Texas Longhorns: Jackson Jeffcoat
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.
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.
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.
What a difference a year makes for Justin Gilbert. Awesome.— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) February 25, 2014
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.
Real intersted to see where Jason Verrett ends up going-Great football player, but short...smart teams won't care even with #Seahawks model— Matt Williamson (@WilliamsonNFL) February 26, 2014
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.
No Jackson Jeffcoat and no Oscar Giles means a whole new world for Texas’ defensive ends going into the 2014 season.
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.
- Trey Millard, Oklahoma
- Jeremiah George, Iowa State
- Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma
- Ahmad Dixon, Baylor
- Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
- Demetri Goodson, Baylor
- Jason Verrett, TCU
- Marcus Heit, Kansas State
- Anthony Fera, Texas
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- No. 4: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
- No. 5: Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
- No. 6: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
- No. 7: Gabe Ikard, C, Oklahoma
- No. 8: Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State
- No. 9: Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor
- No. 10: Jalen Saunders, WR, Oklahoma
- No. 11: Antwan Goodley, WR, Baylor
- No. 12: Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
- No. 13: Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia
- No. 14: James Sims, RB, Kansas
- No. 15: Anthony Fera, K/P, Texas
- No. 16: Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
- No. 17: Caleb Lavey, LB, Oklahoma State
- No. 18: Eddie Lackey, LB, Baylor
- No. 19:Josh Stewart, WR, Oklahoma State
- No. 20: Ryan Mueller, DE, Kansas State
- No. 21: Clint Chelf, QB, Oklahoma State
- No. 22: Jeremiah George, LB, Iowa State
- No. 23: Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma
- No. 24: Ty Zimmerman, S, Kansas State
- No. 25: Calvin Barnett, DT, Oklahoma State
The Texas-Oklahoma rivalry is bigger than football, but it’s always a fun topic of discussion when the rivalry talk turns to past success. It’s a conversation starter with the release of the Ultimate ESPN 300 class rankings, which ranks every top recruit since 2006. Oklahoma has a dozen players in the Ultimate ESPN 300; Texas has nine.
Here is a look at the top five Big 12 programs that have consistently put together stellar recruiting classes since ESPN began ranking recruits:
The Sooners might start slow some years, but each year they continue to put together top recruiting classes that produce talent that can compete with any team in the country. The 2006 class was one of Bob Stoops’ best, as it produced the No. 1 running back in DeMarco Murray, a future Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Sam Bradford and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. With players such as offensive lineman Trent Williams, wide receiver Ryan Broyles and tight end Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma is one of the most consistent teams in college football. Stoops produces winners.
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It’s always fun to think back to the former stars of college football recruiting. The Big 12 had a few players who made an impact during their respective recruiting processes.
Here are five players from the Big 12 who made the top 50 of the ESPN Ultimate 300.
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After much deliberation, we’ve selected the best 12 seniors in the league, period. These players all raised their game this season with their on-field production, leadership and impact to their respective teams.
Here are our 2013 Big 12 Super Seniors, listed in alphabetical order:
Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma: His senior-year stats weren’t stunning -- Colvin recorded 55 tackles, an interception and three pass breakups -- but it’s not as if opposing quarterbacks were interested in throwing his way. The three-year starter was a longtime leader of this Sooners defense and now has a long road to recovery ahead after suffering a torn ACL at the Senior Bowl.
Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor: Love him or hate him, the All-American is one of the best playmakers in the Big 12. The hard-hitting safety racked up 81 tackles, six pass breakups and one interception and served as the enforcer over the middle of a much-improved Bears defense.
Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State: After an unsatisfying junior season, Gilbert stepped up big again for the Cowboys with a Big 12-leading seven interceptions along with seven pass breakups and 42 tackles. He’ll go down as both a lockdown corner and elite kick returner in his time at OSU.
Gabe Ikard, C, Oklahoma: No player is more deserving of making this list than Ikard, an All-America lineman on the field and Capital One Academic All-American of the Year in the classroom. He won the Wuerffel Trophy for his combination of athletic, academic and community service success. He was one of the nation’s best at his position and brought off-the-charts leadership to the Sooners.
Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas: Finally injury-free for a full season, Jeffcoat shined in his last year as a Longhorn and led the Big 12 in sacks (13) and tackles for loss (19) to earn consensus All-America honors. When Texas lost its defensive coordinator and two of its first three games, Jeffcoat stepped up and played a big role in turning Texas’ season around.
Eddie Lackey, LB, Baylor: The Bears found one heck of a steal in Lackey, a junior college transfer who finished with 108 tackles (13 for loss), 4.5 sacks and three INTs in his senior season. He earned All-Big 12 honors for his play and probably deserved more than that for what he brought to this unit.
