Texas Longhorns: Jackson Jeffcoat

All-Big 12 players such as Lache Seastrunk, Aaron Colvin and Ahmad Dixon had to wait until the final day to be drafted. Jackson Jeffcoat, James Sims and Josh Stewart settled for free-agent deals after going undrafted.

You have expectations going in, but truthfully, you just never know how the NFL draft is going to play out. The good organizations know, however, that you can't construct a contender without finding high-impact player in the draft's final rounds.

Borrowing a page from our friends over at ESPN.com's SEC blog, who authored this thoughtful post earlier this week, here's a reminder why you shouldn't sleep on the late-round choices.

Here are a handful of active players from Big 12 schools who were not selected in their respective drafts' first three rounds but have still managed to develop into big-time talents, starters and contributors. The round they were drafted in is listed in parentheses, and FA indicates the player was an undrafted free agent.
Days after the NFL draft, some Texas Longhorns fans still scratch their heads in disbelief. How a celebrated college football program -- one with decorated, award-winning athletes -- have zero players drafted into the NFL?

For the first time since before World War II, a Longhorn wasn’t selected in the draft. It became national news, and it’s news that no program wants to have attached to it, let alone one of the nation’s most established programs. When Memphis safety Lonnie Ballentine was selected by the Houston Texans as the 256th pick -- the last pick of the seven-round draft -- it opened the floodgates for barbs thrown by Texas antagonists.

What the draft ineffectiveness failed to do, however, was steer recruits -- committed and uncommitted -- away from the program’s future. If anything, it’s drawn some closer to the vision of new coach Charlie Strong and his staff.

“Some people are taking it all over the top,” uncommitted ESPN 300 linebacker Malik Jefferson said. “Those weren’t Charlie’s people; he didn’t develop any of those kids. Why would people want to change their minds off going to a great school like Texas because of something they couldn’t control?”

[+] EnlargeKendall Sheffield
Sam Khan Jr./ESPNKendall Sheffield, the top-ranked player in Texas, said the fact the Longhorns had no draft picks has no bearing on his recruitment.
The draft has forced recruits to answer questions some might feel are slightly unnecessary:

“Will the draft affect your thoughts on Texas?”

“Can you trust the Longhorns to groom you into a pro-ready athlete after college?”

“Do you want to be a part of the laughingstock of college football?”

ESPN 300 cornerback Kendall Sheffield has had to answer some of these questions this week. The top-ranked player in Texas, Sheffield said he still has the Longhorns high on a list of several schools, a list that includes Texas A&M, Alabama, Baylor, Florida State, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon and USC.

Sheffield admitted to being shocked that the Longhorns didn’t have a draft pick, but to look at the program with a side eye -- particularly with a new coach in charge -- is something that never crossed his mind.

“I don’t know if it plays a role in recruiting. I mean, they’ve still got to rebuild,” Sheffield said. “I know they’re going to still get some big recruits in. For me, I’m going to find the school that’s the best fit for me and the place I feel has the best position coach. The draft won’t have nothing to do with it.”

Jefferson, believed to have Texas high on his list along with Texas A&M, Baylor, Alabama and others, reminded people that while the Longhorns went without a drafted player, Strong's former team at Louisville had three first-round picks in safety Calvin Pryor (No. 18 overall to the Jets), defensive end Marcus Smith (No. 26, Eagles) and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (No. 32, Vikings).

“He knows what he’s doing,” Jefferson said of Strong.

During the Mack Brown era, 58 Longhorns were drafted. Safety Kenny Vaccaro was a first-round pick by the Saints last year. Receiver/return specialist Marquise Goodwin (Bills) and defensive end Alex Okafor (Cardinals) were selected in the third and fourth rounds in 2013.

This year’s crop of undrafted talent included defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and receiver Mike Davis. Jeffcoat was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and the Ted Hendricks Award recipient, recognizing the nation's top defensive end. Davis caught 200 passes in his college career and is one of only four players in school history with 200 or more receptions.

Jeffcoat and Davis, as well as other Longhorns, signed with NFL teams as undrafted free agents, which is another reason why recruits aren’t worried about the draft results. ESPN 300 offensive lineman Patrick Vahe -- who committed to Texas during the Brown era and chose to stay committed under Strong -- believes the draft is in full control of a player and not the coach.

Texas’ ability to produce NFL offensive linemen has been sliding in recent years. The Longhorns haven’t had an offensive lineman drafted since tackle Tony Hills in 2008. To assist in further developing linemen, Strong hired former Oklahoma State coach Joe Wickline, who coached NFL linemen Russell Okung, Corey Hilliard and Charlie Johnson at the college level. Okung is fresh off winning a Super Bowl with the Seahawks.

Vahe said he’ll worry about being a pro athlete when that time comes. Right now, he’s focused on being the best college athlete possible, and the 2014 draft isn’t weighing on his decision.

“I think I can learn a lot from [Wickline].” Vahe said. “We talked about his game plan, and I’m putting a lot of trust with him. The rest of it … I think people are just taking it over the top.”

Todd Dodge, head coach at Austin Westlake High School, former head coach at North Texas and a former quarterback for the Longhorns, said a draft should never have an effect on a recruit’s decision.

Dodge played at Texas from 1982-85. In that span, he saw several teammates drafted, including first-round cornerbacks Mossy Cade and Jerry Gray. The 1984 draft class featured 17 Longhorns.

