Texas Football: What You Need to Know About Longhorns DE Jackson Jeffcoat

Zach Shelton@@zachisagingerFeatured ColumnistJune 14, 2012

Texas Football: What You Need to Know About Longhorns DE Jackson Jeffcoat

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    Of all the talent on this Texas defense that is expected to wreak havoc on Big 12 offenses all season, junior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat is first and foremost.

    After a very impressive finish to his sophomore season, Jeffcoat figures to be among the best defensive linemen in the country in 2012, along with his partner in crime on the opposite end, Alex Okafor. He's so good that ESPN's Todd McShay projects Jeffcoat as the third-overall pick in the 2013 draft.

    Jump in, and get to know the face of your defense in this highly anticipated 2012 season.

Who Is Jackson Jeffcoat?

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    Once again, Jeffcoat is the star defensive end for the projected-best defense in the Big 12. Coming out of Plano West HS, Jeffcoat is a 6'5" and 250 lb quarterback's nightmare.

    Born December 26, 1991, it's easy to say that football, even sacking the quarterback, is in Jeffcoat's blood. His father Jim was a standout defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills, retiring as the Cowboys all-time leader, with 102.5 sacks and the owner of two Super Bowl rings.

    But Jeffcoat is not just a football player.

    Throughout his high school years and his time at Texas, Jeffcoat has been an active member in his community, through acts such as visiting a local children's hospital and speaking to the youth community about the dangers of drug abuse. All in all, you will not find an easier kid to root for than Jeffcoat.

High School and Recruitment

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    After an illustrious high school career and with hopes of following in the footsteps of standouts Brian Orakpo and Sergio Kindle, Jackson Jeffcoat signed with Texas as the second-overall recruit in the nation and the top player at his position. 

    Judging by what he did in high school, it's no stretch of the imagination that the coaches felt the same way.

    Jeffcoat finished his career at Plano West with 259 tackles, 25.5 sacks, 56 tackles for a loss and 42 quarterback pressures en route to multiple all-district and all-state honors, including state Defensive Player of the Year honors and numerous All-American selections. 

    And that was just football.

    Jeffcoat was also a four-year letterman for West's basketball program and a three-year letterman in track and field. In fact, Jeffcoat signed with Texas with the intent of playing basketball and football.

    He told reporters at The Dallas Morning News that head coach Rick Barnes would give him a shot to make the team. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed, and Jeffcoat decided to focus exclusively on football.

Freshman and Sophomore Years

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    In his first two years at Texas, Jeffcoat has made his presence felt and established himself from day one as one of the team's top pass-rushers thanks to his quick first step and impressive athleticism.

    During his first season as a Longhorn, Action Jackson totaled 2.5 sacks and six tackles for a loss en route to being an honorable mention for the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, despite losing four games to a high ankle sprain.

    Though the stats were not eye-popping, it was easy for fans and coaches alike to see that Jeffcoat was already one of the team's best at pursuing the quarterback, especially after he totaled a sack and two tackles for a loss in his signature game against UCLA.

    Jeffcoat then followed his promising freshman year with a superb sophomore season in which he totaled 8.5 sacks and 17 tackles for a loss—good for fifth and third in the Big 12, respectively.

    Jeffcoat's 2011 season earned him second-team All-Big 12 honors, but it was his performance in the Holiday Bowl against Cal, in which he had three tackles for a loss and two sacks, that really got the bees buzzing about his place among the nation's best.

    With Jeffcoat's improvement likely to be even furthered come the start of 2012, it is easy to understand the hype he has garnered this offseason.

What to Expect in 2012

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    After firmly ensconcing himself in the ranks of the nation's best pass-rushers, expectations could not be higher for Jeffcoat entering what is likely his last season in burnt orange.

    Among all defensive returnees in the conference, Jeffcoat has 1.5 more sacks and four more TFL than any of his counterparts.

    Something else that the casual fan may have forgotten is that Jeffcoat recorded 7.5 of his 8.5 sacks through the final seven games, which is sheer dominance. Not to say that he will be able to record a sack per game, but if he can keep his motor running high and can force teams to double-team him, then this entire defense is going to have a field day.

    A lot of Jeffcoat's success will also depend on how well his fellow sack-maven, Alex Okafor, performs this season.

    The two bookends fed off of each other beautifully over those last seven games in 2011, combining for 11 quarterback takedowns over that stretch. If Okafor can perform on a similar level in 2012, Jeffcoat will have more room to work with and will not have to fight off as many double-teams to get in the backfield.

    Jeffcoat will also benefit greatly from playing in front of a secondary that will be among the stingiest in the country.

    With corners Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs each able to be left one-on-one with the best receivers in the nation and safety Kenny Vaccaro a leading candidate for Big 12 Defensive Player of Year, opposing quarterbacks are going to have a difficult time finding throwing lanes. And the longer they take to find those lanes, the more time Jeffcoat has to beat his man and get the quarterback on the ground.

    With future NFL talents playing both beside and behind him, Jeffcoat should take the Big 12 by storm and realize his full potential in his junior season. Anything less than double-digit sacks this season would be a real surprise for Jeffcoat, who is expected to dominate to the tune of possible Heisman consideration, according to HeismanPundit.com.

    Though winning the Heisman may be a stretch, rest assured that Jackson Jeffcoat will fully arrive for the Longhorns in 2012.