Spring Position Outlook - Defensive line

We continued our Spring Position Outlook on Monday with a look at an offensive line with only one returning starter but plenty of untapped talent. Today we'll look at a group that should be as strong as any for the Longhorns in 2014.


Defensive line

Who is gone?

Jackson Jeffcoat, Reggie Wilson, and Chris Whaley

Jeffcoat backed up his five-star rating out of high school with one of the best defensive end careers in school history.

He was a 2013 consensus All-American (one of just five in school history) and Ted Hendricks Award winner. He was the 2013 Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year too. As Cedric Reed put it, every time he looked on Twitter Jeffcoat was winning a different award.

Wilson was the model of consistency during his career, playing in all 51 games. But the former prep All-American never really got going like people expected him to.

He had a career-high 31 tackles as a junior but only collected 19 as a senior. That had a lot to do with Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed being as good as they are.

Whaley was having the best year of his career in 2013 before he suffered a season-ending knee injury vs. West Virginia on Nov. 9. At the time Whaley had already tallied a career-best 25 tackles, and that's while missing the last four games.

Who is on campus?

Shiro Davis, Caleb Bluiett, Cedric Reed, Bryce Cottrell, Paul Boyette Jr., Marcus Hutchins, Hassan Ridgeway, Malcom Brown, Alex Norman, Desmond Jackson

What's that mean?

It means the Longhorns have star potential and the type of depth that should make defensive line coach Chris Rumph feel confident heading into his first season in Austin.

Reed, a first team All-Big 12 selection in 2013, flirted with the NFL but decided to come back to Texas to further improve his stock and get his degree. He'll be in the running for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year if he has another season like he did as a junior.

This is really the year for Davis to go one of two ways. He'll likely get the first crack at the other starting defensive end position opposite of Reed. If he doesn't produce (had 15 tackles a season ago in 13 games) Rumph will have no problem subbing in Bluiett, Cottrell or even incoming freshman Derick Roberson, one of the top prep DEs in the country.

Brown and Jackson will dominate the interior of the line. Brown could be in line for All-Big 12 honors if he keeps progressing like he should, and Jackson, who is universally known as the strongest player on the team, has 13 career starts and really upped his play when Whaley went down with an injury last season. In his final four games, which Whaley missed, he recorded 16 tackles.

The key for this group will be what it can get out of guys like Ridgeway and Norman. Ridgeway (6-foot-4, 309 pounds) has star potential but hasn't played consistently enough to really let it show. He should get that opportunity this season unless Norman takes snaps away from him. And early reports are that could be the case as Norman was one of the top defenders in Saturday's scrimmage.

Who isn't on campus yet?

Poona Ford, Chris Nelson, Jake McMillon, Derick Roberson

Roberson is the star of this group whose athleticism is going to make it really difficult for Rumph to keep on the sideline. The No. 9 DE in the country, Roberson committed to Texas early, was public about wanting to look around, but ultimately decided to sign with UT.

Ford (Hilton Head Island, S.C.), a four-star tackle, and Nelson (Lakeland, Fla./Victory Christian Academy), a three-star DT, both committed to Texas on Feb. 5.

Ford, who originally committed to Louisville, took official visits to Texas, Purdue and Missouri before deciding to go with Charlie Strong for the second time. Here is some video of Ford:

Nelson is also a former Louisville commitment, who chose Texas over offers from Duke, Florida Atlantic, Iowa, Kentucky, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Pitt, Purdue, South Florida, UCF, and Virginia.

McMillon was the first-ever four-year starter for the Abilene Eagles. He tallied 14 sacks, 32 tackles and two forced fumbles in 2012, garnering district defensive MVP honors.

Season prediction

This will be the most dominant group for the Longhorns all season. Reed and Brown will both be first-team All-Big 12 selections by the league's coaches. Davis will make strides, but will still leave the coaching staff wanting more; the same with Ridgeway. Roberson will play even more than he thinks. Norman will be a pleasant surprise along with Bluiett and Cottrell.

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