Malcom in the middle

Is Texas' starting defensive tackle duo comparable to one of the best in school history? It will be if Malcom Brown plays like he's capable.

Quandre Diggs, in many respects, is a Longhorns football historian.

He’s been around the team longer than many people in Texas’ program - coaches and administrators included – dating back to just before the turn of the century when his older brother, Quentin Jammer, tormented offenses as one of the nation’s best defensive backs.

He had a front row seat to the first few years of Mack Brown’s tenure at UT, which included one of the most dominating defensive tackle duos in school history in Shaun Rogers and Casey Hampton.

We won’t bore you with numbers from the big fellas but here are a couple to jog your memory: Rogers finished with 53 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Hampton, who became the first DT to lead the Longhorns in tackles in consecutive seasons, finished with 54. They were the anchors on a defense that allowed only 93.3 rushing yards per game in 2000.

Shaun Rogers

“H&R Block” is a watering mark for DT tandems that come through Texas’ program. It’s a mark that’s not often met but one that could be this season if Malcom Brown and Desmond “Tank” Jackson play like many expect.

“Teams are going to respect those guys. They have to,” Diggs said. “They’ve made plays since they’ve been here.”

Especially Brown, who has lived up to his lofty billing as one of the nation’s top defensive tackle recruits of 2012. He started all 13 games last season while finishing tied for third in pass breakups (5), third in tackles for loss (12), third in QB pressures (6) and seventh in tackles (68).

“Malcom is one of the most athletic big men that I’ve ever been around honestly,” Diggs said. “He reminds me of Shaun, he reminds me of Big Shaun because both are dominant players and super goofy. Those are fair comparisons. They are two athletic guys that can do great things.”

Just how athletic? Texas center Dominic Espinosa tells a story of him walking into the locker room one day seeing Brown, all 6-foot-2 and 320 pounds, walking the length of the room on his hands.

He’s quickly become one of the most feared interior linemen in the country and one that’s found himself on the preseason watch lists for the Bednarik Award, Nagurski Trophy, and the Outland Trophy (honors nation’s top interior lineman). You’ll just never hear him boast about it.

“I am focused on the now. I have to ball out and have a good season,” Brown said. “I have to be a good leader. I have to set a good example for the young ones, the ones that are coming in. I’m not bigheaded. That’s one thing I’m not. I’m always going to doubt myself. I just want to play. I love the game of football. Like Coach [Chris] Rumph says ‘live every rep like it has a life of it’s own.’ That’s all I try to do, is do the best every practice.”

He’s carried that same reflective demeanor with him since his days at Brenham High School. He’s just a relatable, make-sure-the-spotlight-is-on-my-teammates type of guy and will continue to be even though the glare is directly on him.

“I just look at it like it’s high school,” Brown said. “You had a lot of pressure on you in high school but you still played. It was fun. I don’t change up my game because a lot of people are watching me. I didn’t know I was that guy. I’m just going to play like I always do. Nothing’s going to change about me.”

Malcom Brown

He’s also like this because he wants to change the perception that this is a soft defense, a certifiable scarlet letter to any football team.

“I take it to heart,” he said. “You definitely don’t want people thinking that your defense is soft and when you have that type of image you have to change it right away. The very next chance we get is Saturday and we have to change that. After Saturday they’ll know.”

For as “soft” as this defense was last season in giving up 25.8 points per game, it still managed to finish fourth in the Big 12 in rushing yards per game given up in conference play at 137.6, just 10 yards more than top-rated TCU.

Perception is often far different than reality, and that’s what Brown plans on showing those tuned in to Texas’ season opener against North Texas on Saturday.

“[Charlie Strong] is trying to get the toughness back in us and everybody is coming along with it,” Brown said. “Everybody will be physical, flying to the ball, good tackling and just having fun really because that’s what it’s about.”

And it all starts up from with himself, Jackson, Hassan Ridgeway and the rest of the meat of Texas’ defensive front.

“They expect us to get pressure and stop the run. That’s not hard,” Brown said. “That’s what they expect from us. That’s our job. That’s what we signed up for playing D line.”

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