Dallas Colleges: Peter Jinkens

Takeaways belt a point of pride for Texas D

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
1:30
PM CT
AUSTIN, Texas – When Texas linebacker Dalton Santos ran onto the field for practice last Sunday wearing a pro wrestling-style title belt, naturally, there were going to be questions.

While the belt and its origins remain shrouded in mystery, some key details have emerged.

The Texas Takeaways belt was introduced this fall as a method for inspiring the Longhorns' defense to take more pride in forcing turnovers, something it didn’t do too much of in 2013.

[+] EnlargeTexas championship belt
btp_longhorn/InstagramPeter Jinkens sports the takeaways belt, which goes to the unit that racks up the most points toward forcing turnovers
Every day, Charlie Strong’s defenders are graded by a point system for every interception, fumble, strip, rip and poke. There might be more criteria, but even Texas’ veterans are hesitant to reveal the criteria and point values.

“It’s just a fun thing we’ve got going on so everyone competes on defense,” defensive end Cedric Reed said.

The points reset every day, and it’s not just about which unit -- defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs -- scored the most in a given practice. If your unit won the day but didn’t meet the coaches’ required number of points, Reed said, no belt for you.

“Whoever wins the most days at the end of the week -- which will be the DBs this week -- will get that belt,” cornerback Quandre Diggs said.

The belt has a Longhorn logo and the word “WARRIOR” printed in the middle of its silver plate. Players say they don’t know where it came from. Cornerback Duke Thomas claimed defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn brought it in to work one day. Texas’ defense has been battling ever since.

Last season, Texas finished with 10 interceptions, 12 forced fumbles and 16 fumble recoveries. Its 26 takeaways tied for 26th-best nationally, but the turnover margin was a mere plus-four. Only three FBS schools recovered more fumbles, so that’s a positive, but Texas’ interception total ranked eighth in the Big 12 and 82nd nationally, and the 12 forced fumbles tied for fewest in a single season in school history.

Strong’s defense at Louisville put up relatively similar numbers last year, but did have 16 interceptions and the No. 2 turnover margin in the nation at plus-17.

“Whatever you emphasize and whatever you put in, you get out,” said Thomas, whose three interceptions led the Longhorns last year. “That’s what we’re trying to do right now.”

The linebackers evidently won the belt for the first week of fall camp. Three days after Santos ran onto the field to show it off, Texas’ defensive backs earned it back.

And yet, as is the case with most wrestling and boxing belts, this one comes with dispute.

“Just to let y’all know, the D-line is winning it,” Reed said. “We run out there with it pretty much every time.”

Diggs frowned in disgust when told Reed had claimed domination of the belt.

“Look at my face. Ced has told y’all a big, flat-out lie,” Diggs said.

Added an outraged Thomas: “The DBs are going to have the belt regardless. Aww, man, we had like 35 points [on Friday]. Ced doesn’t know what he’s talking about. They didn’t get no points out there.”

After Texas’ first scrimmage on Saturday, the defending champ entering the weekend was holding on tight to his prize. He was confident the DBs were ahead in the points race.

“It’s meant a lot,” Diggs said. “If you go in the locker room right now, it’s in my locker. So that can tell you who’s winning that belt.”

On Monday morning, Reed fired back the best way he could: with a photo of the belt's new true owners.

Q&A: Texas CB Quandre Diggs

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
9:30
AM CT
DALLAS -- When Quandre Diggs says, "Ya’ll know I’m always going to keep it 100 with you," the Texas senior cornerback is not joking. Not even a little bit.

Diggs has been known to use his Twitter account as a beacon for his hot sports takes, so we spent extra time with him last Tuesday at Big 12 media days and gave him a chance to sound off on whatever he wanted. He was happy to oblige.

[+] EnlargeQuandre Diggs
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesTexas cornerback Quandre Diggs has no problem sharing his opinion on a variety of subjects.
On his summer: "Summer was great. I worked out. Busted my tail. I went to Angleton (Texas) a couple times. Went to San Diego once. My brother (Quentin Jammer) tried to kill me out there working out with him. That was tough. I didn’t know the old man still had it in him like he does."

On LeBron James returning to Cleveland: "Ah, man. See, this is the type of question I like, something off the topic of football. I think it was best for him to leave Miami, you know? If D-Wade was going to get an extension, I’d say if D-Wade is worth $7 million, I’m worth $2.5 (million) in basketball terms. D-Wade, his knees gone. When your knees gone and you’re a basketball player, it’s hard to succeed in that league.

"On the real, no, I think it was a great move for LeBron. He earned a lot of people’s respect by going back to Cleveland. As a man, you can tell what type of man LeBron really is. He loves the city of Cleveland, he loves being back at his home. Much respect to him. I’m glad he went back. He has a great young team down there and if those guys can pull off that Kevin Love trade ..."

SportsNation

Which team will win the Big 12 football title?

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    26%
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    2%
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    34%
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    5%
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    33%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,177)

On a Kevin Love-Andrew Wiggins trade: "I’d give up Andrew Wiggins. He’d be gone. Kevin Love gets 26 and 12! That’s way better than what Bosh was doing in Miami."

On being a Heat fan or a LeBron fan: "I’m a LeBron guy! I wasn’t really just a Miami guy. LeBron could’ve gone to the Charlotte Bobcats, I’m going to get me some Bobcat hats or something."

