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Previewing the Texas Longhorns: Part II - Defense and Special Teams

UCLA is going to need another strong effort from JetSki & Co. in order to prevail against the stingy Longhorn defense.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
UCLA is going to need another strong effort from JetSki & Co. in order to prevail against the stingy Longhorn defense. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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We've already begun our Texas preview, starting with the Coaching and Offense here. Defensively, Texas returns seven starters. It did, however, lose it’s two best penetrators, Sam Acho and Eddie Jones, who combined for 15 sacks and 27 tackles for loss last season.  The loss has been felt early, as the defensive line has only posted 1 sack and 1.5 tackles for loss through the first two games of the season.  As a team, Texas has 8 tackles for loss and 1 sack this season.  The defense has, however, been very good at stuffing the run and is allowing only 3.26 yards per carry.  They’ve been equally good against the pass, giving up only 143 yards per game.

Defensive Line
Texas starts Jr. Alex Okafor and So. Jackson Jeffcoat at defensive end, while So. Ashton Dorsey and Sr. Kheeston Randall start inside.  Okafor and Jeffcoat are not particularly big, 6’5 260 lbs. and 6’5 253 lbs., respectively, but they are both former 5 star recruits who play bigger than their size.  So. Reggie Wilson, 6’3 252 lbs., yet another 5 star defensive end who will serve as the primary back-up along with Jr. Dravanti Johnson, 6’2 255 lbs., who is the only end on the two deep who was not a 5 star recruit (he was a 4 star, in case you’re wondering).

Dorsey and Randall may not be as heralded as the ends (4 star and 3 star, respectively), but they bring solid size in the middle.  Dorsey, 6’2 295 lbs., is the penetrating tackle, while Randall, 6’5 295 lbs., will play the nose.  They are backed up by 5 star true Fr. Desmond Jackson, 6’1 285 lbs., and So. Calvin Howell, 6’4 290 lbs., a former 4 star recruit, who will both see plenty of time in the defensive line rotation.

Texas returns starters Sr. Emmanuel Acho on the strong outside, and Sr. Keenan Robinson in the middle.  They both bring good size, Acho at 6’2 240 lbs. and Robinson at 6’3 235 lbs. and have both been very productive this season.  Acho has registered 21 tackles and Robinson has made 13.  The weakside position is manned by So. Jordan Hicks, 6’2 228 lbs., who has tallied 15 tackles this season.  Of the three, Hicks is the most talented.  He is a 5 star recruit who saw action last year as a true freshmen.

Acho and Robinson will be backed up by Fr. Steve Edomond, 6’3 255 lbs., a linebacker capable of playing both inside and outside, and Fr. Kendall Thompson, 6’3 237 lbs., a highly recruited 4 star who has steadily rose up the depth chart.  Also look for RS Fr.. Tevin Jackson, 6’2 230 lbs., who is a former 4 star recruit getting some early action this year.  Hicks will be backed up by RS Fr. Aaron Benson, 6’2 233 lbs., another 4 star recruit backing up on this Longhorn defense.

The clear leader of the inexperienced secondary is Sr. Blake Gideon.  The 6’1 205 lbs. strong safety has developed into a nice safety in his years in Austin as he watched fellow, more talented teammates bolt to the NFL.  Gideon will be backed up by Jr. Nolan Brewster, who returns from injury.  The 6’2 205 lbs. safety is much more adept that playing the run than the pass, so look to see him in the game during clear rushing downs.

The free safety spot will be manned by Jr. Kenny Vaccaro.  The 6’1 214 lbs. safety has excellent speed and range, and is a very big hitter.  Vaccaco will be backed up by two true freshment Mykkele Thompson, 6’2 185 lbs., and Sheroid Evans, 6’0 185 lbs.

Safety is not the only spot which Texas will use true freshmen.  Fr. Quandre Diggs, 5’10 200 lbs., will start at cornerback along with true So. Carrington Byndom, 6’0 180 lbs.  Both are former 4 star recruits, but lack much game experience.  Byndom did play in all 12 games last season as a reserve, but this is his first starting experience.  Texas will use true So. Adrian Phillips, 5’11 199 lbs., as nickel.  Phillips was also used last season as a reserve.  We should also see true freshmen Josh Turner, 6’0 177lbs., Leroy Scott, 5’10 193 lbs., and So. A.J. White, 6’0 180 lbs, all of which are former 4 star recruits.

Special Teams
Sr. Justin Tucker will perform both kicking and punting duties.  He is a perfect 3-3 on field goal attempts and is averaging 38.67 yards per punt.  Last season his punts were a little better, 41.86 yards per punt as he split punting duties.

Fr. Jaxon Shipley, Jr. Marquise Goodwin, and Jr. DJ Monroe will perform return duties.  They are all athletic return men capable of housing a return at any time.  As freshmen, Monroe and Goodwin both took kickoffs back for touchdowns, but no Texas returner has scored a touchdown since 2009.

That concludes Part II of the Texas preview.  Fire away with any additional thoughts and comments.  I would particularly like to hear from any of you who actually watched any of Texas' first two games.