Cedric Reed transitioning seamlessly to starting lineup

Peter Sblendorio

Junior defensive end Cedric Reed didn’t realize how effective he could be at swatting down passes before being inserted into the starting lineup this season.

In fact, he didn’t even consider the importance of pass breakups until a local NFL player earned national buzz for the same feat.  

“It just kind of came to me,” Reed said. “I’m from Houston, and I watch the Texans a lot, and J.J. Watt is pretty cool. I didn’t notice it until he started doing it. It’s a game changer, especially on third down. I’m trying to get a lot more.”

Through seven games this season, Reed is tied for the team lead with four pass breakups, a statistic normally dominated by defensive backs. While his imposing 6-foot-6-inch, 258-pound frame is ideal for generating breakups, Reed’s impact along the defensive line stretches far beyond his ability to get his hands on opposing throws.

Reed leads the Longhorns with 42 tackles and is second on the team with three sacks. Additionally, the junior racked up 7.5 tackles for a loss through his first seven contests while forcing a pair of fumbles. 

“He’s making a great name for himself, and tackles hate going against him,” senior safety Adrian Phillips said. “He’s a person who can stop the run and get to the quarterback, and really that’s what you look for in a D-end. I think this is a great start for him.”

Reed entered the season with the tall task of filling the starting role vacated by Alex Okafor, a fourth round selection by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2013 NFL Draft. Despite this, senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley said he expected Texas’ defensive line to remain just as strong with Reed in the lineup.

“I wasn’t expecting a big drop off,” Whaley said. “I know what kind of player Ced is, and I know what he can do. He’s really stepping up to the table, and he’s making big contributions to the defensive front.”

Regular playing time is not entirely new for Reed, as he filled in last season after defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat missed the final six games with a torn
pectoral muscle. Reed racked up 46 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2012, and head coach Mack Brown believes his experience last season eased his transition into the starting lineup this season.

“Cedric Reed probably got a break last year when Jeffcoat got hurt because he played more at an early age than a lot of sophomores do,” Brown said. “He’s steadily becoming one of the best ends in the country.”

Reed believes he has made considerable strides over the past two seasons, and he said his hard work is paying off this year.

“I feel I’ve came a long way since my freshman year, especially last year playing last year when Jackson went down,” Reed said. “I just see things better, I feel more confident out there, and I’m stronger. Everything is coming together for me.”