Texas Football: Predicting Who Will Lead the Longhorns in Sacks in 2013

Zach SheltonFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2013

If he can stay on the field, senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat will lead the 'Horns in sacks.
If he can stay on the field, senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat will lead the 'Horns in sacks.Jody Gomez-USA TODAY Sports

Even when the Longhorns had a historically bad defense in 2012, getting after the quarterback was a non-issue. That will continue to be the norm with projected sack leader Jackson Jeffcoat on the squad.

Every defensive coordinator has a specialty, and Manny Diaz's is putting the quarterback on the ground. The Longhorns' 65 sacks during his tenure are tied for the conference lead, highlighted by Alex Okafor's Big 12-leading 12.5 as a senior last season.

With Okafor gone to the Arizona Cardinals, Diaz will look to unleash another bookend on opposing signal-callers. Namely, a 6'5" and 240-pound one by the name of Jackson Jeffcoat.

More of a speed-rusher than Okafor, Jeffcoat already has a proven track record of dominance. Through six games last season, he racked up four sacks and forced two fumbles before going down with a pectoral injury.

Therein lies the concern with Jeffcoat, who has only played in 27 of the 39 games he has been eligible. He has never been healthy for an entire season, limiting him to just 13 career quarterback takedowns. 

However, there is no doubting how good this long-armed defensive end really is. Over his last 13 games of action, Jeffcoat has tallied 61 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 23.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.

Just for reference purposes, that is just 1.5 sacks fewer than Jadeveon Clowney, the nation's premier defensive end, has put up in the same amount of action. 

That is how good a fully healthy Jeffcoat can be, and it's probably why ESPN's college football guru Kirk Herbstreit has him opposite Clowney on his preseason All-Herbie team.

So what should we expect from Jeffcoat in his final season in the burnt orange? If healthy, he will easily lead the 'Horns with double-digit sacks. Registering one per game, or 13 on the year, is well within Jeffcoat's wheelhouse and would put him among the top five sack mavens in the nation.

However, things could get messy if he succumbs to another season-ending injury. The rest of the Texas ends have a measly 3.5 career sacks between them, and only two have ever started a game. Shiro Davis and Cedric Reed are both gifted athletes, but neither has proven to be a consistent force.

That leaves the coaches and fans alike hoping this is the year their defensive leader can finally stay on the field. Because if he does, Jeffcoat's past production indicates that he is in for one of the better defensive seasons in the country.