AUSTIN, Texas -- The blueprint of what Cedric Reed hopes to achieve in 2014 has already been laid out.
That’s because Jackson Jeffcoat did it all last fall: Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, All-Big 12, consensus All-American, Ted Hendricks Award, team MVP, team captain, soon-to-be NFL draft pick.
“Every time I looked up on Twitter,” Reed said, “he was winning a new award.”
And Reed couldn’t have been happier for his teammate and friend. He’d continued a proud tradition of elite defensive ends at Texas, following in the footsteps of the likes of Brian Orakpo, Alex Okafor, Sam Acho, Sergio Kindle and several other NFL ends.
Reed knows he’s next and that he’ll play under Texas-sized expectations in 2014. He chose to return for his senior season because he wants to go out and earn all those things his predecessors achieved.
“There were a lot of goals I set coming into college,” Reed said.
He showed the potential to be as good as any of those former Longhorn ends in his first season as a starter, with 79 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 16 QB pressures and a team-high five forced fumbles.
For most of the season, Reed was as good as Jeffcoat and sometimes better, with eight of his sacks coming in Big 12 play and typically at critical moments. And that was just the start.
The 6-foot-6 senior is bulking up beyond the nearly 260 pounds he played at last season and believes he’s prepared to take over where Jeffcoat left off. If this all goes as planned, Reed is about to become a national name.
But there is change, and lots of it, to face over the next few months. The most obvious: a new coaching staff and a new defense. New defensive line coach Chris Rumph has already made a big impression after one week of spring practice.
“His credibility comes from Alabama. He has a lot of guys in the league,” Reed said. “But I’m learning from him how to be a man, mostly. He’s got on me these last few days just about little stuff I can fix. It’s not stuff so much I can fix on the football field, but more of as a man that I can carry over to the football field.”
Playing for Rumph means learning a new language and terminology, but Reed says that hasn’t been a stumbling block so far. He’s happy to receive some next-level learning, especially when it comes to technique.
One week in, it’s already obvious to Reed how much this Longhorn program is about to change under Charlie Strong’s watch. That hit the players quickly during their first practice on Tuesday, when Strong and his staff turned the pace up a noticeable notch.
“After the first five periods, I think I was winded,” Reed said. “I was like, yeah, this is going to be different.”
Then there will be mastering the defense that Strong and coordinator Vance Bedford devise. The new head coach knows he’s working with some big-time talent up front as he plans a multiple defense that can roll out 4-3 or 3-4 looks.
“You look at those guys up front with Cedric and Malcom [Brown] and Tank [Jackson[ and [Shiro] Davis, you’ve got some guys you can move around and guys that are in place that are big-bodied guys,” Strong said. “But they’re also athletic enough that you can take your parts and move them around and put them where you need to.”
This is a defensive line Strong can build his scheme around, one he can trust to get pressure. He also needs to be able to trust Reed as a leader in the locker room.
That’s a role Reed is happily accepting. He’s played with enough vocal defenders that he said he got by on being quiet and simply putting in his work. He doesn’t want it to be that way anymore.
He’s speaking his mind now, telling teammates what they need to hear and getting on them for the little stuff. Reed says Rumph has been hinting at this lately. Texas’ defensive line needs starters who aren’t afraid to speak up.
“Guys look up to me more. You can tell,” Reed said. “It is a leadership role that you take as a senior, that you finally realize once you get on the field with all the guys that they give you the pathway to go first and stuff like that. I feel like I am a lot stronger, I am a lot faster, I put on some weight -- a lot of us put on a lot of weight -- and I feel like I know the game a lot more.”
He can thank Jeffcoat and all his predecessors for setting the example. The former Texas defensive end likes to tell Reed: “You’ve got to do better than me.” This fall, Reed plans to prove it.