Top 22 Countdown: No. 4

We continue our countdown of the top 22 most important players to Texas’ success in 2014 with our No. 4 choices.

Chip’s Pick

DE Cedric Reed


6-5, 272

When Ced Reed said he was contemplating whether or not to jump to the NFL after a 10-sack season in 2013, he reached out to Charlie Strong, who quickly called Reed in for a meeting.

"It was short and sweet," Reed said. "He said he didn't think I was ready and there was a lot of room for improvement."

Strong had Reed call former Louisville DE Marcus Smith, who arrived at Louisville as a 3-star QB recruit and left as a first-round NFL Draft pick as a defensive end.

"Marcus told me Coach Strong would teach me things I didn't know and that he'd get everything out of me," Reed said. "And so far, Coach Strong has lived up to Marcus' word."

Texas coaches told Reed he didn't have as good of a spring as they had hoped. They wanted more leadership and production out of Reed.

Reed says now he agrees.

"I was still learning the defense in the spring," Reed said. "I didn't think I had a great spring. Now that I have a feel for the defense, I'm confident."

A confident Reed is good news for Texas and bad news for opponents.

Texas wants to dictate on defense by bringing "smart pressure." And Reed will be at the heart of that movement.

If successful, Texas might look like the Louisville defense that led the nation in sacks per game (3.31) in 2013 while also leading the nation in rush defense (80.7 ypg) and total defense (251.5 ypg).

Texas would also probably take Louisville's 2013 ranking as the No. 2 scoring defense (12.2 ppg) behind Florida State (12.1 ppg).

William’s Pick

C Dominic Espinosa


6-3, 308

You aren’t going to see very many four-year starters at center at a place like Texas very often. But you are seeing it happen with Espinosa.

The local kid from nearby Cedar Park will start his 40th career game for the Longhorns on Aug. 30 against North Texas, which is tops on the team.

He hasn’t always drawn praise from Longhorns fans, or media types alike, but he’s earned his stripes, grown as a player/leader and is one of the most valuable players in the entire program.

Charlie Strong mentioned his name as much or more than anyone else’s during the spring and is counting on Espinosa to lead a group of linemen that doesn’t have much starting experience.

His leadership and experience for those linemen is paramount to Texas’ success up front.

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