- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series takes a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.
No. 88 Cedric Reed
Senior defensive end
Recruitment rewind: Reed, a four-star defensive end from Cleveland, Texas, came down to a final four of Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and LSU. After taking several spring visits to UT and A&M, Reed settled on the Longhorns in April 2010. He racked up 344 tackles and 40 sacks in his three years of starting at Cleveland High and earned all-state honors as a senior.
Career so far: Reed played in seven games in his freshman year as a reserve end. As a sophomore, he was thrust into the starting lineup at midseason when Jackson Jeffcoat went down and recorded 2.5 sacks and 13 QB pressures in his six starts. Alex Okafor graduating opened up a spot for Reed to start across from Jeffcoat, and he thrived as a junior: 10 sacks, 19 TFLs, five forced fumbles and four pass breakups. For that, he earned first-team All-Big 12 honors from the AP and second-team honors from the league's coaches.
Best-case scenario for 2014: Reed's game is a step better in every area -- as a pass-rusher, run-stopper and locker room leader -- and he goes on to win Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors and earn a few All-America nods. The guy came back with unfinished business on his mind and will benefit greatly from Chris Rumph's instruction. The end Jeffcoat used to call "Too Tall" leverages his killer size and power into some big-time numbers and fills up his trophy case the way Jeffcoat did in 2013.
Worst-case scenario for 2014: Beyond a season-ending injury, which would be a devastating blow for Texas' defense and the team in general, there isn't a whole lot to fear with Reed. If he's drawing double teams and is less effective than a year ago, that's just going to create big opportunities for Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson rushing up the middle. Texas was dreadful at defending the read option last season, and that's one area where Reed and Texas' ends will get exploited again if they aren't better coached-up to handle the pressure.
Future expectations: Reed is not a surefire first-round NFL draft pick, at least not yet. He needs to continue developing his pass rushing moves and his strength/physicality this fall. But Reed absolutely passes the eye test and, at 6-foot-6 and 258 pounds, should become a coveted draft prospect if he matches or improves upon last year's production. But, again, draft stock isn't the only reason Reed decided to come back. This is a man on a mission to get Texas back on the right track before he goes off to the pros, and that's his sole focus for now.
23hJake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon