We're moving on in our series on the Big 12 Blog pegging the single player each team in the Big 12 can't afford to lose. He's also the player that will be most responsible for the team's ultimate success.
Next up, the Texas Longhorns.
2011 stats: Jeffcoat: 63 tackles, 17 TFL, eight sacks, three PBUs. Okafor: 52 tackles, 12.5 TFL, six sacks, three PBUs, two forced fumbles.
Why Texas can't afford to lose them: There's no differentiating between these two. Without one, the other is less effective. Jeffcoat is a physical specimen that becomes unblockable all too often for Big 12 offensive coordinators' liking. Okafor's no physical slouch, but his experience paid off in big-time production in 2011.
This year, the duo is probable the No. 1 and No. 2 defensive ends in the entire Big 12. With the high-quality passing offenses that populate the Big 12, their worth is immense. There's nobody else on the roster who can duplicate this kind of production and disruption, and their presence gives the Longhorns a luxury few other Big 12 teams possess.
Texas gave up the fewest passing touchdowns of any Big 12 teams, and surrendered 17 fewer yards per game than any other team in the Big 12. Does that secondary, which is already very, very talented, look anywhere near as good if the pass rush up front isn't solid with what's sometimes just a four-man rush? No way.
DC Manny Diaz loves his blitzes, but if he wants to back off, Okafor and Jeffcoat assure him that quarterbacks will be rushed and will face pressure. That's only going to be more true in 2012.
No doubt about this one: Texas can't afford to lose this duo. If it does, the defense will suffer.