On LSU and other schools claiming they’re “DBU”: "Well yeah, you know, you’ve got the fake DBUs. There’s one real DBU and this tradition is going to continue to go on as long as we’re at Texas. We have (schools) that might’ve just started getting first-round draft picks as DBs. But we’ve had that since, what, the 80s? 70s? I go back in that DB room and look at the wall and I’ve got guys from the 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, they all made money."

On Texas linebacker Steve Edmond dissing Baylor in May: "Hey man, Steve is going to say what he’s going to say. It don’t matter. Coach [Charlie] Strong can tell him not to say something, but Steve is country. That’s just how it is. When you’re raised in the country, you don’t really care. You don’t care about hurting people’s feelings."

On whether Diggs is OK with that trash talk: "I don’t have a problem with it. I don’t see what’s the problem with it. I’m just going to let that one go. I don’t want to get in trouble. Coach Strong wants us to speak our minds. He speaks his mind. He wants us to be real. I’m not going to elaborate on that situation. ... I’m not bowing down to any man. Any man, any team, I’m not bowing down to anybody. I’m an alpha male and I want to be in charge."

On Texas’ second-best trash talker: "Well, nobody can go blow-for-blow with me, but if I’m going to say one guy that can talk trash: Peter Jinkens. He’s going to say what he wants when he wants. That’s just Pete. He told me to say something stupid for y’all, but I’ll leave that to him when he talks to the media. I hope they don’t let him talk. He hit me up today on Twitter when he saw the pictures and said, ‘Q would be the only one with some Jordans on.’ That’s just me. I’m going to be me. I like to dress up, but I’m not going to dress up in church shoes with pants."

On the cancellation of the “NCAA Football 15” video game: "I was kind of mad. I wanted to see what my rating would be this year. I’d be about 96, something like that. I wish we would’ve had that game. But hey, that’s above my head. I just want to be the best player I can be."

Burnt Orange Breakdown: Peter Jinkens

June, 3, 2014
Jun 3
10:00
AM CT
Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series will take a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

[+] EnlargePeter Jinkens
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesPeter Jinkens has yet to start in more than three consecutive games for Texas.
No. 19 Peter Jinkens
Junior linebacker


Recruitment rewind: Texas A&M was in the lead for Jinkens, an ESPN 300 OLB from Dallas Skyline, until Texas offered during his junior day visit. He committed on the spot, joining Skyline teammate WR Thomas Johnson (who went on to sign with A&M) in the class and giving Texas the state's top linebacker prospect. The Under Armour All-American racked up 125 tackles as a senior and also put up 11 rushing TDs in his final two seasons.

Career so far: Jinkens has played in all 26 games of his career so far and earned starts in nine, including six games in 2013. As a freshman he recorded 29 tackles and an interception in the Alamo Bowl vs. Oregon State. Jinkens was solid as a sophomore, with 49 tackles, two TFLs and a forced fumble.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Because Texas' defensive needs tend to change week to week in the Big 12, and in part due to his inexperience, Jinkens yet to hold down a starting job for more than three consecutive games. He's been plugged into the lineup a number of times and rarely disappoints. His ambition this season should be starting 13 games and proving to the rest of the league he can be one of the Big 12's most exciting linebackers.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Texas has an intriguing collection of linebackers, and a ton of them have starting experience. But depending on how Strong approaches playing defense in this league, there's a chance you only see two on the field at a time for most of this season. That's just how it goes in the Big 12. And if you go by experience, that might continue to mean a lot of snaps for Steve Edmond and Jordan Hicks and not so many for Jinkens. He must prove he provides things as an athletic pass rusher that the rest of his competition do not.

Future expectations: Hard to believe Jinkens is already a junior, isn't it? He's put on something like 20 pounds of good weight and muscle since joining the program and has the look of a future NFL linebacker. He just doesn't have the resume yet. Nobody would be surprised if Jinkens blows up in a big way in Strong's defense, but he needs a big start to his 2014 season if he wants that opportunity.

Depth chart analysis: Texas

May, 1, 2014
May 1
1:00
PM CT
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be analyzing the depth charts of every Big 12 team coming out of the spring, continuing Thursday with Texas. New coach Charlie Strong has yet to release an official depth chart, so this is only a projection:

OFFENSE (projected starter in bold)

QB: David Ash (Jr.), Tyrone Swoopes (So.)

David Ash
Max Olson/ESPNDavid Ash (left) and Tyrone Swoopes did little to answer Texas' QB questions this spring.
Texas had reason for optimism entering the spring when Ash returned with two years of eligibility and no signs of post-concussion issues. The foot fracture he suffered in April will sideline him for several months, and Strong hopes to have him back sometime in July. Swoopes showed flashes in the spring game. This group will look a lot better in June when Jerrod Heard enrolls, and Texas is still waiting on a decision from ex-USC QB Max Wittek.

RB: Malcolm Brown (Sr.), Johnathan Gray (Jr.), Joe Bergeron (Sr.), Jalen Overstreet (So.)

This group could end up being one of the Big 12’s best this fall, but there’s still work to be done this summer. Gray is still recovering from a torn Achilles but should be cleared in time for the season opener. When he’s back, he could be one of the conference’s most versatile rushers. Bergeron was held out of the end of spring practice to work on academics but is expected to rejoin the team this summer. Brown is in the best shape of his career and will be the workhorse as a senior. Overstreet thrived on outside runs in the spring game and could become a factor in the fall. Texas adds three freshmen to the mix this summer.

WR: Jaxon Shipley (Sr.), Daje Johnson (Jr.)

WR: Marcus Johnson (Jr.), Jacorey Warrick (RFr.), Jake Oliver (RFr.)

