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NCAA Football

Breaking Down the Texas Longhorns Pre-Season Depth Chart- Defense

Earlier today we published a breakdown of the Texas Longhorns pre-season offensive depth chart. There were a few surprises on the list, but for the most part it was the status quo and what was expected.

The defensive depth chart is more of the same, with a few exceptions. Texas’ success in 2012 will hinge on the success of the defense– offensive production aside.

Let’s take a look at each position on Texas’ first two-deep of the young season:

Linebackers

Strong- No. 1 DeMarco Cobbs, No. 2 Tevin Jackson

Middle- No. 1 Steve Edmond, No. 2 Kendall Thompson OR Dalton Santos

Weak- No. 1 Jordan Hicks, No. 2 Kendall Thompson OR Peter Jinkens

The three starters who see here are clear-cut, and separated themselves from the pack in the spring and continued to do so as fall practice got underway on the Forty Acres. Jordan Hicks needs to be the vocal leader of the Texas defense this fall and finally reach the promise with which he came to Texas in 2010.

The trio of Hicks, Edmond, and Cobbs– along with the other up-and-comers– will have the unenviable task of trying to replace not only the production, but also the leadership roles, which were filled by last year’s captains Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho.

There’s been plenty of buzz on campus about both Thompson and Santos, who comes to Austin with a reputation for laying out some brutal hits on opposing skill guys.

All-in-all, the Texas linebacking unit has a monumental task ahead of them this fall, but should be up for the challenge.

Ends

Buck- No. 1 Jackson Jeffcoat,  No.2 Cedric Reed, No.3 Shiro Davis

Strongside- No. 1 Alex Okafor, No.2 Reggie Wilson

Jeffcoat and Okafor are the unquestioned leaders of the defensive end unit which is arguably one of the best in the country. Both men are legitimate All-American candidates and will be playing on Sundays in the near future.

Okafor has the potential to establish himself as the country’s premier defensive end, and should demand double-teams from opposing offensive lines with consistency, opening up stunting and blitz opportunities for his teammates both on the line and in the linebacking corps.

Reed and Wilson both need to step their games up to a new level and show the promise which brought them to the Forty Acres to begin with. Wilson has been an enigma since his arrival in Austin– at times showing flashes of brilliance on a few plays, then disappearing for the rest of a game. For him to see substantial playing time in 2012, consistency will be a must.

Shiro Davis has been impressive to this point in fall practice, and is the most raw, but also the most athletic of the bunch as a true freshman.

Line

Tackle- No. 1 Brandon Moore, No. 2 Desmond Jackson, No. 3 Malcom Brown

Nose Tackle- No. 1 Chris Whaley, No. 2 Ashton Dorsey, No. 3 Kyle Kriegel

Moore arrives in Austin from the JUCO route, and is proof of the recruiting clout Defensive Line coach Bo Davis has in the South. As an All-American at East Mississippi Community College, Moore overwhelmed his competition with brute strength and outstanding technique, and has done the same so far through fall practice, earning the starting nod at tackle. Jackson, and freshman phenom Malcom Brown will see plenty of snaps as well, this isn’t just Moore’s job by any means. If there is depth on the defense, it is among the tackles.

Nose tackle, however, firmly belongs to Chris Whaley. Once a power running back recruit out of Madisonville, Whaley has morphed into a power nose tackle over the course of his time on campus. The junior will be the nose tackle in the majority of formations, with Dorsey seeing what snaps are left.

Kriegel should play sparingly, but has proven to be a worthy force when called upon in the past.

Secondary

Right Corner- No. 1 Quandre Diggs, No.2 Duke Thomas, No. 3 Leroy Scott

Left Corner- No. 1 Carrington Byndom, No. 2 Sheroid Evans, No. 3 Leroy Scott

Free Safety- No. 1 Kenny Vaccaro, No. 2 Josh Turner

Strong Safety- No. 1 Adrian Phillips, No. 2 Mykkele Thompson

This secondary unit for the Longhorns will be one of the most complete in college football, and arguably one of the best in the history of a program that has earned the moniker “DBU”, for its tendency to send its members to the NFL with regularity.

Diggs– cousin of long-time NFL stalwart Quentin Jammer–has a complete game at right corner both athletically and in technique. In spite of being somewhat under-sized at 5’10″, Diggs makes up for his lack of size with first-tier athleticism.

If there’s been a buzzy name so far this fall on the Texas defense, it’s Duke Thomas, the true freshman from Copperas Cove. Everyone is talking about Thomas’ impressive early practice season as a true freshman and how he’s rocketed straight past more experienced players in a very short period of time.

According to the Texas coaching staff– off the record– Carrington Byndom could well go down as one of the best corners in team history. In one-on-one coverage, Byndom will always be matched up against the opposing top receiver and will key coverage in zone sets as well. This defensive secondary will go as Byndom goes.

Kenny Vaccaro and Adrian Phillips have a wealth of experience at free and strong safety, respectively, and will lead by example. Vaccaro will be the most vocal of the secondary, and will be looked upon to set the tone through his bone-crushing hits on Saturdays.

Rounding out the unit, Leroy Scott, Josh Turner, and Mykkele Thompson are all talented athletes who are essentially interchangeable, giving Duane Akina the luxury of another extremely deep unit.

Next, we’ll take a look at the special teams and the intangibles that could make the difference between a return to a 10-win season this fall in Austin and something less.

Kris Hughes is the College Football Network Manager for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.

You can follow him on Twitter or check out his Facebook page.

Kris is also the host of Rant Sports Radio on the Blog Talk Radio Network Wednesday evenings at 8 Central Time.