Ends have stepped up past past two weeks will be tested down the stretch

Christian Corona

Jackson Jeffocat’s dad was right. The sacks came and they came in bunches.

Former Dallas Cowboys defensive end and current San Jose State defensive line coach Jim Jeffocat was confident his son would start racking up sacks. It was just a matter of time. His prediction came to fruition as Jeffocat piled up three sacks in his last two games, his first three of the season. The sophomore has also notched six of his 10 tackles for loss in the past two weeks.

“He just told me to patient,” Jeffcoat said. “It feels good. I knew they’d come.”

Missouri’s James Franklin, however, is going to be a lot harder to bring down than Kansas’ Jordan Webb or Texas Tech’s Seth Doege. The last two quarterbacks the Longhorns have been pocket passers but Franklin can hurt a defense with both his arms and legs. The sophomore has close to 2800 yards and 26 touchdowns on the season, with around 600 of those yards and 10 of the touchdowns coming on the ground.

“You can’t run by the guy,” said Jeffcoat. “It’s fun to have a challenge like that with someone that gets out of the pocket and moves around. It gets them off their feet if you can move them out of the pocket not throwing like they normally do.”

But Franklin won’t be the last dual-threat man behind center Texas faces this year. In fact, the last three of the Longhorns’ opponents all have mobile quarterbacks. Kansas State’s Collin Klein, Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill, and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III have combined to run for more than 1,500 yards, with over 900 coming from Klein. Tannehill is a former wide receiver and Griffin broke state records as a high school track star. Both are from Texas, along with Franklin.

“This is where everybody comes to mine their talent,” said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. “The passing game is so well-coached in this state. This state produces good quarterbacks, unfortunately. And, unfortunately, they come to the schools that play Texas.”

The Big 12 has certainly developed a knack producing prolific passers, boasting five of the country’s nine most productive quarterbacks. While not known for its running backs, the Big 12 has a few good ones, the best being Missouri’s Henry Josey, who has ran for 1,149 yards this year.

“He might be the most explosive back we’ve seen so far in terms of his ability to go all the way,” Diaz said. “He’s averaging nine yards a carry. That’s almost hard to say.”

Jeffcoat and the rest of the Texas defense will have their hands full trying to slow down Franklin and Josie this week. But it’s possible, especially with fellow starting defensive end Alex Okafor on the opposite side of the defensive line. Okafor has had three of his five sacks in the last two contests.

“He’s playing great,” Jeffcoat said. “He’s getting off the ball and getting in the backfield, making tackles for loss.”

Apart from senior Kheeston Randall, the guys between Jeffcoat and Okafor were a question mark coming into the season. After Randall, Texas didn’t have much depth at defensive tackle. But sophomores Calvin Howell and Ashton Dorsey, the co-starters alongside Randall are coming along. Chris Whaley, one of the most highly-touted running backs coming out of high school, is making progress transitioning to his new position at defensive tackle, as evidenced by a sack made against Kansas.

“Quarterbacks hate inside pressure because that’s when they can’t finish their throws,” Diaz said. “We always joke that the defensive tackle is the closest to the quarterback. You can be a defensive end thinking that’s the glamour pass rush position but you’re way out there. We’ve had some good pressure up the middle this year.”

One of Missouri’s defensive tackles, Sheldon Richardson, made headlines this week with his comments, saying how he hates people from Texas, thinks the football in the state is overrated and was not impressed when playing against its best recruits.

The Longhorns’ defensive line, on the other hand, is going to try to let is play speak for itself Saturday. If Jeffcoat and Okafor perform the way they have the last two weeks, their play will be deafening.