Not having a draftee was an eye-opener, Dodge said, but it shouldn’t be a discussion piece in relation to Texas’ recruiting -- particularly with the changing of the guard at head coach.

“If Coach Strong and his staff are on the road making their rounds and people are using common sense, they’ll judge them by what they see,” Dodge said. “Texas has always been in the hunt for great players in the state of Texas. If there’s any doubt, you can always point to the players drafted from Louisville. Coach Strong has a track record that’s proven.”

As for the jokes from rival schools, Vahe understands that they come will with the territory, whether the program goes winless or earns a BCS championship. He also understands that the way to silence some of the jokes is by producing in practices and games and later during NFL combines and workouts. He believes a change for the better is near for the program.

“People love to talk, but it’s nothing big, really,” Vahe said. “I know [Strong] just got there, and they’re all going to start a new era. Hopefully I’ll be one of those who helps start the new era.”
Seventeen Big 12 players heard their names called during the 2014 NFL draft. Many other Big 12 alums will have a chance at the next level as undrafted free agents.

Below is a list of undrafted players who reportedly have agreed to free agent deals. This is not a final list, as teams are still working to sign undrafted free agents. But these are the players we know of so far.

Baylor
Iowa State
Kansas
Kansas State
Oklahoma
Oklahoma State
TCU
Texas
Texas Tech
West Virginia
Shortly after Texas' worst NFL draft weekend in more than 75 years, six Longhorns ended the day with good news.

Texas made national news Saturday when it failed to produce a selection in the NFL draft for the first time since 1937, a shutout that nobody saw coming and led to a long day of mockery for the program.

But once the draft ended with Memphis safety Lonnie Ballentine being named Mr. Irrelevant with the 256th pick, the phones began ringing and the undrafted free agent deals got rolling.

Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas' highest-rated draft prospect, inked a deal with the Seattle Seahawks to join an already-stacked defensive line.

Jeffcoat was ESPN's No. 106-rated prospect entering the draft and No. 9 at his position. He watched as 22 ends were drafted ahead of him. Questions about his scheme fit, versatility and injury history seemed to be the reason for his drop, and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told a reporter he passed because Jeffcoat was a "tweener."

“Going to work in the great northwest. Hello Seattle! #humble&hungry," Jeffcoat wrote on his Twitter account after signing with the defending Super Bowl champions.

One encouraging number for Jeffcoat's chances: Since 2010, the Seahawks have signed 15 undrafted free agents to their 53-man active roster.

Former Texas wide receiver Mike Davis, who was expected to be a mid-round pick, landed with the Oakland Raiders. The first message he posted on his Twitter page after learning of his destination was to Derek Carr, the Raiders' second-round QB selection out of Fresno State.

For the sixth year in a row, no Texas offensive linemen were selected in the draft. Guard Trey Hopkins signed with the Cincinnati Bengals and tackle Donald Hawkins inked a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Cornerback Carrington Byndom signed with the Carolina Panthers and defensive tackle Chris Whaley, who is still recovering from a torn ACL, will get a chance to play for the Dallas Cowboys.

Whaley is a particularly interesting fit there since the Cowboys signed Henry Melton this offseason, another Texas running back-turned-defensive tackle who also happens to be coming back from an ACL tear.

The contracts that Jeffcoat and his undrafted Texas teammates agreed to are three-year deals worth a little less than $1.5 million over the life of the deal, but the only guaranteed money in unrestricted free agent deals come from a signing bonus and, for some, a partially guaranteed base salary.

One surprise among Texas' free-agent hopefuls was kicker Anthony Fera. The consensus All-American and Lou Groza Award finalist did not sign with a team on Saturday, and a source close to him said few teams had expressed interest thus far. If that doesn't change soon, Fera's ticket to the league will have to come through tryouts.

Texas had six former undrafted free agents playing in the NFL last season: Justin Tucker, Phil Dawson, Fozzy Whittaker, Lyle Sendlein, David Snow and Cullen Loeffler.
The NFL draft is here.

It all begins tonight at 8 p.m. (ET) and the draft will continue through Saturday. Several Big 12 players should be selected in the next three days, so here is a team-by-team NFL draft primer, which includes each school’s top prospect, one sleeper/value pick and a list of each potential draftee. All projections are courtesy of ESPN Insider's draft board , and the potential draftees listed are players with an ESPN.com Scouts Inc. ranking of 31 or above. All draft projections are listed by day, i.e. Day 1 (Round 1), Day 2 (Rounds 2 and 3) and Day 3 (Rounds 4, 5, 6 and 7).

Baylor

Top prospect: G Cyril Richardson. The Bears’ All-American guard is projected to be an early Day 3 selection and could provide quality depth (or even start) during his first NFL season.

Sleeper pick: WR Tevin Reese. Slated as a late Day 3 selection, Reese could surprise with his speed and take the top off NFL defenses, particularly on a team with a strong running game.

Other potential draftees (projected selection): RB Lache Seastrunk (Day 3), S Ahmad Dixon (Day 3), CB Demetri Goodson (Day 3).

Iowa State

Top prospect: LB Jeremiah George. The Cyclones’ undersized but athletic linebacker didn’t wow scouts with his measurables but it would be unwise to brush him off as a player unable to make an impact on Sundays. He’s projected to go late on Day 3 and could, at the very least, carve out a special teams role.

Sleeper pick: None.

Other potential draftees: None.

Kansas

No Jayhawk is projected to be drafted or has a ESPN.com Scout’s Inc. rating of 31 or above.

Kansas State

Top prospect: S Ty Zimmerman. He was extremely productive during his time at KSU and is projected to go late on Day 3.

Sleeper pick: OT Cornelius Lucas. Projected to be a late Day 3 selection, Lucas would be worth taking a flyer on for most NFL teams due to his mammoth size (6-foot-8, 316 pounds).

Other potential draftees: None.

Oklahoma

Top prospect: CB Aaron Colvin. Projected to come off the board early on Day 3, Colvin would be drafted much higher if he hadn’t torn his ACL during Senior Bowl practices. It’s quite possible some team will eventually get Day 1 or Day 2 production from Colvin if they’re patient with his recovery.

Sleeper pick: FB Trey Millard. Another Sooner coming off an ACL injury, Millard is the type of guy who won’t get any headlines this weekend but will end up playing 10 years in the league as a key contributor on offense and special teams. He projected to be drafted on Day 3.

Other potential draftees: WR Jalen Saunders (Day 3), RB Damien Williams (Day 3), C Gabe Ikard (Day 3).

Oklahoma State

Top prospect: CB Justin Gilbert. Gilbert is projected to go in the first round and is considered one of the top cornerback prospects in the draft. He’s likely to be the first Big 12 player selected.

Sleeper pick: WR Josh Stewart. His physical attributes aren’t going to make NFL scouts drool, but Stewart seems to consistently find ways to make plays and could initially make an impact as a returner. He’s projected to be a late Day 3 selection.

Other potential draftees: None.

TCU

Top prospect: CB Jason Verrett. The elite cover cornerback sits right alongside Gilbert among the draft’s top cornerbacks. He’s projected to join Gilbert as a first-round selection.

Sleeper pick: None.

Other potential draftees: None.

Texas

Top prospect: DE Jackson Jeffcoat. He finished his Texas career with an extremely productive senior season. He’s projected to be an early Day 3 selection.

Sleeper pick: WR Mike Davis. He has a bunch of talent and upside but never really became a difference maker in the Big 12. Davis is projected to be selected on Day 3 and could be a steal if his NFL team can push him to maximize his potential.

Other potential draftees: OG Trey Hopkins (Day 3), DT Chris Whaley (Day 3).

Texas Tech

Top prospect: TE Jace Amaro. The Big 12’s biggest mismatch creator could transition into an individual matchup nightmare in the NFL as well. He’s projected to go early on Day 2 and will give some NFL team a unique weapon.

Sleeper pick: DT Kerry Hyder. The former foundation of the Red Raiders’ defensive line is expected to be drafted late on Day 3. He’s the type of player NFL teams can draft and hope for the best because he does have some NFL traits that could earn him a spot on a roster.

Other potential draftees: None.

West Virginia

Top prospect: HB Charles Sims. It’s quite possible Sims would be projected to go higher if the overall value of running backs as a whole was not trending down. One of the most versatile running back prospects, Sims is projected to be selected on Day 2.

Sleeper pick: DE William Clarke. The lanky defensive end prospect is projected to be drafted early on Day 3. His athleticism and instincts could make in him Saturday steal.

Other potential draftees: None.

Reviewing the Big 12 pro days

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
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Pro day season has come and gone. Draft-eligible players returned to school this month and hit the weight room and practice field to give NFL scouts a taste of their potential. Here’s a rundown of how the Big 12’s top draft prospects fared as well as a few who surprised.

TCU (March 6)
Big name: CB Jason Verrett. A total of 26 NFL teams had reps at the Horned Frogs’ pro day, and you know many of them came for Verrett. He didn’t look to improve his 40 time from the NFL combine (4.38), but he did show off a 39 ˝-inch vertical and benched 19 reps.
Sleeper: QB Casey Pachall. While he’ll have to answer lots of questions about his off-field issues, Pachall’s on-field work at pro day was encouraging. He checked in at 6-foot-3˝ and 216 pounds, ran his 40 in the mid-4.9s and completed 62 of 72 passes, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Kansas State (March 11)
Big name: S Ty Zimmerman. Though 20 Kansas State players worked out at pro day, Zimmerman was not one of them. He’s still recovering from labrum surgery and reportedly plans to hold a workout next month to show his progress.
Sleeper: OT Cornelius Lucas. Hard to project how things will play out for Lucas, a mammoth tackle at 6-8 and 316 pounds, after he discovered a stress fracture in his left foot at the NFL combine. He’s supposed to be out up to eight weeks but plans to work out along with Zimmerman on April 28.

Oklahoma (March 12)
Big name: CB Aaron Colvin. The Sooners had 28 NFL organization represented at their pro day, but a few key players were still on the mend. Colvin, who suffered a torn ACL at the Senior Bowl, did not work out but hopes to be running again by late April and vowed his recovery is ahead of schedule.
Sleeper: C Gabe Ikard. While Ikard elected to stand by his combine numbers, which were strong for his position group, he did use the pro day to show in position drills just how athletic an interior lineman he can be for an NFL club. Running back Damien Williams also made a solid impression, and receiver Jalen Saunders drew mixed reviews after poor shuttle times.

Oklahoma State (March 13)
Big name: CB Justin Gilbert. The Steelers have the No. 15 pick, so it made sense that Mike Tomlin and his GM were among the many coaches in Stillwater to scout Gilbert. He stood by his 4.37 in the 40 from the NFL combine but did agility drills and reportedly wowed in his position drills. He’s a first-rounder, no doubt.
Sleeper: WR Josh Stewart. Well, OK, he’s not much of a sleeper. But Stewart had work to do to raise his stock, and pro day should’ve helped. He improved his 40 slightly, from 4.69 at the combine to 4.59 at pro day, and showed what he can do as a receiver and returner. Safety Daytawion Lowe also made a good impression.

Texas Tech (March 14)
Big name: TE Jace Amaro. The All-America tight end tried to secure a spot in the first round with improvements in the 40 (4.68) and vertical, and at 6-5 and 266 pounds he evoked comparisons to Vernon Davis from one 49ers scout.
Sleeper: CB Bruce Jones. He’s undersized at 5-7 and 183 pounds, but Jones did grab some attention at pro day with a run of a 4.5-second 40 time and team-best vertical of 41 inches.

Kansas (March 14)
Big name: RB James Sims. A dozen scouts showed up for the Jayhawks’ pro day, and the highlight was probably Sims busting off a run of 4.56 seconds in the 40. The 6-foot, 205-pound back was not invited to the NFL combine and told the Lawrence Journal-World he felt good about the numbers he put up.

Baylor (March 19)
Big names: OT Cyril Richardson, RB Lache Seastrunk, S Ahmad Dixon. Richardson shed 20 pounds after his senior season, which had to encourage NFL scouts, and he did nothing at his pro day to diminish his chances of being a top-50 pick. Seastrunk was as explosive as expected, with a time of 4.37 in the 40 and a 4.36 second shuttle, and tried to show off his pass-catching ability. Dixon ran a 4.64 in the 40 at the NFL combine and improved that to 4.48 at pro day.
Sleeper: TE Jordan Najvar. At nearly 6-6 and 280 pounds, Najvar certainly has the size to make the NFL. His speed had been a question mark, but his reported best for pro day was 4.86 seconds in the 40.

West Virginia (March 21)
Big name: RB Charles Sims. A nice showing at the NFL combine (40 time: 4.48) meant Sims needed only to do positional drills, and he drew good reviews for his pass-catching ability despite small hands.
Sleeper: DE Will Clarke. Knowing it’s possible he’ll be asked to play outside linebacker in an NFL scheme, Clarke worked out at both end and linebacker on pro day and tried to show what he can bring to pass coverage as a nearly 6-6, 268-pound defender.

Iowa State (March 25)
Big name: LB Jeremiah George. After a subpar showing at the combine, George had a nice day in front of 30 NFL officials. He hit 4.69 in the 40-yard dash, posted a big improvement in his broad jump and was solid in positional work.
Sleeper: CB Jeremy Reeves. How’s this for a success story? Reeves played at ISU from 2010-12, missed last season with a pectoral injury and showed up to pro day to prove he’s still got it. He had a crazy good day: 4.29-second 40, 43-inch vertical, 11˝-foot broad jump. The New York Jets signed him on Friday.

Texas (March 26)
Big name: DE Jackson Jeffcoat. Like most other top prospects, Jeffcoat stuck with his NFL combine testing numbers. The 6-3, 253-pound end demonstrated his coverage ability in position drills amid talk that he might have to be a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level.
Sleeper: CB Carrington Byndom. Questions about the three-year starter’s speed were put to rest when he ran his 40 in 4.37 seconds. Byndom was happy with his positional drills and is starting to line up meetings.


Texas hosted its pro day on Wednesday and put its senior prospects to the test in front of representatives from all 32 NFL organizations. Here’s how the Longhorns' top draft prospects fared and a look at who helped their stock.

[+] EnlargeJackson Jeffcoat
AP Photo/Michael ConroyJackson Jeffcoat, shown at the NFL combine, says he's open to playing wherever a pro team wants him.
DE Jackson Jeffcoat: Texas’ top draft prospect did not participate in testing or the 40-yard dash because he was satisfied with his NFL combine times.

With father and former Dallas Cowboys lineman Jim Jeffcoat in attendance, Jeffcoat did positional drills and displayed the work he’s been putting in on dropping into coverage. Jeffcoat checked in at 6-foot-3 and 253 pounds said he’s open to playing 4-3 end, 3-4 outside linebacker or whatever else an NFL defensive staff would ask of him.

“When it comes down to it, it’s football,” he said. “Whatever a coach tells me to play, I’ll do it. It’s exciting to see they want me to play a hybrid outside linebacker rush guy. It’s fun watching Brian Orakpo and Sam Acho do it, so it would be fun to do the same thing.”

WR Mike Davis: Going into the day, perception was Davis had a chance to raise his draft stock if he put up an impressive time in the 40-yard dash.

The 6-foot, 197-pound deep threat did not run at the NFL combine, so he did have plenty to prove Tuesday. Davis looked sharp in his passing drills with former SMU and Eastern Washington QB Kyle Padron throwing to him. The 40 time? A solid 4.48.

A likely mid-round selection, Davis said he’s receiving good interest so far and has visits scheduled with the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys.

K Anthony Fera: For Fera, preparing for the draft has meant lots of work on his kickoffs. The consensus All-American and Groza Award finalist was Texas’ placekicker and punter but hadn’t done kickoffs in two years thanks to Nick Rose’s strong leg. NFL scouts want to see him boom the ball, and he did just that on Wednesday.

“I hit them to the back of the end zone every time, and one of them hit the roof, so I thought I did pretty well,” Fera said.

The Saints, Titans, Browns and Jaguars could be searching for their kicking solutions in this draft and Fera should be in the running to be the first kicker selected.

OG Trey Hopkins: A 42-game starter at Texas, Hopkins has a chance to be the Longhorns’ first drafted offensive lineman since Tony Hills (2008). He came away proud of his 28 reps on the bench press and said interest is picking up, with a meeting with the Cleveland Browns already set up.

“I want people to know I play all positions on the offensive line,” Hopkins said. “I can snap, play tackle in games. And of course guard is where I played the most. I’m comfortable doing any of them.”

CB Carrington Byndom: It’s possible no Longhorn helped his draft stock more than Byndom on Wednesday. The three-year starting cornerback knew there were questions about his speed, and he’s confident he answered those with a time of 4.37 in the 40-yard dash.

“I think a lot of scouts had me running a lot slower than that,” Byndom said. “I could’ve done a little better on my position work, but there’s still time for that.”

He has one workout lined up and is hoping his performance Wednesday will spark more interest in the weeks ahead.

DT Chris Whaley: A left knee injury ended Whaley’s senior season in November, at a time when Mack Brown believed he was playing like a surefire NFL draft pick. Now Whaley is trying to get healthy, get back on the field and get drafted.

The 6-foot-3, 273-pound defensive tackle said he’s about three months away from being fully healthy again, but received positive feedback from NFL doctors about the progress of his knee’s recovery. Whaley participated in the NFL combine and did only one event at the Texas pro day, knocking out 22 reps on the bench press.

OT Donald Hawkins: At 6-foot-4 ˝ and 295 pounds, Hawkins knows that, like Hopkins, he’s capable of lining up at a variety of offensive line spots. He thinks he can be a swing tackle-guard but isn’t sure what to expect when draft day arrives. Hawkins’ 40 time wasn’t immediately available, but he hit 20 reps on the bench press.

S Adrian Phillips: The two-year starter set out to prove he’s worthy of a late-round selection and believed he helped his case. While there was some uncertainty about what he ran in the 40 -- some said 4.44, others thought it was closer to 4.5 -- Phillips emerged feeling confident about his coverage work and hoping he’ll hear his name called in the draft.
AUSTIN, Texas -- The blueprint of what Cedric Reed hopes to achieve in 2014 has already been laid out.

That’s because Jackson Jeffcoat did it all last fall: Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, All-Big 12, consensus All-American, Ted Hendricks Award, team MVP, team captain, soon-to-be NFL draft pick.

“Every time I looked up on Twitter,” Reed said, “he was winning a new award.”

[+] EnlargeCedric Reed
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesCedric Reed is ready to grab the spotlight on Texas' defensive line.
And Reed couldn’t have been happier for his teammate and friend. He’d continued a proud tradition of elite defensive ends at Texas, following in the footsteps of the likes of Brian Orakpo, Alex Okafor, Sam Acho, Sergio Kindle and several other NFL ends.

Reed knows he’s next and that he’ll play under Texas-sized expectations in 2014. He chose to return for his senior season because he wants to go out and earn all those things his predecessors achieved.

“There were a lot of goals I set coming into college,” Reed said.

He showed the potential to be as good as any of those former Longhorn ends in his first season as a starter, with 79 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 16 QB pressures and a team-high five forced fumbles.

For most of the season, Reed was as good as Jeffcoat and sometimes better, with eight of his sacks coming in Big 12 play and typically at critical moments. And that was just the start.

The 6-foot-6 senior is bulking up beyond the nearly 260 pounds he played at last season and believes he’s prepared to take over where Jeffcoat left off. If this all goes as planned, Reed is about to become a national name.

But there is change, and lots of it, to face over the next few months. The most obvious: a new coaching staff and a new defense. New defensive line coach Chris Rumph has already made a big impression after one week of spring practice.

“His credibility comes from Alabama. He has a lot of guys in the league,” Reed said. “But I’m learning from him how to be a man, mostly. He’s got on me these last few days just about little stuff I can fix. It’s not stuff so much I can fix on the football field, but more of as a man that I can carry over to the football field.”

Playing for Rumph means learning a new language and terminology, but Reed says that hasn’t been a stumbling block so far. He’s happy to receive some next-level learning, especially when it comes to technique.

One week in, it’s already obvious to Reed how much this Longhorn program is about to change under Charlie Strong’s watch. That hit the players quickly during their first practice on Tuesday, when Strong and his staff turned the pace up a noticeable notch.

“After the first five periods, I think I was winded,” Reed said. “I was like, yeah, this is going to be different.”

Then there will be mastering the defense that Strong and coordinator Vance Bedford devise. The new head coach knows he’s working with some big-time talent up front as he plans a multiple defense that can roll out 4-3 or 3-4 looks.

“You look at those guys up front with Cedric and Malcom [Brown] and Tank [Jackson[ and [Shiro] Davis, you’ve got some guys you can move around and guys that are in place that are big-bodied guys,” Strong said. “But they’re also athletic enough that you can take your parts and move them around and put them where you need to.”

