Mid-Spring Look: Defensive End

Three of the Longhorns' five defensive ends in spring practice played other positions in 2010. Will those moves pay off?

The Candidates: Dravannti Johnson, junior; Alex Okafor, junior; Jackson Jeffcoat, sophomore; Chris Whaley, sophomore; Reggie Wilson, sophomore.

Returning Starters: Johnson (five starts), Jeffcoat (two starts)

What It Looks Like: There's three players here who started games for the Longhorns last year, though Johnson's starts came as a combination defensive end (three) and SAM linebacker (two), while Okafor started eight games at defensive tackle. So there isn't necessarily inexperience here, but also not a ton of experience at defensive end. Jeffcoat and Wilson are the only two returnees who were exclusively ends last year, and Wilson played rarely. Adding to the mishmash lineup is Whaley, a converted running back / H-back. He has the size and athleticism to make an impact, but will have only spent half the spring at the position.

Ideal Situation: Okafor steps into a role similar to the one Sam Acho played a year ago, playing mostly defensive end but stepping into the middle on passing situations. That would open up third down playing time for Wilson, the team's best pure pass-rusher, and Johnson, a smart player who had a sack and six pressures last season. Okafor and Jeffcoat would make the best every-down ends, while any contribution from Whaley would be a plus. That would allow the Longhorns to redshirt incoming freshman Cedric Reed, who has the frame and athleticism to be a player.

What We Would Like To See: More playing time for Reggie Wilson. Wilson impressed at the open practices a year ago, then vanished once play started, but not before the Longhorns burned his redshirt. This spring, the sophomore has earned rave reviews for his speed off the edge. Jeffcoat is a future All-Big 12'er, and it would help this unit tremendously if he'd hit that level this season. Okafor is an ideal strong-side end and has also put together a strong spring. If that could translate to the fall, it would allow the Longhorns to use the versatile Johnson in whatever way he is needed. He can jam-up the line against the run with his prodigious strength, and is an able pass rusher. Whaley has all the potential in the world. Now it's time for him to apply it to a position that best fits his size/athleticism ratio.

What Will Probably Happen: Jeffcoat and Okafor will likely be the opening day starters, and from there, it's anybody's guess as to how Johnson and Wilson will be used. Wilson's athleticism is such that he can drop back into coverage and make plays on zone blitzes, and he's a handful for linemen when he gets going forward. That quartet, barring injury, should help the Longhorns to pressure the passer, while the physical Okafor on the edge should help in stopping the run.

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