Texas Longhorns: Malcom Brown

Top-10 player spring update: Texas

March, 27, 2014
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During the next two weeks, we’ll be breaking down the 10 best players at the moment on every team in the Big 12.

These lists won’t include junior college or freshman signees who haven’t arrived on campus yet. Rather, they will include only the players on their teams this spring. Some of these rankings might look different after the spring, but this is how we see them now.

On Thursday, we continue with the Texas Longhorns.

[+] EnlargeCedric Reed
John Albright/Icon SMIAfter a huge 2013 season, Cedric Reed will be the focus of the Longhorns' defense this fall.
1. Defensive end Cedric Reed: This is the guy Charlie Strong will build his defense around, a 6-foot-6, 258-pound senior who took his game to another level in 2013. During his monstrous junior campaign -- 79 tackles, 10 sacks, 19 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles -- Reed often played just as well as Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jackson Jeffcoat, and sometimes better. Reed elected to return for his final season to not only earn his degree, but also to make a run at all the awards Jeffcoat collected and get Texas back to its winning ways.

2. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown: Brown has looked like a future NFL player from the day he first stepped foot on campus, and he started playing like it in 2013. In his first season as a starter, Brown racked up 68 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, two sacks and five pass breakups. He'll be a menace for opposing Big 12 linemen, and the former top-15 recruit has a chance to get even better under new defensive line coach Chris Rumph.

3. Running back Malcolm Brown: Texas is going to run the ball plenty under new coordinators Joe Wickline and Shawn Watson, and Brown enters his senior season with a chance to become one of the Big 12's premier backs. He finished sixth in the league in total rushing and surpassed 125 yards in each of his final three games. Brown is in even better shape today physically and has a chance to do big things in 2014.

4. Defensive back Quandre Diggs: Entering his fourth season as a starter, Diggs has the potential to make a huge impact in the new defense that Strong and DC Vance Bedford construct. He led the Longhorns with 10 pass breakups from his nickel spot and added 2.5 sacks, but no interceptions, in 2013. Whether he ends up at corner, safety or back in the nickel, Diggs is hungry and out to prove he's one of the nation's best at his position.

5. Running back Johnathan Gray: The big question mark is, when will Gray get back on the field? He's still recovering from a torn Achilles suffered last November and is hoping to be full strength by the start of fall camp. Even if Gray misses a nonconference game or two, Texas will have big plans for him upon his return. He's one of the conference's most dynamic backs and a critical cog in the Longhorns offense. Don't be surprised if Gray, a freaky athlete, is back in pads earlier than expected.

6. Wide receiver Jaxon Shipley: Shipley is probably underrated at this point, even if his 2013 season wasn't too sparkling from a statistical standpoint (team-high 56 catches, 589 yards, 1 TD). But no matter who's starting at quarterback this season, Shipley is going to be the go-to guy. He's been a starter since he first arrived in Austin, and Texas' new offensive attack will find ways to get him in space.

7. Quarterback David Ash: Should Ash be higher on this list? When he's fully healthy, yes, he's one of this program's most important pieces. The junior is back on the field this spring but won't take any contact. His early efforts have been encouraging, but he still has some rust to shake off, and Strong has been somewhat noncommittal when it comes to calling Ash his starter. If USC transfer Max Wittek joins the program this summer, Ash will have to fight to hold down the job. But when he was healthy in 2012, Ash was a top-25 passer in several key metrics and still has a bright future if he can avoid another concussion.

8. Linebacker Steve Edmond: We finally saw Edmond take a big step forward in 2013, with 73 tackles and two interceptions, but his junior season ended early because of a ruptured spleen. In this multiple defense, it will be interesting to see if Strong and Bedford experiment with playing Edmond down at defensive end or in some hybrid roles. Dalton Santos will push Edmond, too, but expect the senior to play a major role in Texas' new-look defense.

9. Linebacker Jordan Hicks: It's hard to justify ranking Hicks any higher after he's missed 19 games in his past two seasons. He is not competing in spring practice right now while he completes his recovery from a torn Achilles, but once he's ready to go, Hicks should be one of Texas' best linebackers and one of its leaders on defense. He only has one season left to play up to his five-star potential, but staying on the field is more important.

10.Wide receiver Kendall Sanders: Several other Longhorns could take this spot on the list and have more playing experience, but Sanders is definitely worth keeping an eye on this fall. A smooth, speedy athlete capable of game-changing plays, Sanders has one year of game experience under his belt and a chance to take over as Texas' top deep threat.

Spring primer: Texas Longhorns

March, 13, 2014
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Texas takes the field for its first spring practice next week, and it has plenty it needs to accomplish under new head coach Charlie Strong. Here are a few of the many, many items on the Longhorns’ to-do list for spring ball:

Offensive returner ready to take next step: Hate to state the obvious here, but David Ash needs to take one big step in the right direction this spring. After playing in only three games last season because of concussion issues, Ash will be cleared for full practice participation and wear a green no-contact jersey. His return to the weight room this winter was encouraging, but he has a brand-new offense to master and has a new quarterbacks coach for the third straight season. He needs to get comfortable and confident once again this spring.

[+] EnlargeMalcom Brown
John Albright/Icon SMIMalcom Brown is ready to become a star on Texas' defensive line.
Defensive returner ready to take the next step: Watch out for defensive tackle Malcom Brown, because the junior’s next step is to be an All-Big 12 and All-America-caliber player. He was clearly Texas’ most talented defensive tackle as a true sophomore and will be a focal point of the defensive line no matter if Texas is in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. New defensive line coach Chris Rumph is ready to maximize Brown's potential.