WR: Kendall Sanders (Jr.), Montrel Meander (RFr.), John Harris (Sr.)

TE: Geoff Swaim (Sr.), M.J. McFarland (Jr.), Blake Whiteley (So.)

The trio of Shipley, Marcus Johnson and Sanders received strong praise from Texas coaches this spring. Marcus Johnson and Sanders are both big-play threats and Shipley will be a four-year starter who’s one of the league’s best possession receivers. After disciplinary issues in his first two years, Daje Johnson is doing everything asked of him and will get the ball in a variety of ways. The depth behind them is young, with three second-year wideouts and five incoming freshmen fighting for playing time. Texas might not have a game-changing tight end, but Swaim had a great spring, McFarland reemerged as a pass-catching threat and Greg Daniels, who missed the spring, can set the edge as a blocker.

LT: Desmond Harrison (Sr.), Darius James (RFr.)

LG: Sedrick Flowers (Jr.), Alex Anderson (Fr.)

C: Dominic Espinosa (Sr.), Jake Raulerson (RFr.)

RG: Taylor Doyle (Jr.), Rami Hammad (RFr.)

RT: Kennedy Estelle (Jr.), Kent Perkins (So.)

After having one of the nation’s most experienced lines in 2013, Texas could roll with two seniors and three juniors this fall. There still could be lots of changes to this lineup, but Espinosa is a lock to start and the left side of the line is fairly established too. The 6-foot-8 Harrison disappointed last year but showed his potential this spring. Doyle was the surprise of the spring after playing in only two career games, but he still has to hold off Hammad, who has big potential. Curtis Riser could also be in the mix at guard, and Perkins -- who missed the end of spring ball with a knee injury -- is good enough to play anywhere on the line after working at guard this spring.

[+] EnlargeShiro Davis
John Albright/Icon SMIShiro Davis looks to have found a spot on Texas' starting defensive line.
DEFENSE

DE: Cedric Reed (Sr.), Caleb Bluiett (So.)

DT: Malcom Brown (Jr.), Alex Norman (So.)

DT: Desmond Jackson (Sr.), Hassan Ridgeway (So.)

DE: Shiro Davis (Jr.), Bryce Cottrell (So.)

Baylor has the Big 12’s best defensive line, but Texas’ starting four could challenge for that crown this fall. Reed and Brown are two of the Longhorns’ best players. Davis emerged to take over for Jackson Jeffcoat. The depth behind them is young and inexperienced, especially at defensive tackle, but Bluiett and Ridgeway should play prominent roles. Don’t be surprised if true freshmen Poona Ford and Derick Roberson enter the rotation right away, and Ford will need to fortify the depth up the middle.

OLB: Jordan Hicks (Sr.), Timothy Cole (So.), Demarco Cobbs (Sr.)

MLB: Steve Edmond (Sr.), Dalton Santos (Jr.)

OLB: Peter Jinkens (Jr.), Naashon Hughes (RFr.)

With nearly all of Texas’ veteran linebackers dealing with injuries this spring, there’s still plenty of uncertainty about this group. Edmond made a big impression on the new staff and his teammates and should hold down the middle with help from Santos. Hicks is expected to be healthy in June and is hungry to make up for two lost seasons. Cole made the most of his opportunities this spring and worked with the first team defense, while Cobbs was a spring game revelation after missing the entire 2013 season with knee issues. Jinkens and Hughes showed they can be dangerous as pass rushers off the edge. Kendall Thompson and Tevin Jackson will provide depth when they get healthy.

CB: Quandre Diggs (Sr.), Bryson Echols (So.)

CB: Duke Thomas (Jr.), Sheroid Evans (Sr.), Antwuan Davis (RFr.)

S: Mykkele Thompson (Sr.), Adrian Colbert (So.)

S: Josh Turner (Sr.), Chevoski Collins (RFr.)

Seems like these starting jobs are fairly locked in coming out of spring ball. Diggs and Thomas are clearly the best option at cornerback. Behind them, the trio of Evans, Davis and Echols has big potential. Evans is coming back from a torn ACL and missed the spring, giving the two younger DBs an opportunity to get a lot of second-team reps. There’s confidence in the play of Thompson and Turner so far, though they’ve had up-and-down careers thus far. Colbert and Collins are very young but will get their chances this fall. Texas brings in four freshmen this summer and several could make an early impact.

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: LBs

February, 25, 2014
Feb 25
3:00
PM CT
As we await the start of spring ball, we’re examining and ranking the positional situations of every team in the Big 12, continuing Tuesday with linebackers. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how we see the linebacking corps going into the spring:

[+] EnlargeDominique Alexander
William Purnell/Icon SMIDominique Alexander was a star as a true freshman and leads a loaded Oklahoma linebacking corps.
1. Oklahoma: After a couple of lean years, the Sooners are loaded at linebacker again. Dominique Alexander was the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, Frank Shannon led the defense in tackles as a sophomore, and Eric Striker is budding into the most ferocious blitzing linebacker in the country (just ask Alabama). Jordan Evans played extensively as a true freshman, too. This is an athletic group that can cover, stop the run and get to the quarterback.

2. Texas: This is the deepest linebacking corps in the league, with starters Peter Jinkens, Dalton Santos and Steve Edmond all returning off a unit that improved dramatically after the rocky nonconference start. After allowing a school-record 550 yards rushing to BYU, Texas had the Big 12’s fourth-best rush defense in conference games. Whether this group can take another step up will depend on what happens with Jordan Hicks, who enters his fifth year in the program after suffering season-ending injuries in back-to-back years. Hicks was the No. 1 linebacker in the country coming out of high school and has played well when healthy.

