-pounder had only three tackles.

Reed set the bar high for his senior campaign after recording 77 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, and 10 sacks during his breakout junior season opposite departed defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. Even the ancillary stats were extremely impressive for Reed -- 12 quarterback hurries, five fumbles forced, and four passes broken up.

Strong doesn't believe that teams are executing a specific game plan against Reed that is keeping him from making plays, but he does think the loss of Jeffcoat has made a difference.

"When you think about last year, you had [Jackson] Jeffcoat on one side and you had Ced on the other side. And with Jeffcoat being the force that he was, he was creating a lot of sack opportunities, and then they were able to get the flush to Ced, but Ced is playing fine."

Winning national honors like consideration for the Ted Hendricks award that Jeffcoat won last season and a place on the All-American teams at the end of the season means producing the type of gaudy numbers that attract attention.

As a head coach, though, Strong doesn't worry about the numbers.

"I think we get caught up; he's playing well enough for us," Strong said. "I'm not getting caught up in the numbers, because I know we see 10 sacks in the last season and each and every year it doesn't go that way for you."

Some of the reduction in numbers is a result of a change in scheme that Reed said at Big 12 Media Days would probably result in fewer sacks for him.

Some of the reduction also comes from the type of offenses Texas has faced through the first several games.

Against North Texas, the Mean Green were so atrocious through the air that head coach Dan McCarney attempted only 17 passes.

Against BYU, the Cougars attempted 28, a number that isn't particularly high either. And Reed and his fellow defensive linemen were concerned about BYU quarterback Taysom Hill getting free of contain if defenders got out of their pass-rushing lanes. It happened anyway, but the healthy fear of Hill's legs limited opportunities to go all-out in the pass rush in an attempt to get to the quarterback.

Against UCLA, the early injury to star quarterback Brett Hundley forced the UCLA passing attack to become more conservative, limiting the opportunities for the Texas pass rushers.

Overall, the result through the non-conference schedule is that Texas has faced only 79 pass attempts -- only 14 other programs in college football have seen fewer.

It's not an effort issue for Reed. And though he gained weight, it's probably not an issue of athleticism, either, Reed is just getting fewer opportunities to make plays.

And the bottom line remains that Texas merely needs drive-altering plays from the entire defense, not just from one player. In that regard, the Horns have been having some success with 13 sacks already, tied for 12th nationally even though Texas just had an early bye week. In sacks per game, Strong's defense ranks No. 5 with 4.33 per contest.

Reed also collected seven of his 10 sacks last season in the last six games, so with nine games remaining, there's plenty of time for him to get his. The impressive run to finish the season also happened to start against Kansas with Reed recording two sacks and a game-changing forced fumble returned by defensive tackle Chris Whaley for a touchdown.

The scheme this year may not help Reed out as much against the Jayhawks, but counting out such a talented player who is still clearly giving high effort doesn't sound like a smart move.