Sunday, October 14, 2012
Texas loses Jeffcoat; Ash not ruled out
By Carter Strickland
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas defense, which has suffered many blows in the past few weeks, just took another to the gut.
Jackson Jeffcoat is out. Gone for the season. He tore his pectoral muscle. This time it was the right one. Last year it was the left one. So much for Texas having the top two defensive ends in the Big 12. Instead Texas is just left with big questions at a time when it is searching for answers.
The foremost is: Can Cedric Reed or Reggie Wilson even come close to producing at Jeffcoat’s level? The answer is no. If they could, they would have had the starting spot.
Texas will have to replace DE Jackson Jeffcoat, arguably its top defender, with inexperienced players.
Wilson showed a flash against Ole Miss when he jumped a diving blocker and sacked Bo Wallace.
Jeffcoat does stuff like that every game. The junior had four sacks, 11 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown already this season. Reed and Wilson have a combined five tackles for loss and one sack.
But Jeffcoat’s game went beyond stats. He, along with bookend Alex Okafor, was able to pin in quarterbacks and shrink their options. The reason Geno Smith was unable to roll the pocket and therefore roll Texas was because he had Jeffcoat to his left and Okafor to his right every time he dropped back. It was the combined pressure of the two that forced Smith to take four sacks and be stripped of the ball twice.
Without that type of pressure the Texas secondary, which already has issues in coverage, is susceptible to being picked apart by a quarterback like Baylor’s Nick Florence. Florence, the FBS leader in total offense, just so happens to be the next QB Texas faces.
The Longhorns might consider pulling the redshirt off someone like Shiro Davis in order to get more speed on the edge. But, as Texas has proven in the past two losses, it is very tough to play fast as a defensive player when you do not know where you are going.
Without Jeffcoat, Texas, a team that has allowed 111 points and more than 1,100 yards in the past two games, might be wondering where it is going.
Ash not ruled out Texas has prepared itself since the spring to use two quarterbacks. Now the Longhorns might have to do just that.
While quarterback David Ash has not been ruled out with a bruise to his non-throwing wrist, he has not been cleared to play, either. That means Texas might once again be turning to backup Case McCoy.
The junior, who was 3-2 as a starter in 2011, lost out on the starting job after what was an eight-month competition. But the Texas coaches qualified their selection of Ash by stating, repeatedly, that they felt McCoy was more than an adequate backup and that they would not hesitate to play him.
Well, now the time might have come and it might be against Baylor, which happens to be the last team McCoy started against. In that game, McCoy was responsible for five turnovers. That, as much as anything, is what led to his demotion.
The coaching staff could not abide a quarterback who played fast and loose with the ball. They wanted a game manager. Ash better fit that role. McCoy, on the other hand, is much more of a draw-it-up-in-the-dirt player.
But McCoy has matured. He has added 15-20 pounds and put more zip on his intermediate throws as well as length on deep throws.
If he is the quarterback, it is almost a certainty that co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin will play it close to the vest and try to get McCoy to distribute the ball to playmakers such as Daje Johnson, Marquise Goodwin and Johnathan Gray. That has been when Texas is at its best. And to beat Baylor, a team that is No. 2 in total offense and No. 4 in scoring offense, Texas’ offense will have to be at its best.