3. West Virginia: This will be the strength of the defense, as Brandon Golson, Isaiah Bruce, Jared Barber and Nick Kwiatkoski all return with significant starting experience. Kwiatkoski was West Virginia’s leading tackler last season, and Bruce was a freshman All-American the season before. Wes Tonkery and Jewone Snow also have starting experience, and Shaq Petteway, who missed last season with a knee injury, was a key rotation player the previous year. This level of experience and production with give the new defensive regime of Tony Gibson and Tom Bradley a foundation to build around.

4. Baylor: Bryce Hager is one of the best returning linebackers in the league. He was a second-team all-conference pick two years ago and would have earned similar honors last season had he not missed the final three games of the regular season with a groin injury. Grant Campbell, a three-star juco signee, is already on campus and will vie for the vacancy of departing All-Big 12 linebacker Eddie Lackey. Kendall Ehrlich and Aiavion Edwards are the only other players at the position with any meaningful experience, but Raaquan Davis, a former four-star recruit who redshirted last season, could be a factor.

5. Kansas: Middle linebacker Ben Heeney was a second-team All-Big 12 selection after finishing fourth in the league in tackles per game. His wingman, Jake Love, got beat out by juco transfer Samson Faifili during the preseason but took over when Faifili suffered an injury and was solid. As long as Heeney remains healthy, the Jayhawks will be solid here.

6. TCU: Projected to be the Achilles’ heel of the TCU defense last season, Paul Dawson, Marcus Mallet and Jonathan Anderson actually gave the position stability. Dawson led the Horned Frogs with 91 tackles, Mallet was third with 70 and Anderson was fourth with 66. All three will be seniors in 2014 and should give the Horned Frogs a solid, reliable linebacking unit again.

7. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders and their 3-4 scheme graduate two very productive players in Will Smith and Terrance Bullitt. Smith was second in the Big 12 in tackles, and Bullitt led all Big 12 linebackers in pass breakups. Austin Stewart and Micah Awe go into the spring as the favorites to replace Bullitt and Smith, respectively. Two starters do return in Sam Eguavoen and Pete Robertson, who was honorable mention All-Big 12 thanks to his impact off the edge. Tech also has several intriguing young players, including Jacarthy Mack, Malik Jenkins and Kahlee Woods, who will all be second-year players.

8. Kansas State: The Wildcats lose two stalwarts to graduation in captains Blake Slaughter and Tre Walker. The only returner is former walk-on Jonathan Truman, who was second on the team in tackles from the weak side. The Wildcats will be hoping for big things from D'Vonta Derricott, an ESPN JC 50 signee who had offers from Miami and Wisconsin, among many others. Will Davis, who was Slaughter’s backup as a freshman last season, could thrive if he secures the starting role in the middle.

9. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are somewhat decimated here with the graduations of all-conference veterans Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey. The only returning starter, Ryan Simmons, could move inside, which would open the door for hard-hitting jucos D'Nerius Antoine and Devante Averette to start on either side of him. Seth Jacobs, who was a four-star recruit two years ago, should jump into the rotation, and the Cowboys could get an instant boost from freshman Gyasi Akem, who was an ESPN 300 signee. The potential ascension of this group, though, hinges on what Antonie and Averette accomplish.

10. Iowa State: The Cyclones graduate their defensive cornerstone in Jeremiah George, who was a first-team all-conference performer after leading the Big 12 with 133 tackles. Replacing George won’t come easy. There’s reason to hope that Luke Knott can become Iowa State’s next cornerstone at the position. The younger brother of Cyclone LB great Jake Knott, Luke Knott started five games as a freshman and quickly racked up 45 tackles before suffering a season-ending hip injury, which required surgery. If he makes a full recovery, Knott has the talent to become the next in a growing line of All-Big 12 Iowa State linebackers. Seniors Jevohn Miller and Jared Brackens, who combined for 19 starts last season, flank Knott with experience.

Week 15 helmet stickers

December, 8, 2013
12/08/13
8:00
AM CT
WACO, Texas -- Three Longhorns stood out in Texas’ 30-10 loss to Baylor on Saturday night:

RB Malcolm Brown: He’s rushed for more yards before -- against Oklahoma State in 2011 -- but against Baylor, especially in the first half, might’ve been the best Brown has run in his whole career. The junior rushed for 131 yards on 25 carries and also caught Case McCoy’s lone touchdown pass in the loss. He was an absolute workhorse in the first two quarters, racking up 118 yards and repeatedly finding cutbacks up the middle for big gains. One of the unsung heroes of this offense, Brown finishes the regular season with 774 yards and nine touchdowns.

LB Peter Jinkens: Where’d this performance come from? Texas was essentially down to two linebackers this week and that meant lots of snaps for Jinkens, the athletic sophomore whose season has been a bit disappointing. But on this night, he was all over the place. Jinkens finished with 12 tackles and was spotted throwing guys around a few times. He’s coming on strong late, just as he did in 2012.

DE Jackson Jeffcoat: The stat book says Jeffcoat had a solid night on Saturday, with 11 tackles and two sacks. As a senior, though, all he cared about was the win. Jeffcoat did surpass Kansas State’s Ryan Mueller to finish with a Big 12-leading 12 sacks in 2013. He was the only Texas player to sack Bryce Petty, though, and Texas logged just three QB pressures. Jeffcoat was good; he just needed more help.

Opening camp: Texas Longhorns

August, 6, 2013
8/06/13
1:15
PM CT
Texas is the next Big 12 team who'll begin preseason camp. Let's have a closer look at the Longhorns.

