Q&A: Texas DE Jackson Jeffcoat

A strong senior season keeps getting better for Jackson Jeffcoat. The Texas defensive end was named one of 16 semifinalists for the Chuck Bednarik Award this week and also earned his second Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors of 2013.

He leads the Big 12 in sacks (six) and tackles for loss (eight) in conference play, and he’s the undisputed leader of a Texas defensive line that is finally playing up to its much-hyped potential.

In a chat with reporters on Monday, Jeffcoat broke down the high standards he and his teammates are setting and why this group has a chance to be considered another great Texas defensive line.

The box score said Texas had two quarterback hurries against TCU, but there were clearly a lot more than that. How has that consistent pressure helped all 11 on this defense?

Jackson Jeffcoat: It really helps. Getting a quarterback off his spot and making him uncomfortable causes him to make bad throws. I feel like it’s really hard for a quarterback to make great throws consistently if you’re getting pressure on them.

How important has that defensive front four been in setting the tone?

JJ: Like coaches always say, it starts up front. I mean, if we do our job, most likely the ball won’t be able to get back to the secondary. We have to do everything we can up front to make sure we make plays and keep the ball from getting out.

When you only give up one touchdown in each of the last two games, do you spend your time picking apart the bad plays?

JJ: Oh for sure, we go back and look at that play and look at eye control and things we didn’t do right. You look at plays they got too many yards on and see that and say, ‘OK, we can do this better. That’s an easy fix.’ So that’s what you go do. As a defense, your goal is always that you don’t want a team to score on you at all. You want to get shutouts.

If you’re an opposing offensive line coach, which one of you four guys do you focus on and which one do you let go?

JJ: Letting any of us go would be a mistake. You’re gonna have to find a way to double all of us. With the depth we have and the guys we have on this defensive line, we all can make plays.

Can this defensive line be considered on par with some of the great ones Texas has had in the past decade?

JJ: That would be great to be considered with them. We’re just working to win games here. I know coming out of high school, i did look at those defensive lineman -- (Brian) Orakpo, Sergio Kindle, Sam Acho, Roy Miller -- just seeing those guys, I was like, ‘Man, I’d love to be like them.’ We just want to be the best we can be. Doing that, we’ll see where we end up.

You were 1-2 going into your last home game. You’re 5-2 now. How differently does this home game against Kansas feel going in?

JJ: I just feel like we have a lot of momentum going into this game. We’re really excited to play. It feels good to get these wins. But we’re not satisfied, we’re not done working. We have a lot more to do and a lot more games to play.

Malcom Brown is a young guy with a high ceiling, but for you and Cedric Reed and Chris Whaley, is this as good as you guys have played in your careers?

JJ: I think so. I think we’re playing some of the best ball we’ve played since we’ve been here. But I think we can play better. There are some things we’re not doing that need to get done. We’ll make sure we work on it this week and do even better.

Are you seeing Whaley, a former running back, start to become a Henry Melton-type who could make an impact at the next level?

JJ: I definitely agree. He’s like a Lamarr Houston, too, as well. Lamarr Houston did the same thing. He just can do so much. He can play defensive end, he can play defensive tackle. You see he can drop back into coverage and get us a pick, and he can run. A guy like that, I feel like scouts are probably drooling over him just because of how much he can do.

So do you see this Texas defensive line as having four future NFL guys?

JJ: I’d like to say so, yes sir.