Texas Football 2011: The 7 Best Defensive Players on the Squad

Alex French@alex_frenchCorrespondent IJuly 14, 2011

Texas Football 2011: The 7 Best Defensive Players on the Squad

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    The University of Texas football has a long-standing tradition of excellence and is historically known for winning.

    It's also known for producing high-caliber talent, and 54 former Longhorns currently on NFL rosters proves just that.

    The likes of Michael Huff, Casey Hampton, Sergio Kindle, Derrick Johnson, Cedric Griffin and Earl Thomas are a few players that have enjoyed success on the defensive side of the ball at the next level.

    The current crop of Longhorn defensemen are no different than their predecessors, here a just a few that stand out from the rest.

7. Defensive Back Carrington Byndom, So.

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    In terms of talent alone, Texas had one of the better defensive back cores in the country, with three cornerbacks taken in the 2010 NFL Draft.

    Most teams would have to, in essence, start from scratch and go back to the drawing board.  Not Texas though.

    Carrington Byndom was a four-star recruit coming out of Lufkin High School (TX) and ranked the 14th best at his position.

    Byndom gained valuable first-team experience in 2010 playing in all 12 games on special teams and half as many at defensive back. 

    Taking advantage of his time on the field, he became a special teams star with a blocked punt, forced fumble and seven special teams tackles—second highest on the team. 

    The departure of three starters from a year ago could see this Longhorn explode onto the scene in 2011.

6. Jackson Jeffcoat, Defensive End, So.

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    Although Jackson Jeffcoat is only a sophomore, expect big things from this young man in the future.

    The high school All-American was ranked the No. 1 defensive end by Rivals.com and a No. 2 overall prospect by ESPN U, for the class of 2010.

    During his freshman season with the Longhorns, he played in eight games at defensive end and three on special teams, recording 15 tackles, two-and-a-half sacks and a fumble recovery.

    His performance in 2010 earned him honorable mention Big 12 defensive freshman of the year.

    Jeffcoat is seemingly the next generation of a long line of talented, dominant defensive ends to play at the University of Texas.

5. Defensive End Alex Okafor, Jr.

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    Playing on the other side of the defensive line is Alex Okafor, a third-year defensive end who helped Texas to the sixth-best defense in the country in 2010.

    For his career, Okafor has made 26 total appearances on the defensive line, including eight starts at defensive tackle a year ago.

    Last season alone Okafor registered 30 tackles, four of which were for a loss, and added 2.5 sacks to an  already impressive career stat-line.

    Ranked as the top defensive end prospect for the class of 2008 by Rivals.com, the seasoned Longhorn will be another force to be reckoned with come 2011.

Matthew McConaughey, Sideline Cheerleader

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    Just Kidding.

4. Linebacker Emmanuel Acho, Sr.

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    Coming out of high school, Emmanuel Acho didn't enjoy the glamorous praise that some of his highly touted teammates did, but since he stepped foot in Austin he has made his presence felt.

    Having made appearances all three years on defense, Acho has tallied 147 career tackles (22 for loss), six forced fumbles, five sacks and two interceptions.

    2010 was a career year for the talented linebacker, and he was the team's second-leading tackler with 87.

    Named honorable mention All-Big 12 by the Associated Press and second-team All-Big 12 by the coaches a year ago, Acho is poised to continue his successful run as a Longhorn next fall.

3. Saftey Blake Gideon, Sr.

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    Three-time honorable mention All-Big 12 Blake Gideon has started since day one for the Longhorns, recording 194 total tackles and eight interceptions.

    Texas' third-leading tackler was elected captain by his teammates in 2010 and rode his 68 tackles, two picks, one sack and a blocked punt to another honorable mention All-Conference selection. 

    Gideon's efforts on the field last year have seen his inclusion on the preseason Thorpe Award watch-list, which honors the nation's top defensive back.

    According to nfldraftscout.com, Gideon is currently ranked the 11th-best safety out of 122 total players at the position.

    With a strong 2011 season, the hard-hitting safety could see his stock continue to rise before next year's draft.

2. Defensive Tackle Kheeston Randall, Sr.

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    The honorable mention All-Big 12 defensive tackle started all 12 games for Texas in 2010, notching 39 tackles and one sack.

    His 13 tackles for loss ranked second-highest on the team, and nfldraftscout.com has the senior rated as the fourth-best defensive tackle in next year's draft class.

    Kheeston Randall's efforts last season were enough to see him elected to the 2011 watch-list for the Outland, Nagurski and Lombardi awards.

    Another impressive season could see Randall collecting some hardware come January.

1. Linebacker Keenan Robinson, Sr.

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    "Tackling machine" is an understatement used when describing Keenan Robinson.

    The fifth-year player led the Longhorns in that category in 2010 with 113, bolstering his career tally to 211.

    Robinson also added two sacks, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions to his overall impressive junior season.

    Named second-team All-Big 12 by the Associated Press last season, Robinson has already been pegged to dominate the defensive ranks in 2011, as he was recently nominated to the preseason Nagurski, Lombardi and Bednarik awards.

    Nfldraftscout.com says Robinson is the eighth-best outside linebacker in the class of 2012.