Though there’s much ado about David Ash and the potential for a breakthrough year for the junior QB, an improved Longhorn defense could hold the keys to a national title.
Last year, Jackson Jeffcoat and Jordan Hicks, the cornerstones of the Texas defense, were sidelined due to injury. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was unable to find players to pick up the slack left behind, and this led to the worst defensive season in the school’s history.
This year, the Longhorns return a healthy Jeffcoat and Hicks, and this could make all the difference in the world.
In 2011 and 2012, Diaz’s first two seasons as defensive coordinator, the Horns ranked 11th and 67th in defense, respectively. The difference was Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho bringing intelligence, experience, and solid instincts to the defense in 2011. This is what both Hicks and Jeffcoat will provide in the upcoming season.
The return of Hicks takes pressure off fellow linebackers Steve Edmond and Peter Jenkins and will lead a group of solid linebackers that includes Kendall Thompson, Tevin Jackson and Dalton Santos.
The bottom line, if Texas’ defense can return to form (if you remember it was the offense that was sputtering in 2011), the rest of the league is in big trouble.