Given the mental makeup of Texas Longhorns linebacker Malik Jefferson, it’s no surprise that he is his own harshest critic.
In a media availability on Monday following the demotion of defensive coordinator Vance Bedford, Jefferson took personal responsibility for his own lack of playmaking his season.
"I haven't done anything to impact this team,” he said. “That's my problem. That's what's eating me alive right now."
As a freshman, Jefferson got off to a strong start, flashing against Notre Dame in his debut and returning a fumble for a touchdown against Rice.
In 2016, the disruptive plays haven’t been there — the 6’3, 238-pounder has only one tackle for loss and one sack this season, along with two passes deflected. His overall tackle numbers are down through four games (31 to 23) and he hasn’t forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, or created an interception.
Jefferson was also responsible for three of the 21 missed tackles during the first half of the Oklahoma State loss, prompting him to note that the coaches are receiving blame for mistakes made on the field.
"People will take it out on the coaches, but we're the ones out there playing,” Jefferson said. “We're the ones out there missing tackles."
So, what’s missing?
"We've been missing that fun factor,” he said. “You don't have fun and you don't make plays... It’s real hard to have fun when you're giving up 50 points."
For the Longhorns defense to start having fun again and find a way to create those game-changing plays to help the offense, Jefferson needs to build on the potential he showed last season and lead by example on the field.
After recording two sacks last season against the Sooners, perhaps the Cotton Bowl is the perfect stage for the preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year to make some big plays for the first time this season.