Schedule: Texas will have its first practice Monday after players reported on Sunday. In a somewhat surprising decision, the Longhorns will host three open practices for fans at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. They'll all be this week, beginning with Thursday and Friday's 7:30 p.m. ET practice and followed by an 8 p.m. ET practice on Sunday.

Setting the scene: It's no understatement to say this season could define Mack Brown's tenure at Texas. If the Longhorns turn the corner and find themselves in a BCS game come January, he'll have successfully turned around Texas. He'll have a strong team returning in 2014 and an uptick in recruiting that signals greener pastures ahead and a more placid end to his career in Austin, whenever that happens. If we see an 8-9 win season or worse, an amazing run in the 2000s will have led to a post-Colt McCoy downfall and Brown likely won't be around to coach those 2014 and 2015 recruits. It'll color how he's remembered and this season will have a huge impact on what the next three to four years look like at Texas.

All eyes on: The defense. We're not going to learn anything about David Ash in preseason camp, but the defense has to show signs that it's capable of bouncing back from last season's nightmare that gave up more rushing yards than any team in Texas' history. Manny Diaz stuck around, and the Longhorns brought back 2004 defensive coordinator Greg Robinson to analyze film and do other tasks to help out, mostly from his home in Los Angeles. The personnel is there with the return of Jordan Hicks and stars Jackson Jeffcoat and Quandre Diggs, but this unit has a lot to prove. We'll get an idea of their progress in camp.

Key battle: Offensive tackle. Sophomore Josh Cochran (right) and junior college transfer Donald Hawkins (left) both turned in good efforts a year ago, but Cochran missed the spring with a broken leg. Junior college tackle Desmond Harrison has finally joined the team and could complicate that race. Texas may shift some guys around, like the versatile Trey Hopkins, but the battle for the tackle spot should be one to watch over the next month.

On the mend: Jeffcoat (pectoral) and Hicks (hip) are finally both healthy and ready to go, and the best news of all for Texas is Hicks being given a medical redshirt. That makes him a junior again this season and means he didn't waste last season when he missed 10 games. Jeffcoat has dealt with pectoral injuries in consecutive seasons as well as a high ankle sprain as a freshman. He's got to stay healthy.

Breaking out: Peter Jinkens. The sophomore linebacker had a big finish to the season after grabbing his first start against Iowa State. He had three tackles for loss and a sack against Kansas State, and nine tackles and a pick against Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl win. He's got a lot of speed at 6-foot-1 and 218 pounds roaming the outside, and earned playing time at both weak and strongside.

Outlook: Texas has the potential to be better than any team in the Big 12 with a talented defense, experienced quarterback, deep stable of running backs and a physical, experienced offensive line. Still, all you have to do is look at games against Oklahoma and Kansas a year ago for a healthy, fair dose of skepticism. That's how a team that won nine games a year ago and returns 19 starters gets picked fourth in the Big 12 by the league's media. These Longhorns have a ton to prove, and a bit more experience and talent to do it than they've had in any year since 2010.

Quotable: Brown, on the struggles over the past few years. "We're a quarterbackdriven league, and if you just look at the last ten years, this league has been known for the best quarterbacks in the country and the best passers and the best offenses. So the fact that we've struggled at quarterback for two years on and off is a true fact that we've struggled as a team some because he touches it every time. ... So when you think about the importance of that player at all levels of our game, it is really, really key, and that's why we're so excited to have David with experience, with maturity, with confidence not only in himself but in his team. He's leading the team much better, and they believe in him right now."

Under the radar: Texas Longhorns

June, 28, 2013
6/28/13
5:15
PM CT
Far too often, players enter the season with a profile that doesn't quite match his worth to the team.

In other words, they're coming in under the radar. We'll continue our series today looking at those guys who should get more respect and attention than they have this offseason.

Next up: Texas.

Under the radar: LB Peter Jinkens

Jinkens was one of a handful of hyped recruits that headed to Austin in the 2012 class, signing with the Longhorns as the nation's No. 5 overall linebacker and the No. 57 overall recruit. The Dallas native (and No. 7 player in Texas) showed almost immediately why scouts loved him so much, proving he was ready to contribute. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder plays bigger than his size, but still has the speed you'd expect from a player with his frame.

Through nine games, Jinkens had just two tackles, but moved into a starting role against Iowa State and helped the Longhorns defense dominate, giving up just seven points. Jinkens made eight tackles, and over the next four games, showed promise that has anyone who saw it excited to see what he has in store for future seasons. He logged three tackles for loss and a sack against Kansas State, but had one of his best games against Oregon State, making nine tackles and intercepting a pass.

Texas is probably the only place in the Big 12 where a recruit in the top five at his position can be under the radar, but most of the Big 12 is blissfully unaware of Jinkens. Next season, offensive coordinators across the Big 12 will be aware. Jinkens' talent demands it.

Only Bama more talented than Texas?

May, 17, 2013
5/17/13
11:00
AM CT
Colleague Travis Haney ranked his list of the nation's top 10 "most talented" teams Insider, and a certain burnt orange team you might have heard showed up at No. 2 on his list.

It's an interesting approach to ranking teams, and Haney looked at NFL draft lists, colleague Mark Schlabach's top 25 and the past four years of recruiting rankings to put together his list.

A lot of the ranking is thanks to those recruiting rankings, where Texas' class averaged a ranking of 6.5 among players currently suiting up for the Longhorns.

