Editor's note: This is the first part of a weeklong series taking a closer look at Texas players worth watching when the Longhorns begin spring practices in three weeks.
No Jackson Jeffcoat and no Oscar Giles means a whole new world for Texas’ defensive ends going into the 2014 season.
Their best player, Jeffcoat, graduated and is off to the NFL after becoming the Big 12’s best defensive player in his senior season. You could call him the undisputed leader of this unit, but truthfully that was the job of Giles, the former assistant coach who recently took a job at Louisiana Tech after nine seasons under Mack Brown at Texas.
What Texas does have, fortunately, is another All-Big 12-caliber defensive end ready to lead the way in Cedric Reed. On his finest days as a junior, Reed was just as good as Jeffcoat and probably better. He came back for one more season because he wanted to finish things on the right note.
But he’s going to need a sidekick. Why not Shiro Davis?
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound junior enters his third year in the program with every opportunity to take on such a role.
He’d been behind Jeffcoat, Reed and Alex Okafor ever since he arrived on campus as a high school All-American and ESPN 150 recruit who made a last-second flip from LSU to Texas on signing day. The Shreveport, La., native left his home state for a chance to do big things in Austin.
There’s no better time than now. Davis has appeared in 20 career games, with five of his 18 tackles coming behind the line of scrimmage. After two seasons as a situational pass rusher, a starting job is there for the taking.
Davis will no doubt have competition from players such as fellow third-year players Caleb Bluiett and Bryce Cottrell, as well as incoming freshman Derick Roberson. And Davis will have to surpass the expectations of Chris Rumph, his new position coach from Alabama.
But Davis is used to high expectations, and they were raised the day he made his signing day stunner and signed with Texas. He played the understudy and passed up a redshirt to get on the field midway through his freshman season. He’ll need a strong showing in the spring to get where he wants to be in 2014.
Think about Texas’ recent run of defensive ends: Reed, Jeffcoat, Okafor, Sam Acho, Sergio Kindle, Brian Orakpo. The Longhorns have been loaded with NFL-caliber talent off the edge, to the point that it probably gets taken for granted.
Is Shiro Davis the next big name on that list? He’s got all the talent necessary, and he finally has opportunity. It's time to put it all together.