There will be plenty of young talent on display in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday when Texas and Oklahoma suit up for the 2010 edition of the Red River Rivalry. Both quarterbacks will be sophomores. Two true freshmen Oklahoma defenders, cornerback Aaron Colvin and safety Tony Jefferson should make significant contributions, as will fullback Trey Millard, another freshman.
Texas freshman receiver Mike Davis is battling a knee injury, but will be a factor in the passing game for the Longhorns after catching 16 passes for 183 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his last three games. Oklahoma's Kenny Stills has been a solid option for the Sooners passing game, too, with career highs of four catches and 72 yards in his last outing, a road game against Cincinnati.
But perhaps no player has been as impactful as early as Texas freshman defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. Through four games, he's cracked the rotation at one of the best and deepest positions in the conference, making 1.5 sacks and having three tackles for loss among his 10 total tackles. He's listed as the Longhorns' No. 2 defensive end, but saw plenty of time against Texas Tech's pass-happy offense in Texas' conference opener, when he had a hand in two more sacks and applied constant pressure to quarterback Taylor Potts.
"Jackson’s doing so much better than we anticipated in his freshman year. He’s playing tough, he’s smart," said Texas coach Mack Brown.
He later added: "We’re been really amazed at how hard he’s played, how well he’s played and how consistently well he’s played."
And there might also be no player on the field Saturday with more Red River intrigue. His twin sister, Jacqueline Jeffcoat, plays basketball for Oklahoma. Jeffcoat, a native of the Dallas suburb Plano, Texas, was recruited heavily by both the Sooners and Texas. He chose the Longhorns when he signed his letter of intent in February. A little more than seven months later, he'll take the field every bit the prized recruit Texas thought it was getting. ESPNU ranked him No. 2 on its list of the top 150 prospects in the 2010 class.
"He’s one of the best pass rushers we’ve got," said fellow defensive lineman Sam Acho, a senior with six tackles for loss and three sacks of his own. "He’s doing a great job on the edge, he’s learned the position well and he’s been doing a great job, I’m proud of him."
For Jeffcoat, the pass rushing gene was passed down directly from his father, Jim Jeffcoat, who played more than a decade in the NFL, mostly with the Dallas Cowboys.
"Dad’s NFL background has had Jackson in those NFL dressing rooms all the time," Brown said. "So very much like Garrett Gilbert. They’re not impressed by celebrity, he just wants to go out there and play and puts tremendous pressure on himself to play well."
Jeffcoat won two Super Bowls in Dallas and had 102.5 career sacks before retiring. He's now the defensive line coach at Houston.
"He’s very mature on the field, has a lot of football knowledge, football savvy, and you see it translate on the field," Acho said.
Now, he'll take it to the field for one of Texas' premier games, hoping to give Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones a front-row seat to his Red River debut.