I agree that Texas is the Big 12's most talented team by a long way, but what does that really mean, besides more pressure on Mack Brown? The Longhorns beat a rebuilding Oklahoma State team in September that was a shell of the team it became late in the season, and did so narrowly with J.W. Walsh making his first career start for the Pokes. You've got to take all that into consideration, and when you look back at the last two years, Texas' best win was either its Alamo Bowl comeback against Oregon State or a road win against Texas Tech, who ended the season tied for fifth in the league.

A pair of embarrassing blowout losses to Oklahoma are the biggest reason for skepticism surrounding the Longhorns, who plenty of folks will pick to win the Big 12 in 2013. They've certainly got talent. Look no further than super recruits like DE Jackson Jeffcoat, DT Malcom Brown, and running backs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray for evidence of that, not to mention defenders like CB Quandre Diggs and linebackers Peter Jinkens and Jordan Hicks.

The Longhorns have talent all over the field, and that has been the case the past three seasons, which have featured just 22 wins. Now, though, that talent has experience and Texas is preparing for it to pay off.

On paper, it should. Texas has every reason to be one of, if not the, Big 12 favorite. Still, the Longhorns have got to prove it on the field, and it takes a lot of big wins to make that happen. Texas has been short on those wins of late.

Texas Longhorns spring wrap

May, 1, 2013
5/01/13
8:38
AM CT
2012 record: 9-4
2012 conference record: 5-4 (third in the Big 12)
Returning starters: Offense: 10; defense: 9; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners: QB David Ash, RB Johnathan Gray, WR Mike Davis, WR Jaxon Shipley, LT Donald Hawkins, RT Josh Cochran, G Mason Walters, DE Jackson Jeffcoat, LB Jordan Hicks, CB Quandre Diggs, CB Carrington Byndom

Key losses: P Alex King, S Kenny Vaccaro, DE Alex Okafor, WR Marquise Goodwin

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Johnathan Gray* (701 yards)
Passing: David Ash* (2,699 yards)
Receiving: Mike Davis* (939 yards)
Tackles: Kenny Vaccaro (107)
Sacks: Alex Okafor (12.5)
Interceptions: Quandre Diggs* (4)

Spring answers:

1. Under center: Texas has finally ended all the debate about its quarterback situation and settled on David Ash. While Ash has yet to be stellar in his first two years at Texas, the junior has steadily improved -- he was top 25 in pass efficiency rating in 2012 -- and has won the trust of new quarterbacks coach Major Applewhite. Applewhite believes Ash is the quarterback best suited to run the new up-tempo, spread attack.

2. Loaded at linebacker: One year after being the worst tackling team in the Big 12, Texas went into the spring looking to shore up its linebacker position. And it had plenty of options. Texas has seven linebackers who have started at least one game. Included in that group is Jordan Hicks, who is back after missing 10 games last year because of a hip injury. Hicks will team with true sophomores, Dalton Santos and Peter Jinkens for what should be a much faster and aggressive unit in 2013.

3. Along the lines: While there were a sprinkling of injuries along the offensive line this spring (Josh Cochran and Trey Hopkins), Texas appears to have finally solved the depth riddle at that position. Tackle Kennedy Estelle was able to get quality snaps and should prove to be a solid backup and Sedrick Flowers finally emerged as an option at guard. While Texas returns all five starter from a year ago along the line, the Longhorns know that in the new up-tempo offense it will have to lean heavily on these backups.

Fall questions

1. Speed thrills: Texas wants to move the ball fast. So fast that the offensive players were even taught how to quickly get the ball back to the official so that they could put it down and Texas could line up and run the next play. But Texas only decided it wanted to play this way in mid-December when there was a change in playcallers from Bryan Harsin to Applewhite. So Texas has only had a handful of practices to get up to speed. With a schedule that has Texas at BYU for the second game of the season there doesn’t appear to be much time to get things perfected.

2. Safety dance: Texas’ defense was the worst in school history and that was largely due to the play of the back seven on defense. And now the best player in that back seven, Kenny Vaccaro, is gone. He was a first-round draft pick. That has left Texas wondering who will step up and make some stop at the safety position. Adrian Phillips takes over for Vaccaro, but he was inconsistent last season. The coaches blamed a shoulder injury and the fact he missed the spring. Mykkele Thompson and Josh Turner also missed their share of tackles but both are being called on to be possible starters.

3. Receiving praise: Texas has not had a 1,000-yard receiver since Jordan Shipley in 2009. Mike Davis had 939 yards last year and appears poised to break the 1,000-yard mark this season. But to do that he will need help. And right now there are some questions as to where that help will come from. Texas wants to go with four wide receivers but two of the four players expected to fill those roles -- Cayleb Jones and Kendall Sanders -- are currently suspended because of legal issues. Both will probably be back. But even then, Texas is very thin at wide receiver and needs some other players to step up to help take the double teams away from Davis.

Spring steps forward: Texas Longhorns

March, 21, 2013
3/21/13
11:00
AM CT
We'll take a look at some of the Big 12's breakout stars this spring, but we'll move forward with a series looking at guys who will be stepping into bigger roles this season and what they have to provide. Some are going from being role players to starters. Some are going from starter to star. Some from stars to bona fide superstars.

Let's move on with Texas.

Texas' spring step forward: LB Peter Jinkens

No team in the Big 12 needs to take a step forward like Texas does next season after rebounding from a disastrous five-win season in 2010 to average years of eight and nine wins in 2011 and 2012. That's nothing to be embarrassed about, but it's simply not good enough at Texas, where the money and recruiting advantages are a cut above what any other program in college football has to work with.