This is a defensive line Strong can build his scheme around, one he can trust to get pressure. He also needs to be able to trust Reed as a leader in the locker room.

That’s a role Reed is happily accepting. He’s played with enough vocal defenders that he said he got by on being quiet and simply putting in his work. He doesn’t want it to be that way anymore.

He’s speaking his mind now, telling teammates what they need to hear and getting on them for the little stuff. Reed says Rumph has been hinting at this lately. Texas’ defensive line needs starters who aren’t afraid to speak up.

“Guys look up to me more. You can tell,” Reed said. “It is a leadership role that you take as a senior, that you finally realize once you get on the field with all the guys that they give you the pathway to go first and stuff like that. I feel like I am a lot stronger, I am a lot faster, I put on some weight -- a lot of us put on a lot of weight -- and I feel like I know the game a lot more.”

He can thank Jeffcoat and all his predecessors for setting the example. The former Texas defensive end likes to tell Reed: “You’ve got to do better than me.” This fall, Reed plans to prove it.
Editor's note: This is the second part of a week-long series breaking down Texas’ most important spring position battles when the Longhorns begin practice in two weeks.

Moving on: Jackson Jeffcoat, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and All-America defensive end. Good luck finding another one of those, Texas! (Ah, wait, Cedric Reed is very good, too.) Jeffcoat overcame injuries and played up to his five-star potential in his final season as a senior. He was versatile enough to play on several spots on the Horns’ defensive line under Greg Robinson, and Jeffcoat’s production will be difficult to replicate. Texas also loses top backup Reggie Wilson, a fellow senior.

[+] EnlargeDerick Roberson
Miller Safrit/ESPN Derick Roberson, Texas' top-rated signee, should make an impact on the defensive line in his freshman season.
The contenders: We know Reed is the real deal. But who’s ready to earn a starting job and line up on the other side of the senior-to-be?

The top contenders are Shiro Davis, Caleb Bluiett and Bryce Cottrell. Each one is entering his third year in the program and contributed to some extent last season.

There’s also Derick Roberson, a true freshman from San Antonio who was an Under Armour All-American and Texas’ top-rated signee at No. 78 in the ESPN 300. Texas could also consider signee Jake McMillon an end, though the previous staff that recruited him projected the Abilene (Texas) lineman as a defensive tackle.

Moving forward: The most touted of the veteran trio is Davis, a Shreveport, La., native who flipped from LSU to Texas on signing day two years ago. He played as a true freshman and sophomore, primarily in mop-up time and as a rotational backup. He has shown he can rush the passer.

Bluiett is an interested case study in being too versatile. He’s a terrific athlete -- you should’ve seen him on a baseball diamond in high school -- who has floated around between defensive end and tight end during his two seasons with the program. He earned a start against Oregon in the Valero Alamo Bowl at defensive end and one of his two career tackles was an 11-yard sack.

Cottrell, another late find in the 2012 class, played in 11 games this past season and had one sack and a pass breakup. Even if two of these three do not start, they’re poised to see the field plenty in 2014.

And then there’s the much-hyped Roberson, who could stand to spend a year in the weight room with Pat Moorer putting good weight onto his long frame. But chances are he’s too talented to keep on the sidelines this fall. He’s more like Davis than the other two -- a speed rusher who can at least help on third downs early in his career.

Predictions: Davis does just enough in the spring to hold onto his front-runner status, and Bluiett emerges as the most likely to challenge the junior for the gig. Expect Davis to win out in the end if he brings his best. Roberson arrives in the summer and turns heads from the beginning, prompting Chris Rumph to work him into the rotation as a freshman. Rumph wasn’t afraid to play freshmen at Alabama last season, and he’ll put Roberson to work in a limited role.
The NFL scouting combine ended on Tuesday with two former Big 12 stars stealing the headlines on the final day. Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and TCU cornerback Jason Verrett were among the top performers, as the NFL hopefuls participated in defensive back drills and performance testing in Indianapolis.

Here’s a look at the Big 12’s top performers during the 2014 combine:

Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State cornerback: Gilbert ran the fastest time among defensive backs, clocking a 4.37 in the 40 while finishing tied for third with 20 reps at 225 pounds in the bench press. Add his 35.5 inch vertical and 10.5 broad jump and Gilbert seems to have secured himself a spot in Round 1 as arguably the best cornerback in the draft. He was expected to excel at the combine, and he did.

Jace Amaro, Texas Tech tight end: The Big 12’s best tight end set the standard for tight ends at the combine, finishing among the top five in the 40-yard dash (4.74, 5th), bench press (28 reps, tied for 2nd), vertical jump (33 inches, tied for 5th), broad jump (9 feet, 10 inches), 20-yard shuttle (4.3, tied for 3rd) and 60-yard shuttle (12.26, 4th). Amaro moves like a much smaller man and proved it with strong combine numbers.

Jason Verrett, TCU cornerback: Verrett was nipping at the heels of Gilbert and Amaro as the Big 12’s best performer at the combine. He ran 4.38 in the 40 (tied for 2nd), recorded a 39-inch vertical (tied for 3rd) and 10.6-foot broad jump. Questions remain about his size, at 5-foot-9, 189 pounds, but his physical abilities could help lessen those worries.

Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas defensive end: The Big 12 co-defensive player of the year along with Verrett, Jeffcoat probably helped himself by finishing among the combine’s best defensive linemen in several drills. His 6.97 in the 3-cone drill was second among defensive linemen and his 4.63 in the 40 and 10-foot, 3-inch broad jump were fourth among defensive linemen. Concerns about his lack of ability haven’t been at the forefront of his draft résumé, but it was still a strong showing for the former Longhorn.

Notable: Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard had the best 20-yard shuttle among offensive linemen, recording a 4.37 and the best 3-cone drill, recording a 7.3. ... Former Oklahoma running back Damien Williams ran a 4.45 in the 40, fourth among running backs. ... Baylor tight end Jordan Najvar recorded the best 60-yard shuttle among tight ends at 12.02 and tied for second in the 3-cone drill at 7.14. ... Iowa State linebacker Jeremiah George recorded 28 reps on the bench press, tying for third among linebackers.

Who to watch in spring: Shiro Davis

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
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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.

[+] EnlargeShiro Davis
John Albright/Icon SMIAfter showing flashes last season, it's time for junior defensive end Shiro Davis to live up to his recruiting hype.
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.
Twenty-five Big 12 players have been invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis Feb. 19-24. The NFL released the invite list Thursday afternoon. The Big 12 players are below:

Quarterbacks
  • None
Running backs
Fullbacks
Tight ends
Wide receivers
Offensive linemen
Defensive linemen
Linebackers
Defensive backs
Long snapper
Kicker
Punter
  • None
Notable omissions:
As we close in on national signing day, it’s an appropriate time to look back at how the top Big 12 recruits from four years ago performed.

2010 was a banner year for the Big 12 in recruiting, as the league collectively landed 23 from the ESPN 150.

A few, such as Jackson Jeffcoat, Ahmad Dixon and Shaun Lewis, became stars. Others washed out before their careers ever got off the ground.

[+] EnlargeSterling Shepard and Jackson Jeffcoat
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsFormer five-star prospect Jackson Jeffcoat finished his career as the best defensive end in the Big 12.
Below is a closer look at what happened to ESPN 150 players who signed with Big 12 schools:

No. 2: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas – Though he never reached a high level of team success, Jeffcoat had a great individual end to his career, earning Big 12 co-Defensive Player of the Year honors and leading the league with 13 sacks.

No. 4: Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas – Hicks has been good when he has played. Because of multiple injuries, that hasn’t been often. Hicks missed most of last season with a torn Achilles, just a year after also being knocked out with a hip flexor injury. After getting a medical redshirt from his 2012 season, Hicks has one more year of eligibility remaining.

No. 13: Mike Davis, WR, Texas – Davis finished in the Big 12’s top 10 in receiving the last two seasons, compiling 200 career catches and 18 touchdown receptions.

No. 14: Taylor Bible, DT, Texas – Bible never played a down at Texas, leaving after his redshirt freshman season because of issues with grades. Bible ended up at Carson-Newman.

No. 15: Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor – Dixon had a tremendous tenure with his hometown school, earning All-Big 12 and All-American honors as a senior as Baylor captured its first Big 12 title in 2013.

No. 18: Demarco Cobbs, ATH, Texas – The Tulsa, Okla., native has appeared in 29 games on special teams and as a defensive reserve. He missed all of the 2013 season with a knee injury.

No. 20: Darius White, WR, Texas – After making just six catches his first two seasons, White transferred to Missouri. He caught just seven passes this season for the Tigers, but has another year of eligibility left.

No. 21: Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma – In his first season, Jefferson was the Big 12 co-Defensive Freshman of the year, and he was a three-year starter before leaving early to go pro.

No. 46: Ashton Dorsey, DT, Texas – After serving as a reserve throughout his career, Dorsey was projected to start this season, but he transferred out days before Texas’ season opener.

No. 48: Austin Haywood, TE, Oklahoma – After getting playing time as a third tight end early in his career, Haywood unexpectedly quit in the middle of the season, tried to earn his way back on the team, failed and ended up transferring to Central Arkansas. After getting suspended there, Haywood gave up football.

No. 62: Corey Nelson, LB, Oklahoma – Nelson shined early this season after finally getting a chance to be a full-time starter. That, however, was short-lived, as Nelson tore his pectoral muscle in an early October win over TCU and sat out the rest of his final season.

No. 65: Blake Bell, QB, Oklahoma – The “Belldozer” starred his first two seasons as a situational, short-yardage QB. But in the preseason, Bell was beaten out by Trevor Knight for the starting job. Bell, however, still had his moments this season because of injuries to Knight. He led OU to a win at Notre Dame, then quarterbacked OU’s game-winning touchdown drive at Oklahoma State.

No. 72: Reggie Wilson, DE, Texas – He appeared in 51 games as a defensive reserve. Wilson had 19 tackles and a sack as a senior.

No. 73: Chris Jones, WR, Texas – Jones transferred out after one year, and never played.

No. 75: Shaun Lewis, LB, Oklahoma State – Lewis made an immediate impact, earning Big 12 co-Defensive Freshman of the Year honors along with Tony Jefferson. Lewis was a four-year starter and a big piece in Oklahoma State’s defensive turnaround this season.

[+] EnlargeBrennan Clay
Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY SportsFormer ESPN 150 recruit Brennan Clay was a solid, not spectacular, tailback for the Sooners.
No. 77: Quentin Hayes, S, Oklahoma – After serving a year-long suspension, Hayes returned to win a starting job this past season. He has another year left.

