The Texas Longhorns will enter the 2012 college football season looking to improve upon last season's 8-5 campaign.
While it certainly was an improvement over their 5-7 dud from a couple years ago, the Longhorns still have not had the type of season we are used to seeing from them since they lost the national championship game to Alabama.
One player that the Longhorns will be looking at to be a catalyst for this improvement is defensive end Alex Okafor. The senior will be the leader of a defense that allowed 22.2 points per game last season.
Here's what you need to know about Okafor heading into this season.
His official measurements are 6'4", 260 pounds. Not only that, but according to his NFL draft scouting report, he runs the 40-yard dash in about 4.67 seconds, with a low of 4.54. Keep in mind, he is a defensive lineman.
If he does that at the combine next year, that'll be good enough for one of the best times in the class. His other drill numbers will be more indicative of how athletic and scary good he can be.
One thing that you can only hope for with defensive players is that they continue to grow and improve throughout their careers. Most defensive players need time to adjust to the college game even more so than their offensive counterparts.
If you have a particular move or a great arm on offense, you can become a star quickly. That rarely happens to defensive youngsters as they need a little more time to adjust and grow accustomed to the speed of the college game.
You rarely see impact players on the defensive side at the beginning of their careers, but you hope that you can groom them to the point that they will be effective as upperclassmen. That is exactly what has happened with Okafor.
Since his freshman year in 2009, Okafor has seen his tackles improve from 22 to 30 to 56 last season. His sacks have jumped from none to 2.5 to seven. His starts went from none in 2009 to starting every single game last season.
In May of this year, while at a pizza place at about 1 a.m., Okafor was arrested along with Kenneth Vaccaro and Barrett Matthews.
According to The Daily Texan, the players were in line waiting for a pizza and were apparently being a little boisterous, so the cops asked them to leave. When one of them started to get smart with the cop, they wound up in the back of a cop car.
They were all charged with failure to obey a lawful order, a misdemeanor.
If the source is correct, this is hardly a big deal for the Longhorns. I understand that the guys displayed some poor judgement in the situation, but it isn't much of an issue going forward.
These guys are college students and if the worst crime he's guilty of is getting mouthy with a university cop, then I hardly see it as a character red flag.
If every college student who annoyed a cop ended up getting arrested, every college student would end up being arrested at some point. Head coach Mack Brown has said that the players are being dealt with internally and will not be suspended for any games this season.
Assuming Brown keeps his word and doesn't suspend the players, Okafor still has a chance to not only be a team leader, but a captain for this season. This arrest might be just the right chip on his shoulder.
Adversity is a great motivator and if Okafor can use this to not only improve himself as a player but as a person, he has a chance to become a real leader for the Texas defense.
I expect to see his statistics improve again. If he can rehabilitate his image with the team, look for him to become the guy on their defense. He'll be able to lead by example and I expect him to bring back some punch to this squad.