Texas Longhorns defensive end Cedric Reed has been the first one to admit that he hasn't made as many plays this season as he expects to make, but that all changed in a big way on Saturday when Reed exploded with a three-sack performance against the West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday.
For his efforts, he was named Athlon National Defensive Player of Week before earning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors on Monday.
"Cedric Reed came alive tonight," head coach Charlie Strong said after the game.
"I told him, he gets the one sack, and the one before he gets a safety. We ran that same pressure, and he kind of hesitated because he saw the guard. If he had come through, he would have gotten another sack. So he ended up getting it at the right time where we get the safety and it looks great."
The senior defensive end was credited with a season-high 13 tackles, including four for a loss and a career-best 3.0 sacks. He also had a forced fumble of West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett and was credited with a safety.
His second sack off the contest occurred in the fourth quarter shortly after the Mountaineers had sliced the Texas lead to 24-10. A 63-yard Michael Davidson punt had pinned West Virginia at its own 2-yard line and on the first play of the drive, Reed was able to crash through the offensive line and sack Trickett in the end zone for the safety.
On the ensuing Mountaineer possession, Reed came around the edge and sacked Trickett as he hit the arm of the West Virginia passer, forcing a fumble eventually recovered by sophomore defensive tackle Paul Boyette Jr., who pounced on the football.
Reed's first sack of the game occurred in the second quarter and led to a three-and-out after the Longhorns had taken a 24-3 lead.
It was then that Reed told his coaches and teammates that he was about ready to have that game he'd been waiting for and working towards.
"After I got that first sack I told [Assistant Head Coach for Defense / Defensive Line Chris] Rumph, 'Sacks come in bunches, so you better watch out." I told Malcom [Brown] and Hassan [Ridgeway] [to watch out] because they are the ones leading in sacks, and that's what happened."
It's been a rough year for Reed after he he expected to continue building on a breakout junior season that saw him record 77 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, five forced fumbles, and four batted passes.
Instead, he's failed to even come close to matching those numbers, as he was sitting at 40 tackles entering the West Virginia game with three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. While he had forced some holding calls that were called and some that weren't against Kansas State, he hadn't actually recorded a sacks since the Kansas game, a streak of five games. He hadn't made a total for loss since the Oklahoma game, either.
At the end of October, Reed admitted that he knows he's been losing money as his draft stock falls -- just last week, two of five NFL GMs told NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah that he was their most disappointing draft prospect they've watched:
Executive 3: Cedric Reed, DE, Texas
"He had a lot of production as a junior, but he's just not making a lot of plays this year."
Executive 4: Reed
"I went and watched him live, and he didn't do anything to get me excited."
That was after a week in which he his season-low in tackles with three against Texas Tech.
What changed against Texas Tech?
When Reed was struggling to put up his customary numbers, defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said that they were asking him to "fall on a grenade" for them schematically, including playing the four technique in the three down linemen looks for the Longhorns. So the staff went to their senior defensive end last Sunday and told him that they would put in a few looks to provide more opportunities to get to the quarterback.
And the chances were there for the taking against West Virginia. So he did some taking.
"It just opened up like the red sea," he said. "It was right there in front of me."
Everyone knew it was coming. Charlie Strong knew it was going to happen. Senior linebacker Jordan Hicks knew it was going to happen. Most of all, Cedric Reed knew it was going to happen.
"It feels great," Reed said. "I knew it was coming, and my teammates and coaches knew it was coming. Someone just had to have the right scheme for me to go out there and play against, and it happened to be West Virginia tonight. It feels great."
And his comment to his coaches and teammates might as well serve as a warning for Oklahoma State and TCU, too.