Jeffcoat’s fully recovered ankle could be key to Horns’ success

Austin Laymance

Jackson Jeffcoat is ready to make a strong second impression after a severe ankle sprain limited his production a season ago.

The sophomore defensive end says he’s fully recovered from the injury, which forced him to miss four games in 2010. This year, though, Jeffcoat hopes to make the transition from situational duty to full-time starter and has spent the offseason trying to expand his game.

“I feel like I’ve gotten better on my pass rush and definitely better at playing the run,” Jeffcoat said. “I came in last year on third down situations and now I’m looking to be more of a every down guy.”

Jeffcoat showed promise as a freshman and started at defensive end in two of the first three games before spraining his ankle in the third quarter against Nebraska. The sprain limited Jeffcoat’s mobility and sapped his speed, which in turn hurt his pass rush. The Dallas native said the injury was tough to endure, but he is ready to turn the page and move on.

“It was hard to get over,” Jeffcoat said. “Looking back, it’s last year, we’re on a new year now so I’m excited for this year and staying healthy.”

Despite playing through injury for most of his freshman season, Jeffcoat finished the year tied for fourth on the team in sacks (2.5), was sixth in tackles for loss (6), and fifth in quarterback pressures (7). But for all his success, the knock on him was critics said he had a tendency to give up on plays.

Alex Okafor, who plays opposite Jeffcoat at defensive end, has seen a more aggressive and relentless Jeffcoat so far in camp.

“He’s always been athletic, always had technique ­— he just might have stopped on plays early in the past,” Okafor said.

“Now, he knows he has to finish plays and get to the quarterback completely. He might have stopped on the rush earlier.”

Part of Jeffcoat’s improvement and development this year is an offshoot of his maturity. After all, he’s no longer a freshman. Now in his second year, Jeffcoat is seeing the game differently and making adjustments before the snap.

“He’s grown up a lot,” Okafor said. “He already came in mature, but he’s grown up so much more. He’s learning the game a lot now, starting to look at the formation instead of just the line, and it’s helped him a lot.”

Jeffcoat focused on his technique and strength this offseason and has already caught the attention of his teammates, including sophomore linebacker Jordan Hicks.

“He’s gotten more physical,” Hicks said. “He’s doing a real good job doing his assignment, playing the game, knowing the game, he’s gotten a lot better.”

To improve his pass rush technique, Jeffcoat worked with offensive linemen Trey Hopkins and Tray Allen over the summer, doing one-on-one drills that emphasized footwork and hand placement.

So what can Texas fans expect from last season’s honorable mention Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year?

“They’ll see a quick get-off, a quick intensity,” Jeffcoat said. “I’m just going to come at it 100 percent.”