How does that growth happen this year? Folks can talk about David Ash, the running backs and the offensive line all they want. I'm staring right at the linebackers as the most important position for Texas to climb back to the top of the Big 12 heap. It was the biggest question mark for the Longhorns defense entering last season, and on the field, it was the biggest weakness, made even worse once Jordan Hicks was sidelined for the season.

The linebackers were a huge reason why Texas gave up more rushing yards (2,488) last season than in any previous year in program history, and why opponents averaged 4.62 yards a carry, and when you consider that number factors in a Big 12-high 34 sacks for a total of 229 yards, it's even worse.

Hicks should be back this year, but he needs some help, and after a promising true freshman season that featured 27 tackles and three tackles for loss (and his first career start), he's a guy that could be a huge fix for Texas in a trouble spot as a sophomore. He got a lot of time as a backup last season, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him earn a starting spot next fall. In his lone start against Iowa State last season, he made eight tackles and one for a loss. The 6-foot-1, 213-pound talent from Dallas has a bright, bright future, and if he can take a step forward this spring, we may see Texas' defense take a big step forward come fall.

As a result, you may see the Longhorns take a step into a double-digit win total for the first time since 2009.

See more Big 12 spring steps forward.

Breaking down spring camp: Texas

February, 20, 2013
2/20/13
9:00
AM CT
As spring camps begin, we'll offer up a preview and let you know what to watch for in each team's 15 practices over the next couple of months. Texas will start spring practice first, so today we start with the Longhorns.

Schedule: The Longhorns begin spring practice on Thursday and will host a spring game on March 30.

What's new: Offensive playcalling duties have fallen to co-coordinator Major Applewhite now, who was promoted when partner Bryan Harsin left to become Arkansas State's head coach. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz mulled a move after the season, but ultimately stuck around to help revive a defense that struggled in 2012.

On the mend: Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat will likely be limited after undergoing surgery on a torn pectoral, but linebacker Jordan Hicks should return following a hip injury that cost him his 2012 season and a sexual assault charge that was eventually dropped stemming from an incident during the Longhorns' bowl trip.

Stepping up: Kenny Vaccaro's versatility will be tough to replace, but figuring out who will try and fill his role at safety will be huge for Texas' defense during the spring. My money is on Mykkele Thompson, but don't rule out junior Josh Turner or even a position move for physical junior cornerback Quandre Diggs.

New faces: Texas is welcoming a handful of early enrollees this spring, headlined by quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. Offensive lineman Jake Raulerson, the 2013 class' first commit, is also enrolled along with linebacker Deoundrei Davis and tight end Geoff Swaim, the nation's No. 4 junior college player at the position.

Breaking out: Linebacker Peter Jinkens already made an impact as a true freshman, but don't be surprised if he leaves spring practice with a starting gig, beating out a few older players like Steve Edmond and Kendall Thompson. Jinkens earned a start against Iowa State and snagged an interception in Texas' Alamo Bowl win over Oregon State, but the 6-foot-1, 213-pounder from Dallas could be a budding star in a linebacking corps that needs help after a disappointing 2012.

Under the radar: Texas struggled in the kicking game throughout 2012, making just 11 of 19 attempts, the lowest percentage of any Big 12 team. Nick Jordan had to carry the load as a freshman while Penn State transfer Anthony Fera battled a groin injury. They'll be back to battle this spring, and though it won't get much attention in a camp loaded with intrigue, its importance can't be overstated for a team that doesn't hang points by the buckets and played in six games decided by one possession a year ago.

All eyes on: Quarterback David Ash. Being just OK is no longer acceptable. He was reasonably efficient last season with a passer rating of over 153, but faltered late in the season and struggled with inconsistency. If Texas is going to be great, he has to be great, and most importantly, consistent. No more well-deserved benchings in favor of Case McCoy. Ash limited his interceptions and was fifth in the league in passer rating, but he's got to be even better as a junior.

Offseason to-do list: Texas Longhorns

January, 25, 2013
1/25/13
11:46
AM CT
Every year, there's lots of turnover and change for every college program. What do the Big 12 teams need to do before next fall? Let's continue our look with the Longhorns down in Austin.

1. Figure out the offensive identity. Bryan Harsin is gone, and he's probably taking most of his pre-snap shifts with him. Will Major Applewhite still look to run a power offense? Texas has recruited and developed its offensive line really well lately, but David Ash has matured, and even with a wealth of backs in Malcolm Brown, Johnathan Gray, Joe Bergeron and Daje Johnson, Texas hasn't been able to keep them healthy or get consistent production out of one for an entire season. Will Applewhite put more responsibility in Ash's hands? He was good at times last season, but the rising junior was inconsistent. His ceiling is probably a legitimate Heisman campaign. His floor is probably getting benched in favor Connor Brewer or Jalen Overstreet -- or maybe even incoming freshman Tyrone Swoopes. Where will he fall on the spectrum? Will Texas continue to try to pound the trenches?

2. Plug up the middle of the defense. Texas' defense made no sense last season. The personnel is absolutely there to be great up front. The defensive tackles are deep and talented, led by guys like Malcom Brown, Ashton Dorsey, Desmond Jackson and Chris Whaley. The linebackers were solid, even without Jordan Hicks, who should be back next season. Peter Jinkens is a rising star and a few others have potential. Coordinator Manny Diaz didn't take another job, electing to stay in Austin and attempt fix the most underwhelming unit in the Big 12. It all starts with the ability to stop the run, something Texas never did consistently last season. Fix that, and the rest of this defense comes around, I say.