Caleb Lavey, LB, Oklahoma State: Sure seems like this guy was a little too underrated during the 2013 season. Lavey led the Pokes in tackles with 93 and a team-high 13 tackles for loss, and he chipped in four interceptions, three pass breakups and 2.5 sacks. Oklahoma State’s defense emerged as the league’s best for much of the season and Lavey was a big reason why with his play over the middle.
Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia: In his only season with the Mountaineers, the Houston transfer was a do-everything workhorse who had no trouble adjusting his game to Big 12 competition. He led the league with 1,496 yards from scrimmage (1,095 rushing, 401 receiving) and scored 14 total touchdowns. The guy wanted to make a name for himself and did just that.
James Sims, RB, Kansas: Sims was quietly one of the best running backs in the Big 12 over the past four years, finishing his career with 3,592 rushing yards after surpassing 1,000 for the second straight year. Though he played for struggling offenses, he made a bigger impact on this program than most realize.
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU: In his only two seasons in the Big 12, Verrett earned All-America honors in back-to-back seasons and was one of the league’s most feared defenders in his final year. The former junior college transfer broke up 14 passes and picked off two, and he didn’t see many more thrown his way.
Ty Zimmerman, S, Kansas State: He dealt with some injury issues in his final season, but the few games he missed made clear just how important Zimmerman was to this K-State defense throughout his career. He finished with 74 tackles, three interceptions and four pass breakups as a senior and started nearly every game of the past four seasons.
No. 3: Nov. 9, Texas 47, West Virginia 40 (OT)
This back-and-forth thriller featured big plays from both teams and seven combined touchdowns after halftime.
What happened: Texas made the plays when it needed them. West Virginia did not.
On fourth-and-7 at the West Virginia 47, Case McCoy found Jaxon Shipley for a 9-yard gain. Five plays later, Anthony Fera tied the game at 40 with 13 seconds left, sending this one to overtime.
In overtime, McCoy was clutch again with a third-down conversion to Marcus Johnson followed by a two-yard touchdown pass to Alex De La Torre on third-and-goal. It was the Texas defense’s turn on WVU’s overtime possession, as it tightened its resolve after a 20-yard run by Mario Alford to start the possession. WVU gained one yard in the next four plays, capped by Steve Edmond’s interception to end the game and send the Longhorns back to Austin with their Big 12 title hopes intact.
Player of the game: UT defensive end Cedric Reed. Several Longhorns defenders had exceptional games, but Reed was relentless. He finished with seven tackles, including two tackles for loss, two sacks, two quarterback hurries, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. Not a bad day’s work.
Stat of the game: 6. WVU allowed six sacks and had six fumbles (losing three). UT’s defense was opportunistic and aggressive throughout the game, as its defensive line was all over Mountaineers quarterback Paul Millard after knocking Clint Trickett out of the game.
Quotable: “When one of us gets a sack, that means the other guys are doing their job. We just knew we had to put pressure on these guys and disrupt them.” -- Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat.
The rest of the list:
Ahmad Dixon, S: Dixon was the heart and soul of coach Art Briles’ best defense at Baylor. The All-American was the Baylor defense’s tone-setter and a tackling machine. He was also its vocal leader, and as someone who grew up in Waco, he fully understood the significance of Baylor’s resurgence. With QB Bryce Petty back, the Bears figure to put up the points again. But whether they find another defensive leader like Dixon will play a big part in whether Baylor can repeat as Big 12 champs.
Jeremiah George, LB: George finished first in the Big 12 with 133 tackles and ranked fourth nationally with an average of 11.1 per game. That level of defensive production isn’t easily replaced. The onus will be on heir-apparent Luke Knott to keep Iowa State’s strong linebacking tradition rolling next season.
James Sims, RB: The past two seasons, Sims has been -- by far -- Kansas’ top player. With 211 rushing yards and three touchdowns, he carried the Jayhawks to a 31-19 win over West Virginia to snap the school’s 27-game Big 12 losing streak. Sims was able to produce, even when the focal point of defenses was squarely on him. The All-Big 12 back will not be easily replaced.
Ty Zimmerman, S: The Wildcats just weren’t the same defense when Zimmerman had to sit because of injury. With the hard-hitting safety on the sidelines, Oklahoma gashed the Wildcats for 301 rushing yards. When Zimmerman was on the field, K-State was so much steadier defensively. Just ask Michigan, which struggled to move the chains in Zimmerman’s return in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, which the Wildcats won going away, 31-14.