No. 86: Tevin Jackson, LB, Texas – Jackson has been a backup linebacker for the Longhorns and will be part of the team’s great depth there in 2014.

No. 103: Adrian White, CB, Texas – Played in 17 games, then joined the mass transfer exodus from this Texas class.

No. 109: Ivan McCartney, WR, West Virginia – McCartney never became a No. 1 receiver, though he did contribute on West Virginia’s explosive offenses in 2011-12. He only had 12 catches this past season as a senior, however.

No. 114: Aaron Benson, LB, Texas – The cousin of former Texas running back great Cedric Benson has only been a contributor on special teams.

No. 122: Carrington Byndom, S, Texas – One of the few players from this Texas class to pan out. Byndom made 39 career starts and was a second-team All-Big 12 selection this past season.

No. 129: Brennan Clay, RB, Oklahoma – Clay proved to be a reliable and steady force in the OU backfield. He finished his career with 1,913 rushing yards, including 957 in 2013.

No. 134: Adrian Philips, ATH, Texas – Phillips settled in the Texas secondary, collecting 28 career starts there. He was second on the team this past season with 82 tackles.

No. 141: Trey Hopkins, OG, Texas – Hopkins became a stalwart up front, making 42 career starts along the offensive line. He was a two-time, second-team All-Big 12 selection.

No. 142: Justin McCay, ATH, Oklahoma – McCay transferred to Kansas after two years in Norman. He had nine receptions and a touchdown, which also was the first scoring catch by a Kansas wide receiver in almost two full seasons.
According to ESPN’s recruiting rankings, only Alabama and Florida have landed more four- and five-star players in the last four years than Texas.

In fact, other than Oklahoma, the Longhorns have signed roughly four times more four- and five-star players than every other program in the Big 12.

Success in the league, however, hasn’t hinged on who has been able to pile up the most four- and five-star players. Instead, it has been about the teams who have been able to hit on the players who actually weren’t four- and five-star recruits.

[+] EnlargeJackson Jeffcoat
John Albright/Icon SMIJackson Jeffcoat was a first-team All-Big 12 selection this past season, the only one of 60 four- and five-star players Texas has signed in the past four years to achieve that status so far.
No two teams better underscored this premise this past season than Baylor and Oklahoma State.

True, both schools have enjoyed an uptick in recruiting lately.

In the last four years, the Cowboys rank third in the Big 12 in signing four- and five-star prospects with 16, including eight last year. Oklahoma State also has eight four-star recruits committed in this class.

Baylor ranks fourth in the league with 15 four- and five-star players in the past four classes, and the Bears have put together their best class yet in 2014.

But that hasn’t been the primary reason for either team’s recent surge.

Together, Baylor and Oklahoma State comprised 21 of the 59 (36 percent) players who earned first- or second-team All-Big 12 honors. As a result, the Bears and Cowboys both pulled off double-digit winning seasons.

But of those 21 players, only three – Baylor offensive tackle Spencer Drango and safety Ahmad Dixon and Oklahoma State linebacker Shaun Lewis – were former four- or five-star players signed by the Bears or Cowboys out of high school (Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk and Oklahoma State defensive tackle Calvin Barnett were four-star prospects out of high school, but both players transferred in -- Seastrunk from Oregon and Barnett from junior college via Arkansas).

Meanwhile, of the 60 four- and five-star players Texas has signed in the last four years, only defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat was a first-team All-Big 12 selection this season.

And while Jeffcoat was also the co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, the Longhorns lost to Oklahoma State at home 38-13. Then fell at Baylor 30-10.

This week, fans across the Big 12 will be abuzz with how many four- and five-star recruits their schools end up signing.

But as this season showed, success on the field isn’t just about getting the four- and five-star players. It’s about getting the future stars that aren’t.

 

Top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 3

January, 31, 2014
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With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We continue the postseason countdown with the No. 4 player in the Big 12.

[+] EnlargeJackson Jeffcoat
John Albright/Icon SMIA finally healthy Jackson Jeffcoat lived up to the hype he had entering Texas, leading the Big 12 with 13 sacks and 22 tackles for loss.
No. 3: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas

Previous ranking: Jackson was ranked 10th in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s top 25 players.

Making the case for Jeffcoat: He’d shown flashes of what he was capable of doing in the past, most notably in six games in 2012 before a season-ending torn pectoral muscle. But this was the season Jeffcoat finally put it all together. He was finally healthy and a heck of a problem for opposing offenses.

Jeffcoat came back for his senior season with unfinished business on his mind, and that decision paid off with a treasure chest of trophies. A consensus All-American and the winner of the Ted Hendricks Award, Jeffcoat became the Big 12’s best defensive player in his final season.

He led the conference with 13 sacks and 22 tackles for loss and added 86 tackles, three fumble recoveries and a game-clinching interception at Iowa State. All but one of those sacks came in Big 12 play, and Jeffcoat was the only FBS lineman to lead his team in tackles this season.

With Jeffcoat coming off one edge and Cedric Reed on the other, Texas had one of the nation’s more formidable pass rushes. And when the Longhorns began the year 1-2, Jeffcoat was one of the seniors who pulled the team together and saved the season.

The rest of the list:

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