Redshirt freshman to watch: Plenty to choose from, but cornerback Antwuan Davis stands out. Former coach Mack Brown was very tempted to throw the freshman from Bastrop, Texas, on the field in 2013 but held off. Great measurables, track speed and a fiery competitiveness make Davis a second-year guy capable of fighting his way into a role in this secondary.

Most significant position battle: We outlined that in this post, but it’s worth repeating: kicker and punter. With consensus All-American and Lou Groza Award finalist Anthony Fera gone, Texas faces some big question marks at both spots. New special teams coach Chris Vaughn wants to see all his options in action and put each kicker and punter through pressure situations to see who comes out on top.

Key midterm enrollee: This is a shorter list than usual this year, as only three signees joined the program in January. But tight end Blake Whiteley will be the most interesting to watch. The Arizona Western Community College transfer has everything you’d want in the size department -- 6-foot-5, 245 pounds -- and was a 1,000-yard receiver during his high school days. Texas hasn't had a feared pass-catcher at that spot in a long time.

Question that could be answered: Which players can hang with the new brand of Texas football? That’s been the critical question throughout offseason workouts, and Strong and his staff will get much more definitive answers in the next month. Those who can keep up will stand out. Those who can’t might not be on the roster much longer. Expect some attrition after spring ball ends, as is often the case with new regimes.

Question that won’t be answered until fall: The quarterback job. It’s possible USC transfer Max Wittek does not reach a final decision on his destination until April or May, and freshman Jerrod Heard arrives not long after that. Both will make a run at the job (if Wittek chooses UT), and we won’t know where things stand with Ash’s long-term health until he starts taking hits again. He won’t see any in spring ball, that’s for sure. Texas coaches are excited about having Ash for two more seasons, but they’ll also put a high value on competition.

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: DL

February, 24, 2014
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As we wait for the start of spring ball, we’re examining and ranking the positional situations of every team in the Big 12, continuing Monday with defensive line. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how we see the defensive lines at the moment:

[+] EnlargeAmari Cooper
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesOklahoma end Charles Tapper will lead the Big 12's best defensive line in 2014.
1. Oklahoma: D-line began as a weakness but quickly turned into a strength under first-year position coach Jerry Montgomery. End Charles Tapper was an All-Big 12 selection as a sophomore, and tackle Jordan Phillips was on his way to earning similar honors before a back injury ended his season prematurely. Both players are back. So is Geneo Grissom, who had three sacks in the bowl win over Alabama. Nose guard Jordan Wade earned a starting role late in 2013, and Chuka Ndulue will be a starter for a third season. Basically, the entire rotation returns. If Phillips rebounds from the injury, this could prove to be Oklahoma’s finest D-line since 2009, when NFL All-Pro Gerald McCoy roamed the middle.

2. TCU: DE Devonte Fields, the Associated Press’ Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman in 2012, had an empty season in 2013 thanks to a suspension, then a season-ending foot injury. If Fields can return to the player he was, TCU will be formidable up front. Chucky Hunter was a second-team All-Big 12 pick inside last season, and he’ll be flanked by an array of experienced tackles in Davion Pierson, Jon Lewis and Tevin Lawson, who were all part of the rotation last season. Ends Terrell Lathan, James McFarland and Mike Tuaua, who combined for 11 sacks in 2013, all return as well. TCU's D-line figures to be as deep as any in the league.

3. Texas: Cedric Reed, one of the best sack men in the Big 12 last season, returns after giving the NFL a cursory thought. The Longhorns have to replace Big 12 co-Defensive Player of the Year Jackson Jeffcoat on the other side, but ESPN 300 recruit Derick Roberson, the No. 8 DE in the Class of 2014, could help right away. The Longhorns should also be stout inside, with run-stuffing tackles Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson back to clog the middle.

4. Kansas State: Ryan Mueller, who was eighth nationally with 11.5 sacks last season, comes back after a breakout All-Big 12 season. Travis Britz is an all-conference-caliber tackle and gives K-State one of the better one-two punches on the D-line in the league. Joining them will be Terrell Clinkscales, who was the No. 4 junior college DT in the 2014 class. The Wildcats pried Clinkscales away from Nebraska, and at 315 pounds he could be the perfect complement to Britz, who relies more on quickness.

[+] EnlargeShawn Oakman
John Rivera/Icon SMIBaylor defensive end Shawn Oakman will play a bigger role next season.
5. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys lose two-time All-Big 12 tackle Calvin Barnett. James Castleman, however, will be a three-year starter, and end Jimmy Bean had a career night in the Cotton Bowl with three tackles for loss. The key to the Cowboys fielding one of the better lines in the league again will be whether Ben Hughes, Vincent Taylor and/or Vili Leveni can emerge inside after redshirting in 2013. All three are promising prospects, especially Taylor, who was an ESPN 300 recruit in the 2013 class.

6. Baylor: The Bears feature two of the more intriguing defensive linemen in the league. DE Shawn Oakman, a former Penn State transfer with tremendous length at 6-foot-9, finished sixth in the league with 12.5 tackles for loss last season, but he tailed off in Big 12 play. Baylor will ask him to play a much bigger role along the line, and he has the potential to give the Bears a unique playmaker there. On the inside, Baylor will lean more on Andrew Billings, who was part of the DT rotation as a freshman. If both Billings and Oakman play up to their vast potential, Baylor could be a handful up front.

7. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders lose their two best defensive linemen in Kerry Hyder and Dartwan Bush, and Tech got pushed around up front anyway last season. Coach Kliff Kingsbury recognized this deficiency and signed four juco defensive linemen, all of whom have a chance to play immediately. Of the returning linemen, Branden Jackson was by far the most productive, totaling nine tackles for loss and four sacks as a starter.

8. Iowa State: Like Texas Tech, Iowa State loaded up on immediate defensive line help, signing three juco defensive ends in Dalyou Pierson, Terry Ayeni and Gabe Luna, who is enrolled already for spring ball. Those three together with All-Big 12 honorable-mention selection Cory Morrissey and sophomore Mitchell Meyers should give Iowa State a solid rotation at end. Rodney Coe, who started the last four games, will anchor the Cyclones inside.

9. West Virginia: The Mountaineers lose two of three starters along the D-line, including second-team All-Big 12 end Will Clarke. West Virginia is hoping for big things from DE Kyle Rose, who started as a sophomore last season. Dontrill Hyman will likely fill a starting role on the other side, though he could get pushed for time by Eric Kinsey and Noble Nwachukwu, who both will be in their third year in the program. The Mountaineers will lean on Christian Brown and Darrien Howard at nose guard. Howard was an ESPN 300 recruit last year and played as a freshman. There’s some talent and potential here.

10. Kansas: Despite also losing two starters, the Jayhawks have experience up front. Defensive captain Keon Stowers is back after manning the middle in 2013. Ben Goodman returns as well in Kansas’ “buck” role, and he is coming off a very solid sophomore season. Goodman’s backup, Michael Reynolds, and rotation players Tedarian Johnson and Ty McKinney give the Jayhawks depth.

Texas position groups to improve: No. 4

February, 11, 2014
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Texas is getting off to a later-than-usual start to its spring practices this year, with Charlie Strong set to lead the Longhorns onto the practice field for the first time on March 18.

Until then, we’re counting down everything you need to know entering next season and the next era of Texas football. This week, we’re breaking down the five position groups with the most room to improve in 2014. We broke down the UT tight ends on Monday. Here’s No. 4 on the list:

[+] EnlargeMalcom Brown
John Albright/Icon SMIMalcom Brown is arguably the Big 12's best returning defensive tackle, but depth behind him is a concern for the Longhorns.
4. Defensive Tackles

The players: Malcom Brown, Desmond Jackson, Hassan Ridgeway, Alex Norman, Paul Boyette Jr., Poona Ford, Chris Nelson

Last year: As expected, Brown emerged as one of the best young defensive tackles in the Big 12, recording 68 tackles and finishing third on the team in TFLs (12), pass breakups (five) and QB pressures (six). Jackson recorded 39 tackles, five TFLs and two sacks. Ridgeway recorded 13 tackles and five QB pressures in his redshirt freshman year. Norman and Boyette Jr. combined for three tackles in limited action.

What’s missing: Chris Whaley was the leader of this group and enjoying a breakthrough senior season before suffering a torn ACL. When he went down, the Longhorns’ lack of depth up the middle was exposed, to the point that former DC Greg Robinson relied on lines with three defensive ends playing at once at times.

Texas knows what it has in Brown and “Tank” Jackson, but there was no experienced talent waiting behind them. Add in the fact Texas signed zero defensive tackles in last year’s class and you have to be somewhat concerned about this group entering 2014.

Moving forward: Brown, a former top 15 recruit, played up to his immense potential and can become an All-Big 12 caliber talent in 2014. He’ll anchor this group, while Jackson brings senior leadership but has room to improve. They need help. Ridgeway needs to emerge as a trusted rotational guy.

Norman and Boyette Jr. are entering year three in the program and have been disappointing. It’s time to step up or step aside, because Texas coaches love what they’re getting in Ford, an ESPN 300 signee who could play right away. Where Nelson fits into this group could depend on whether some backups transfer, but he’s bringing lots of confidence to Austin. These freshmen know they can get on the field early if the backups don’t rise up.

Texas Ten: Top Longhorns for 2014

January, 10, 2014
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With three of Texas’ top juniors declaring they will return for their senior seasons on Thursday, we now know who Charlie Strong will be working with in his first season as head coach. A look ahead at Texas’ top 10 returning players going into 2014:

1. DE Cedric Reed, senior

Convincing the All-Big 12 defensive end to return for his senior season was one of Strong’s first major victories this week. The 6-foot-6, 258-pound end was a monster in 2013, racking up 79 tackles, 10 sacks, 19 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles. He considered going pro after his breakout season but comes back for what should be a significant role leading Texas’ defensive line. Reed made it no secret he wants to win the trophies and awards that Jackson Jeffcoat piled up this season, and he’ll be one of the Big 12’s best as his position next fall.

2. DT Malcom Brown, junior

Texas coaches believed they had a surefire future NFL defensive tackle in Brown when he signed, and he’s played up to those expectations through two seasons. The former top-15 recruit recorded 68 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, two sacks and five pass breakups in his first season as a starter and was a handful for opposing linemen. He’ll only get better, and that’s a scary thing for the rest of the conference.

3. RB Malcolm Brown, senior

A finally healthy Brown finished 2013 strong and goes into his final season with plenty of confidence. He finished sixth in the Big 12 in rushing yards with 904 and 11 total touchdowns this season and closed out his junior campaign with three straight 125-plus yard games. He’ll be one of the offensive leaders next year.

[+] EnlargeGray
Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsA healthy Johnathan Gray will boost Texas' backfield.
4. RB Johnathan Gray, junior

Gray is undoubtedly one of Texas’ three best players when he’s healthy, and he was on his way to a 1,000-yard season before suffering a torn Achilles at West Virginia on Nov. 9. While Gray is optimistic he’ll be back in time for fall camp, the Longhorn staff should proceed with patience. Whenever he returns, Texas will have one of the nation’s better rushing duos.

5. CB Quandre Diggs, senior

If we’re comparing career resumes, you’d probably have to rank Diggs higher on this list. He’s accomplished plenty during his time in Austin, enough that the defensive coaches trusted him to take on the nickel spot as a junior and play all over the field. He collected 58 tackles, a team-best 10 pass breakups and 2.5 sacks but no interceptions. With Carrington Byndom graduating, his role in this secondary is crucial.

6. WR Jaxon Shipley, senior

Shipley caught a team-high 56 passes, so it’s hard to call his junior season a disappointment, but he finished with 589 yards and one touchdown. He got targeted 82 times on the year and should see plenty more with Mike Davis graduating. Shipley’s the go-to guy and always has been.

7. LB Jordan Hicks, senior

Hicks might be ranked too high here, if we’re being honest. He’s missed 19 games in the last two seasons due to season-ending injuries, though in fairness his latest -- a torn Achilles -- was a freak accident while running in coverage. When he’s on the field, he’s one of Texas’ best and a trusted leader.

8. QB David Ash, senior

Not too sure where this guy belongs on the list, but he’s an important asset for whoever becomes Strong’s offensive coordinator. Ash missed 10 games this season with concussion issues but was a top-25 passer in QBR and passing efficiency in 2012. Strong needs this guy back and better than ever.

9. LB Steve Edmond, senior

If you think Edmond should be ranked higher, you might be right. Edmond was enjoying a bit of a breakthrough as a junior, with 73 tackles and two interceptions, before a ruptured spleen suffered against Texas Tech ended his season. He’ll have to battle Dalton Santos for his spot, but he could be in for a strong final season if he embraces the coaching change.

10.WR Kendall Sanders, junior

Lots of players merit consideration for this final spot, most notably Daje Johnson, but we’re going to take a chance on Sanders breaking out in 2014. He caught 37 passes for 361 yards and a touchdown as a sophomore but has the full package of skills -- size, speed, long arms, good hands -- to become a big-time target in place of Davis.
New Texas coach Charlie Strong has plenty of catching up to do when it comes to evaluating his returning talent. The former defensive coordinator should like what he has on defense.

On Tuesday, we brought you a look ahead at the 2014 offensive depth chart for Texas. Here's a breakdown of what the Longhorns are working with on defense. It's a unit that loses key starters but brings back considerable experience.

Remember, this is subject to change plenty in the coming months as Strong's staff shuffles the lineup and discovers new breakout players.

Defensive End
Cedric Reed, senior
Bryce Cottrell, sophomore

Once the new staff is in place, winning over Reed and convincing him to return for his senior season will be an absolute must for Strong. He finished with 10 sacks and 19 tackles for loss as a junior and was just as good as Jeffcoat for most of the season. Between Cottrell and Caleb Bluiett, who started in the Valero Alamo Bowl, Texas must find a significant contributor. Both are under a lot of pressure if Reed goes pro.

Defensive Tackle
[+] EnlargeMalcom Brown
John Albright/Icon SMIMalcom Brown had a solid sophomore season at defensive tackle.
Malcom Brown, junior
Hassan Ridgeway, sophomore

Brown has the makings of becoming an All-Big 12-caliber defensive tackle and maybe more. He’ll be one of the best players on the field for this defense in 2014. Ridgeway is still young and coming along, but showed flashes in limited stints this season. Big potential there.

Defensive Tackle
Desmond Jackson, senior
Alex Norman, sophomore

Tank Jackson has 13 starts and plenty of experience. Norman and fellow redshirt freshman Paul Boyette disappointed in their first year of playing, but Texas is running low on depth here after taking some recruiting hits. Abilene’s Jake McMillon is the only DT pledge left. Strong will have to recruit this spot hard in the next month.

Defensive End
Shiro Davis, junior
Derick Roberson, freshman

There should be some fairly good competition to replace Jackson Jeffcoat, and nobody would be surprised if Davis wins the job. He’s a freakish athlete and speed rusher who flashed in 2013 and needs an expanded role. Roberson needs to put on weight, but he was a sack master in high school and is one of the gems of this class.

Weakside Linebacker
Jordan Hicks, senior
Kendall Thompson, senior

What is Texas getting in year five with Hicks? The injury-prone former five-star recruit went down with a torn Achilles four games into the season and has missed 19 games in the past two seasons. He’s a leader when he’s healthy. This is his last chance. Thompson and Tevin Jackson return to provide depth.

Strongside Linebacker
Dalton Santos, junior
Peter Jinkens, junior

It’s hard to know which direction Texas will go in at some of these spots, as both seem like obvious candidates. That’s the challenge with everyone coming back. The Longhorns’ next defensive coordinator has the luxury of several options with every UT linebacker slated to return next season.

Middle Linebacker
Steve Edmond, senior
Tim Cole, sophomore

It’s entirely possible Santos takes over the middle next season, considering the way he finished this season, but don’t count out Edmond. He had a promising junior year before missing the final two games. Cole got a few opportunities in his debut year, but has work to do.

Cornerback
Quandre Diggs, senior
Sheroid Evans, junior

Diggs had a solid junior season and won’t be turning pro this offseason. He played all over the field in his nickel role, but with Carrington Byndom graduating, that likely means he’ll slide back to corner. The speedy, long-armed Evans has as much potential as anyone in this secondary, but suffered a torn ACL this season.

Free Safety
Mykkele Thompson, senior
Adrian Colbert, sophomore

[+] EnlargeDuke Thomas
John Albright/Icon SMIDuke Thomas made three interceptions in 2013.
Could Thompson’s future be at cornerback? It’s worth considering, especially since he’s not much of a hitter. He started 12 games in 2013 and must finally put it all together in his last season. Colbert is a thumper who could fight his way into the lineup.

Strong Safety
Josh Turner, senior
Leroy Scott, senior

With Adrian Phillips graduating, this is presumably Turner’s spot to lose. He’s played in 37 games. Scott is sneaky good and made a few nice plays this season. It’s time to see what he can do with more responsibility.

Cornerback
Duke Thomas, junior
Antwuan Davis, redshirt freshman

Thomas took a few lumps in his first season of starting, but also led the Longhorns with three interceptions. Davis is a guy coaches would’ve loved to play in 2013, but they didn’t want to burn his redshirt. He’s in for a big-time debut both on defense and special teams.

Punter
Nick Rose, junior
Will Russ, senior

Texas should have a fairly open competition for Anthony Fera’s punting duties. Rose’s specialty is kickoffs, and Russ was hampered by injuries in the past but should be in the mix. So is walk-on Mitchell Becker.

Longhorn players not ready to give up yet

November, 20, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Mack Brown was trying to make sense of a lopsided home loss.

It was Sept. 14. After losing 44-23 to Ole Miss, Brown tried to espouse hope and confidence about leading a troubled two-loss Texas team on a Big 12 title run. At some point during the discussion, he was asked what fans should think about where the program is heading.

“Forget the coaches, come for the kids,” Brown said. “Come for the young guys who are really trying, and come watch them try to beat Kansas State, which we haven't done very often. They just need to keep supporting the players.”

[+] EnlargeDesmond Roland
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsSteve Edmond (left) and Texas' defense will have to regroup quickly with games against Texas Tech and Baylor to close the season.
They kept trying. Texas beat Kansas State. Then the Longhorns beat five more Big 12 teams, and that goal of a conference title got more real and tangible on a weekly basis.

The goal seems long gone now, after Oklahoma State sent the Longhorns crashing back to reality with a 38-13 loss, but it isn’t. Texas can claim a share of the conference if it wins out. And once again, that’s all the Longhorns are clinging to after a loss that sincerely shocked some players.

“I’m very surprised. As a team, we had some momentum,” safety Adrian Phillips said. “We had a close game last week, and we had a good week of practice. On game day, everything didn’t work out the way that we wanted it to, and these are one of the ones you wish you could have back. It’s not a good feeling.”

Such a thorough loss like that stings. The victory over No. 12 Oklahoma was Texas’ signature win of 2013, no doubt about that, but it seemed those six victories were building toward an opportunity like this. A top-15 team had to come to DKR, its Big 12 title hopes on the line. For Texas, the table was all set for this moment.

And it slipped away quickly. The Longhorns dropped out of the polls one week after entering. A Big 12 title is attainable but Texas no longer controls its own fate. An upset of No. 4 Baylor in Waco on Dec. 7 is now an absolute necessity.

“It was frustrating, but we can’t get too down,” sophomore defensive tackle Malcom Brown said. “We still have two more games going into the Big 12 championship. We have to stay focused and go play Texas Tech like we didn’t even lose.”

For players like fourth-year seniors Phillips and cornerback Carrington Byndom, there was unmistakable encouragement. They’ve had to pick themselves up and keep going before and will do it again.

“It was a bit of a shock,” Byndom said, “but that’s just called the game of football.”

Last time the Longhorns lost, though, they followed through on what they vowed. The post-Ole Miss promises worked. Improvement happened, leadership emerged. Texas’ offense found a way to win without David Ash. Its defense is getting by without Jordan Hicks again.

The circumstances have changed plenty since Sept. 14. Guard Trey Hopkins conceded after OSU that there’s no margin for error now. There are no easy games left.

Texas is on a bye week before hosting Tech on Thanksgiving. The Longhorns have plenty of time to regroup. There is plenty of time to review the Oklahoma State film, and plenty more to move past it.

But perhaps in this stressful off time, they’ll think back to September. Back then, folks were questioning if this was Mack Brown’s next 5-7 team. Texas players were determined to prove just how wrong that fear was.

Now they’re facing what could be a similarly unsatisfactory finish.

“It’s a setback, but it’s a setback for a major comeback. That is what we say,” running back Joe Bergeron said. “Honestly, it is just a speed bump in the road and we will get over this. We still have two more games and we just have to get everybody to understand it is not the end of the world.”

Nor is it the end of the season. The Longhorns have six more days to figure out what they’re going to do about that.

Week 12 helmet stickers

November, 17, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Well, it wasn't easy to come up with many of these after Texas' 38-13 loss to No. 12 Oklahoma State on Saturday. A few Longhorns who did stand out in the blowout:

WR Mike Davis: Davis finished with 112 yards on a season-high nine receptions and did so fairly quietly. Maybe that’s because nobody paid attention to the second half, and five of Davis’ catches came on the final two drives of a blowout. But Davis did gain nine-plus yards on six of his catches and snagged a nice 41-yard fade to start the second half. OSU coach Mike Gundy credited him after the game as being a guy they feared.

DT Malcom Brown: We’d have to review the film to know which defenders really stood out, but Brown certainly flashed a few times against Oklahoma State. He finished with seven tackles and two of them came behind the line of scrimmage. The sophomore also deserves props for doing so while wearing a No. 96 jersey in honor of injured teammate Chris Whaley. Classy move.

RB Malcolm Brown: Hard to fault him much for his showing in replacing Johnathan Gray, since Texas had little need for a run game in the second half when trying to rally. Brown finished with a respectable 73 rushing yards on 25 carries. Among running backs this year, only Kansas’ Tony Pierson (87 yards) had a better rushing performance against OSU’s defense than Brown did.

Planning for success: Texas

November, 7, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Entering the season, Texas’ starting defensive line was comprised of the following: An injury-prone former five-star end, a tall and underrated end with limited starting experience, a young defensive tackle coming off an inconsistent true freshman year and, last but not least, a converted running back playing tackle.

With five games left in the 2013 season, Texas’ starting defensive line features four future NFL players, and perhaps several All-Big 12 candidates. Same guys, of course.

[+] EnlargeChris Whaley
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsTexas' defensive isn't just about rushing the passing. Chris Whaley (96) and Co. have deflected and intercepted passes and scored points.
Talent was never the issue for Jackson Jeffcoat, Cedric Reed, Malcom Brown and Chris Whaley. The potential was always there. But it was a ragtag group, at least on paper, and one that had to answer a lot of questions this season.

They’ve done a lot more than that this season, fortifying the Longhorns defense with their consistent pressure and knack for creating game-changing turnovers.

“They're pushing the pocket back, and those guys are caving it in,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “We're really doing a great job of getting pressure on the quarterback.”

The numbers since Texas began conference play are impressive. Texas has recorded 20 sacks on the season, with 16 coming from its defensive line and a Big 12-best 18 coming in conference games. The front four is responsible for 39 of the Longhorns' 58 tackles for loss on the year.

During these last five games, Jeffcoat leads the Big 12 in sacks with six and he and Reed are among the top three in the conference in tackles for loss. And their head coach believes Whaley and Brown are playing like two of the better defensive tackles “in our history,” which is fairly high praise.

This truly is a front four that specializes in pass rushing, which has become an absolute must to be competitive in this league. According to ESPN Stats & Info, sacks have accounted for 49 percent of Texas’ tackles behind the line of scrimmage this season.

If that didn’t make passing difficult enough, the long-armed Reed and the disruptive Brown have each already broken up four passes. Jeffcoat has deflected two and grabbed the game-sealing interception at Iowa State.

And Whaley is doing just fine, with the pick-six against Oklahoma and the fumble return for a touchdown against Kansas. He might’ve gotten the 40-yard run back and the glory on that one, but Jeffcoat brought the pressure and Reed recorded the sack and strip.

When all four are clicking at the same time, like this line is, opposing offensive lines are left to make impossible choices about how to properly account for all four. Just ask Texas senior offensive lineman Mason Walters, who faces these guys on a daily basis.

“I think that's the thing our defensive line has done the best: They've been able to give them a problem on matchups or somebody has got a mismatch every time, and that one person is able to jump and make plays,” Walters said. “I think they all continue to play at a high level and you start to have more and more of them with household names.”

This defensive line’s next potential victim, West Virginia, had quarterback issues early in the year but settled on Clint Trickett. He has a TD-INT ratio of 5-5 in Big 12 play and has fumbled on two of the nine sacks he’s taken.

The real challenge is limiting talented Mountaineers running back Charles Sims. The more he’s slowed early, the more the ball stays in Trickett’s hands and the sooner he starts feeling uncomfortable.

That’s just what this pass-rushing unit wants. More important, they don’t want to lose any of the confidence they’ve built during this five-game streak.

“There are still people out there that kind of doubt us,” Jeffcoat said, “so we've got to show that we can do it against anybody.”

Big 12 unsung heroes: Week 6

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
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Here are the Big 12's unsung heroes for Week 6.

Receiver Antwan Goodley, Baylor: Teammates like Lache Seastrunk and Bryce Petty get a lot of the attention but Goodley has been ridiculously consistent, much like the Bears’ offense as a whole. The sophomore had seven receptions for 170 yards and one touchdown in BU’s 73-42 win over West Virginia. Goodley has at least 90 receiving yards and one touchdown in every game and has caught 21 of 26 passes thrown his way this season.

Linebacker Luke Knott, Iowa State: The younger brother of former ISU standout Jake Knott, Luke has been a bright spot in the Cyclones season. The redshirt freshman finished with 11 tackles, one forced fumble, one quarterback hurry and one pass breakup. As devastating as the 31-30 loss to Texas had to be for ISU, the Cyclones have to be encouraged to know Knott can anchor their defense for the rest of the season and beyond.

Running back Darrian Miller, Kansas: The sophomore led the Jayhawks with 67 rushing yards on 12 carries in the Jayhawk’s 54-16 loss to Texas Tech. Miller added 77 kick return yards to finish with 144 all-purpose yards. He could be an important piece for the Jayhawks offense moving forward with Tony Pierson’s status unclear after his head injury on Saturday.

[+] EnlargeDaniel Sams
Ed Zurga/Getty ImagesQuarterback Daniel Sams is the focal point for the Kansas State offense.
Quarterback Daniel Sams, Kansas State: It’s unusual to call a quarterback who turned the ball over four times a unsung hero, but the Wildcats wouldn't have been in the game without Sams. He was outstanding with the football in his arms and made enough plays in the passing game to keep Oklahoma State honest. Sams rushed for 118 yards and passed for 181 yards in the 33-29 loss to OSU. If he can clean up the mistakes, his special skills could spark a winning streak for the Wildcats during Big 12 play.

Defensive tackle Jordan Wade, Oklahoma: Asked to step in with starter Jordan Phillips out, Wade was superb against TCU. The redshirt freshman had two tackles including one tackle for loss and one sack in OU’s 20-17 win. If Wade continues to develop, he increases competition in the Sooners' defensive interior and could provide a quality rotational player alongside Phillips in the future.

Linebacker Caleb Lavey, Oklahoma State: Teammate Shaun Lewis got all the accolades with his Big 12 defensive player of the week honors, but Lavey was just as critical in OSU’s 33-29 win over Kansas State. Lavey forced turnovers on back-to-back plays in the third quarter with a forced fumble and interception. The senior finished with seven tackles including two tackles for loss to go along with the forced fumble and interception. He’s a solid anchor and leader in the middle for the Cowboys.

Defensive tackle Malcom Brown, Texas: The sophomore was a beast in the middle with 10 tackles including two tackles for loss and one sack in the Longhorns’ 31-30 victory over ISU. Brown’s development into playmaker in the UT defensive interior could make things harder on Big 12 offenses as they create a plan of attack against the Longhorns.

Receiver Ty Slanina, TCU: The freshman provided a spark for the Horned Frogs’ offense in their 20-17 loss to OU. He had six receptions for 38 yards against the Sooners but his competitiveness and ability to get open and make plays when he gets the opportunity stands out on the TCU offense. If he continues to make plays, he should become a bigger part of the offense in the future.

Receiver Eric Ward, Texas Tech: After catching seven passes since opening the year with a 13-catch performance against SMU on Aug. 30, Ward got back on track against Kansas. Ward had seven receptions for 122 yards and one touchdown in the Red Raiders’ 54-16 win over the Jayhawks. When Ward is making plays on the outside with Jace Amaro punishing defenses in the middle, TTU’s offense becomes much more lethal.

Receiver Kevin White, West Virginia: White's breakout performance was overshadowed by the dominance of Baylor's defense. He had seven receptions for 130 yards and two touchdowns in the Mountaineers' 73-42 loss to Baylor. On a WVU offense looking for playmakers, it has to encourage Dana Holgorsen to watch White start to emerge and make plays. Now they just need the junior college transfer to be more consistent.

Planning for success: Texas

October, 3, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- When the news came out Monday that all three linebackers of Texas’ 2012 recruiting class are now starting, the collective response from Dalton Santos, Peter Jinkens and Timothy Cole was universal: This is going to be fun.

If the celebrating the trio has done on their Twitter accounts is any indication, it’s safe to say the second-year linebackers are more than up to the challenge Thursday night at Iowa State (6:30 p.m. CT, ESPN). This week, their contributions should be critical.

[+] EnlargePeter Jinkens
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesPeter Jinkens is part of an all-Class-of-2012 starting linebacking corps that Texas will unleash against Iowa State.
Texas defensive coordinator Greg Robinson was looking for a spark in the wake of losing the Longhorns' most talented linebacker, junior Jordan Hicks. His season-ending torn Achilles was the last thing Robinson needed in his quest to repair the run defense.

The Longhorns defense fell apart without Hicks last season during its toughest five-game stretch. His absence opened the door for others, and a total of seven linebackers earned starts in 2012.

Yet Robinson didn’t chose any of the remaining six to take over for Hicks. He picked Cole, a redshirt freshman from Brenham, Texas, who’s spent nearly all of his debut season on special teams.

“Tim did a tremendous job against Kansas State on special teams, and because of that and practice the last four days, Greg Robinson is convinced he wants Tim out there as a starter,” Texas coach Mack Brown said.

There’s the benefit of getting a fresh set of eyes on Texas’ linebackers. Cole wasn’t in line to contribute much to that unit before Robinson took over for Manny Diaz last month.

A four-star prospect who came to Texas last year with best friend Malcom Brown, Cole makes up for non-prototypical size (he’s listed at 6-foot-2, but that’s generous) with a strong football IQ and a knack for leadership.

When Texas was recruiting him, Brenham coach Glen West vowed that Cole would end up being a team captain for Texas. His new coaches don’t doubt that, and teammates recognized what made Cole unique early on.

“Since he got here, he was different than a lot of other guys,” defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. “I knew he was a little more mature than other guys. His football game has come a long way since he first got here, but he looks good. He knows he has to step up and play well, and I think he will.”

He’ll team up tonight with Jinkens and Santos, two high-energy sophomores coming off strong finishes in Texas’ win over Kansas State. Steve Edmond will likely have some role in the game, but he can’t play in the first half after receiving a targeting ejection in the second half against KSU.

Juniors Tevin Jackson and Kendall Thompson were the presumptive favorites to step into the lineup in Hicks’ place, but the Longhorns’ young trio won over their new position coach.

They’ll have to reward his faith with a stout showing against the Cyclones, who got a 137-yard rushing performance out of newcomer Aaron Wimberly last week vs. Tulsa.

In their first three game without Hicks last fall, Texas’ defense let opposing running backs produce games of 199, 207 and 167 yards, respectively. That can’t happen again, not if the Longhorns are hoping to turn the season around after a 2-2 start.

What matters more to Brown, though, is the leadership void that Texas must fill now that Hicks won’t be on the field. Jeffcoat said he’ll take on the responsibility along with defensive tackle Chris Whaley and defensive backs Carrington Byndom and Adrian Phillips.

Simply having more seniors to rely on this time around means more accountability across the board.

“That’s a lot of guys who can keep their positions up and make sure guys don’t start slacking off and guys pick up the slack from what was lost with Jordan,” Jeffcoat said.

The sophomores are doing their part, too. Of the 25 members of Texas’ 2012 class still on campus, Cole is about to become the 13th to earn a start.

While others broke into the starting lineup in year one, Cole was patient. He kept working and kept waiting for an opportunity. Here it is.

“He’s upbeat and positive and smart and never makes a mistake,” Brown said. “Greg Robinson said the other day, ‘Don’t tell him something that’s wrong, because he’s going to remember it and he’s going to do it.’ He just plays so hard. It’ll be fun to watch him on Thursday night.”

Texas DT Dorsey elects to transfer

August, 27, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas – Texas senior defensive tackle Ashton Dorsey has elected to transfer, the school announced Tuesday.

Dorsey’s decision to leave the program comes as a surprise. Though he was left of Texas’ depth chart released on Monday, Dorsey was expected to be one of four defensive tackles who started or earned significant playing time this season.

Ashton Dorsey
Bob Levey/Getty ImagesAshton Dorsey, who led Texas defensive linemen in tackles for loss in 2012, is transferring.
In nine games last season, Dorsey led all Texas defensive tackles in tackles for loss with 10. He recorded 28 tackles and one pass breakup.

The 6-foot-2, 295-pound lineman, a native of Tyler, Texas, appeared in 30 games in his Texas career and started six games. He had already been ruled out for Texas’ season opener Saturday against New Mexico State with a sore calf muscle.

A calf injury and a concussion sidelined Dorsey for four of Texas’ final five games last season. The reason for his transfer is unknown.

The Longhorns named senior Chris Whaley and sophomore Malcom Brown their starting defensive tackles on Monday, and junior Desmond Jackson is expected to rotate into the lineup. Whaley and Jackson have made a combined 21 career starts for Texas.

Replacing the production of Dorsey might be problematic, but defensive tackles coach Bo Davis has two redshirt freshmen who could fill the void.

Texas has high expectations for Hassan Ridgeway, and coach Mack Brown has said fellow second-year tackle Alex Norman could be in line for playing time. They were listed as co-backups at nose tackle on the UT depth chart Monday.
This week we took a closer look at five Longhorns -- David Ash, Jackson Jeffcoat, Johnathan Gray, Mike Davis and Jordan Hicks -- who are poised to change the course of the 2013 team.

Any list of that nature is bound to change plenty a week, a month and a season from now. There was no way of predicting Jeffcoat and Hicks would suffer season-ending injuries last year, and Gray was Texas’ No. 3 back to start the 2012 campaign.

[+] EnlargeQuandre Diggs
AP Photo/Rogelio V. SolisQuandre Diggs led the Longhorns with four interceptions in 2012.
So with that in mind, here are five Longhorns worth keeping an eye on. They might not have the big names of those aforementioned five, but their contributions could be critical to making Texas a Big 12 championship-caliber team. Lots of guys nearly made the cut, but we’ll be watching these five closely.

1. CB Quandre Diggs

Diggs has All-Big 12 potential, there’s no doubt about that. We’re about to find out if he’s All-America good. Diggs has started 23 consecutive games for the Longhorns and led the team in interceptions and pass breakups last season. He was tested by Big 12 passing attacks and won more battles than he lost in 2012, but he can be even better. He’ll play multiple roles in the secondary and could be the Swiss Army knife-type defender Kenny Vaccaro became last fall.

2. LB Steve Edmond

Edmond was hyped up as the real deal entering last season. Once Texas got into Big 12 play, he struggled. He seems far better prepared entering his junior season and has been universally praised by coaches and players throughout fall camp. He’s one of the keys to the Longhorns repairing their run defense and could finish as the team’s leading tackler. A big season from Edmond would answer a major question mark on this defense.

3. OG Mason Walters

One of the most experienced offensive linemen in the country, Walters has started 38 consecutive games and is a leader in the locker room but has never earned better than second-team All-Big 12 honors. He can take the next step and prove he’s an NFL-caliber lineman this fall. If his play over the course of the season becomes truly great, don’t be surprised if the rest of the line thrives, too.

4. DT Malcom Brown

Expectations for Brown have been high since the day he set foot on campus. Texas will rotate its four defensive tackles, but it’s time for Brown to take over a starting gig and hold it down for three years. Few players in the program have more raw talent. Hard to believe he isn’t in for a lot more than the two tackles for loss he contributed as a true freshman.

5. S Mykkele Thompson

A surprise pick, yes, but Thompson really is one of the great unknown commodities on the Texas defense. He has to be a better tackler in 2013 and play with more confidence. He recorded no interceptions and one pass breakup. Texas coaches trust him enough to keep him in the starting lineup and believe he’ll be a different player as a junior. He has made progress, and the Texas secondary can’t play up to its potential without more.
Each week, Sean Adams opens up the mailbag to answer all your questions about the Texas Longhorns. Send your questions to him @thatsean on Twitter.

Michael H. Pelech @michaelpelech10 on Twitter: Can you name one of the true freshmen that nobody is talking about that will be a star before he leaves the 40 acres?

Sean Adams: Antwuan Davis, the freshman from Bastrop, Texas, looks the part right now. He has the speed and athleticism to go with it. He just has to put it all together. While experience and reps will keep him from making a huge impact this fall, he will be a star down the road for the Longhorns.

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Burnt Orange Breakdown: DT Jackson 

August, 1, 2013
8/01/13
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During the summer, HornsNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Texas roster -- excluding the Longhorns' 2013 recruiting class -- in our Burnt Orange Breakdown series. Starting with No. 1 Mike Davis, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 99 Desmond Jackson
Junior defensive tackle


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