Gabe Ikard, C: Ikard was the constant on an offensive line that held up throughout the season despite constantly changing parts. In the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Ikard was the only Sooners offensive lineman to start in the same spot as the team’s Big 12 opener. And yet, OU became the first team to put 31 first-half points on Alabama under Nick Saban. The Sooners have a nice center prospect in Ty Darlington. But he’ll be stepping in for one of the top centers in college football.
Clint Chelf, QB: The Cowboys lose some key players defensively, notably CB Justin Gilbert, DT Calvin Barnett and LBs Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey. Chelf, however, was the biggest reason for Oklahoma State’s November surge, which put the Cowboys in position to win the Big 12 title on the final day of the regular season. The Cowboys will have to replace him with either J.W. Walsh, who struggled before losing the job back to Chelf, or true freshman Mason Rudolph, who has enrolled for spring ball.
Jackson Jeffcoat, DE: Jeffcoat was the only player from the Big 12 to win a national award, capturing the Ted Hendricks Award, given annually to college football's top defensive end. When the switch was turned on, Jeffcoat was as dominant as any end in college football, tying for third nationally with 13 sacks. The Longhorns return one of the nation’s best non-senior defensive ends in Cedric Reed. Jeffcoat, however, was a special talent.
Eric Ward, WR: Overshadowed somewhat by tight end teammate Jace Amaro, Ward too had an outstanding final season in Lubbock. He finished fifth in the Big 12 in receiving and was a consistent big-play threat on the outside. The Red Raiders will be counting on Reginald Davis to replace Ward on the perimeter.
Jason Verrett, CB: The co-Big 12 defensive player of the year had a stellar senior season, even though the Horned Frogs struggled as a team. Matched up one-on-one, Verrett completely shut down Baylor All-Big 12 wideout Antwan Goodley in TCU’s final game. The Horned Frogs have some talented players coming back in the secondary, but nobody at the level of Verrett.
Charles Sims, RB: The Houston transfer was West Virginia’s best and most consistent offensive weapon all season. Even without the best blocking up front, Sims always managed to produce. Sims was superb at making the first tackler miss and led all Big 12 running backs in receiving. Dreamius Smith is a solid returning running back, but West Virginia will have to improve elsewhere offensively to compensate for the loss of Sims’ versatile skill set.
It started with promise, with Mack Brown confident the Longhorns could win the Big 12. Then Texas started 1-2, fired a coordinator, won six conference games in a row, upset Oklahoma, suffered a barrage of significant injuries and lost three of its final four, including its regular-season finale at Baylor with the Big 12 title on the line.
A week later, Brown resigned and a 16-year era at Texas came to an end with one final rocky 8-5 season. Here’s one more look back at the Longhorns’ 2013 campaign:
Offensive MVP: RB Malcolm Brown. While WR Mike Davis was named the team’s offensive player of the year, we’re going with Brown because he emerged as the workhorse of this Texas offense when Johnathan Gray went down with a torn Achilles. Brown started the year slow but finished with 904 rushing yards and surpassed 100 five times, including in critical victories over Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
Defensive MVP: DE Jackson Jeffcoat. The senior played up to his big-time potential, earning consensus All-America honors, the Ted Hendricks Award and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. Jeffcoat led the Big 12 in sacks with 13 and led the Longhorns in the locker room.
Best moment: In a result that few saw coming, Texas went to the Cotton Bowl and beat up on Oklahoma. The Longhorns attacked on both sides of the ball and won easily, 36-20, over the then-No. 12 Sooners. It was sweet revenge for a Texas senior class that had never beaten OU, and Texas got the Golden Hat for the first time since 2009.
Worst moment: A stunning 40-21 road loss to BYU on Sept. 7. The Longhorns gave up a school-record 550 rushing yards and completely fell apart in Provo in a game that cost defensive coordinator Manny Diaz his job. That loss and coaching change led to another defeat, at home against Ole Miss, which left Texas 1-2 to start the season.
Here’s a look back at the 2013 season with our Best of the Big 12:
Best player, offense: Even though he cooled off later in the year, Baylor’s Bryce Petty still finished fifth nationally in QBR in his first season as a starting quarterback. He threw 32 touchdown passes and did a masterful job taking care of the ball, tossing only three interceptions.
Best player, defense: There wasn’t really anyone who clearly stood out here. TCU cornerback Jason Verrett, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State linebacker Caleb Lavey, Kansas State defensive end Ryan Mueller and Baylor linebacker Eddie Lackey all had their moments. Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, however, was the only defensive player from the league to win a national award. He was given the Ted Hendricks Award, which goes to the defensive end of the year in college football. Jeffcoat tied for third nationally with 13 sacks.
