Football is one of the ultimate team sports, but even though there is no "I" or "we" in team, programs are very much sustained on the outstanding efforts by a few of their stars.
The Texas Longhorns (7-3, 6-1) have battled a few harsh injuries over a number of fronts, many at leadership positions.
Quarterback David Ash and linebacker Jordan Hicks have been two dearly missed contributors, and running back Johnathan Gray and defensive tackle Chris Whaley are the latest two to join the injury fold.
Throughout the team's struggle with the injury bug, only a few players have stood out among the rest of Texas' potential MVP candidates.
Senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, however, stands above them all as the team's most-valuable asset in 2013.
Actions often do speak louder than words, and though Jeffcoat has never been the most vocal leader, he has let his on-field performances do the talking for him.
Following in the footsteps of Alex Okafor, Jeffcoat has lived up to the expectations as the most senior defensive lineman.
With some uncertainties coming into the season, Jeffcoat was almost required to have a strong year. The Plano West standout is doing just that and is in a position to outperform what Okafor was able to do in 2012.
After the Manny Diaz firing and the embarrassing losses to BYU and Ole Miss, Jeffcoat and other upperclassmen began shouldering some of the weight as the outspoken leaders.
The baseline results were telling—six consecutive Big 12 wins behind a defense that was improving in virtually every phase of the game.
Jeffcoat currently ranks in the top three in sacks, tackles for loss and fumbles recovered.
The Numbers Speak for Themselves
Here is a side-by-side look at Jeffcoat's 2013 stats and Okafor's 2012 stats. Both were seniors. Both were the most heralded performers on their respective defensive lines. And both needed big-time seasons in their final years in Austin.
|Jackson Jeffcoat 2013 vs. Alex Okafor 2012|
|Tackles||Tackles for Loss||Sacks||QBH||FF-FR|
|Jeffcoat through 10 games||57||16.0||7.0||15||1-3|
The Big Picture
Throughout all of the defensive shortcomings that Texas has experienced through eight games this season, one of the constants has been solid play up front.
When compared to every other position group, save maybe the kicker/punter, the defensive line has exhibited the most consistency.
And while some of the deserved credit goes to guys like Cedric Reed, Chris Whaley and Malcolm Brown, Jeffcoat has been the most outstanding performer on the defensive side of the football.
Disruptive on a consistent basis and accepting accountability when it mattered following the 1-2 start, it is obvious that Jeffcoat has stepped comfortably into the shoes vacated by Okafor.
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