Best moment: The league has been waiting for a signature victory to hang its hat on. Oklahoma finally gave the Big 12 that victory in the Allstate Sugar Bowl with a stunning 45-31 win over Alabama. Behind freshman quarterback Trevor Knight, the Sooners controlled the game from the second quarter on. Defensively, linebacker Eric Striker and end Geneo Grissom were unblockable, combining for five sacks of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron. Offensively, Knight carved up the Crimson Tide for 348 passing yards and four touchdowns. It wasn’t even that Alabama played poorly. It was that Oklahoma played terrifically.
Best rivalry game: Maybe new Texas coach Charlie Strong will bring some more juice to the Red River Rivalry. Lately, it’s been second fiddle to Bedlam. In quality. In drama. In impact. Once again, Bedlam carried major Big 12 title implications, and once again, the game delivered a thrilling ending. Backup quarterback Blake Bell found Jalen Saunders in the corner of the end zone with 19 seconds remaining for the Sooners’ first offensive touchdown of the game, lifting Oklahoma to a win and spoiling Oklahoma State’s shot at a Big 12 title.
Best play: Late in the third quarter of Kansas State’s game against Baylor, Mueller stripped Petty while simultaneously recovering the fumble near the sideline. The acrobatic play gave K-State good field position in Baylor territory, and the Wildcats would go on to take a 25-21 lead. Baylor ultimately outlasted the Wildcats, but Mueller, who also had two sacks in the game, was a big reason why the Bears' high-powered offense was held in check most of the afternoon.
Best individual defensive performance: Mueller against Baylor, Verrett shutting down Baylor wideout Antwan Goodley, and Gilbert picking off Texas twice all deserve honorable mention. But Striker gets the nod for wreaking havoc on the two-time defending national champ in New Orleans. Striker had three sacks and forced a fumble after barreling around the edge to slam into McCarron’s blind side. The ball popped loose and Grissom returned the fumble for the game-winning touchdown.
Best true freshman: Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb had to split time with fellow true freshman Baker Mayfield for most of the season. When Mayfield left unexpectedly in December, the job was finally Webb’s to run with. And run he did. Actually, he threw. Against No. 14 Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl, Webb completed 28 of 41 passes for 403 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in one of this year’s best bowl performances from a quarterback. Webb had a solid freshman season, leading the Red Raiders to fourth-quarter wins over TCU and West Virginia. But if the bowl was any indication, the best is yet to come.
Best quote: “So much for the big bad wolf, huh?” -- Bob Stoops, after the Sooners defeated Alabama.
The Longhorns offense was average in pretty much every area except running the ball. UT was third in the Big 12 with 196.2 rushing yards per game thanks to a deep group of ball-carriers. Johnathan Gray is one of the Big 12’s top running backs and his injury against West Virginia was a bigger loss than most realize as the Longhorns lost three of their final four games after his injury. They had won six straight games before Gray was hurt. Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron are solid runners in their own right and give the Longhorns quality running back depth.
UT’s quarterback play was terrific at times, like the Red River Rivalry win over Oklahoma, and horrible at other times, like the Longhorns' blowout losses to Baylor and Oregon. Case McCoy brought confidence and moxie but was too confident at times and hurt his team with some of this poor decision-making and throws. Outside of Jaxon Shipley, UT’s receivers struggled to be consistent and explosive for much of the season.
The Longhorns' offensive line was solid, allowing a sack just 3.6 percent of the time quarterbacks dropped back to pass, ranking second in the Big 12, and paving the way for their bevy of running backs.
Much like the offense, the defense wasn’t great at much of anything with the exception of getting to the quarterback. Texas finished first in the Big 12 with 39 sacks thanks to 23 combined sacks from Big 12 co-defensive player of the year Jackson Jeffcoat (13) and his opposite defensive end Cedric Reed (10).
In UT’s five losses the defense allowed 36.4 points per game, 497 yards per game, 6.3 yards per play, and 2.4 points per drive. Ugly numbers for a team with the talent the Longhorns possessed. Injuries played a role in the defense’s struggles but talent wasn’t the issue as it was clear the unit improved when Greg Robinson took over and simplified the system.
Special Teams: B-
Anthony Fera was the clear bright spot among an average group of special teams units. He handled the place kicking and punting and did both well for the Longhorns. Daje Johnson was a scary threat on kickoff and punt returns with his speed but didn’t rank among the Big 12’s best in either category.
The Longhorns won eight games and competed for a Big 12 championship during a season that will be remembered for its faults. They could have, and should have, been better but they did dominate an OU team that defeated Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl and had one of the Big 12’s most impressive stretches of the season during their six-game win streak. It was a disappointing season but it wasn’t the complete disaster that some would like to believe.
RB Coach Tommie Robinson Talks Tradition
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35