3. Discover and develop leadership. Texas was still a pretty young team last season after rebooting on both sides of the ball after the 2010 season. The freshmen and sophomores who contributed in 2011 are juniors and seniors now, but the team is losing guys like Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro, players who had been around awhile and served as role models for younger guys. Look for Jackson Jeffcoat and David to fill the role this year, but other players, like Malcolm Brown or Jaxon Shipley, might emerge, too. We'll see who steps up in the spring.

More offseason to-do lists:

Checking in on the ESPN 150 in 2012

January, 2, 2013
1/02/13
9:00
AM CT
The ESPN 150 are the best of the best when it comes to recruits, but how do they really stack up on the field? We check in each season with the freshmen who made an impact and those who didn't in Year 1.

You can look back on the ESPN 150 in 2012 right here, but how did the guys who landed in the Big 12 do? So glad you asked.

Also, here's how the last few years of Big 12 ESPN 150 recruits shaped up: No. 2: Johnathan Gray, RB, Texas: Took over in midseason as the team's featured running back and led the team with 701 yards and three touchdowns. Had 22 more carries than any other Texas back.

No. 12: Malcom Brown, DT, Texas: Contributed as a reserve on Texas' strong defensive line. Made 19 tackles and two tackles for loss.

No. 54: Dominique Wheeler, WR, Texas Tech: Redshirted his first season for Texas Tech's deep receiving corps.

No. 57: Peter Jinkens, OLB, Texas: Started two games and played in every game this season. Made 27 tackles and three tackles for loss with a sack and an interception.

No. 58: Kennedy Estelle, OL, Texas: Missed five games with a shoulder injury but contributed as a reserve offensive lineman in three games.

No. 60: Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma: Was one of the league's most promising freshmen in Year 1. Emerged with a breakout game against Kansas State with seven catches for 108 yards and a score. He finished with 41 catches for 578 yards and three touchdowns.

No. 64: Durron Neal, WR, Oklahoma: Played sparingly and contributed in nine games. Caught four passes for 62 yards.

No. 70: Alex Ross, RB, Oklahoma: Redshirted in 2012.

No. 77: Torshiro Davis, LB, Texas: Goes by "Shiro" now and moved to defensive end. Played in the final six games of Texas' season and made three tackles, one tackle for loss and broke up a pass.

No. 78: Curtis Riser, OG, Texas: Redshirted in 2012.

No. 79: Bryson Echols, CB, Texas: Redshirted in 2012.

No. 87: Reginald Davis, WR, Texas Tech: Redshirted in 2012.

No. 92: Dalton Santos, LB, Texas: Played in 12 games and made 24 tackles, mostly contributing on special teams. Added 2.5 tackles for loss.

No. 97: Alex Norman, DT, Texas: Redshirted in 2012.

No. 120: Michael Starts, OT, Texas Tech: Moved to defensive tackle but played in just three games. Made three tackles with a sack against New Mexico. Missed time because of a blood pressure issue.

No. 126: Dominic Ramacher, LB, Oklahoma State: Moved to fullback and redshirted in 2012.

No. 130: Connor Brewer, QB, Texas: Redshirted in 2012.

No. 137: Derrick Woods, WR, Oklahoma: Redshirted in 2012.

No. 141: Daje Johnson, ATH, Texas: Speedster made an impact as a big-play threat at running back for Texas. Carried the ball 27 times for 203 yards and a touchdown and caught 19 passes for 287 yards and a score.

No. 147: Cayleb Jones, WR, Texas: Played in 12 games but caught two passes for 35 yards and carried the ball once for 10 yards.

No. 148: Ty Darlington, OL, Oklahoma: Earned starts late in the season at center and proved to be a valuable piece of the Sooners' offensive line that provided an opportunity for versatility and ability to move Gabe Ikard to guard.

Keys for Texas in Valero Alamo Bowl

December, 29, 2012
12/29/12
12:04
PM CT
Here are three keys for Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

1. Keep David Ash calm: The sophomore quarterback is going to feel a ton of pressure to perform given that this is basically an audition for next season’s starting position. Ash did not start the regular-season finale due to injury. So the situation is much like last season when he did not start against Baylor but did in the bowl against Cal. However, the stakes have been raised because a Texas loss means the Longhorns would finish with the exact same record from 2011, and that is not the progress many expected from this team.

Ash also is facing a very good pass defense that has proved it can bring pressure from defensive end Scott Crichton, and defensive back Jordan Poyer is second nationally with seven interceptions.

2. Plug the gaps: Oregon State wants to pass before it runs. But given that the Texas defense is so porous against the run game -- 199 rushing yards allowed per game -- the Beavers are likely to get Storm Woods involved early and often. Texas has simplified the defense to help out the linebackers but it needs to have a strong game from Peter Jinkens and Steve Edmond to have any chance of keeping the Beavers in check. Jinkens has proven to be a playmaker who has sideline-to-sideline speed. If his emotions do not get the better of him, he can be a factor. Edmond has trouble reading what is happening but lately has started to come around and is no longer a step slow.

3. Start fast, finish strong: It seems like a pretty simple concept but Texas does have a tendency to start slowly in big games -- Oklahoma comes to mind. Oregon State is the classic Aesop tortoise. The Beavers are plodders and usually are able to catch their opponents in the end. Oregon State won its first three games by less than a score and lost two of its games by a combined six points. So the Beavers are accustomed to playing in close games. And given that they have come back against teams such as Arizona and Arizona State, they are not apt to fold if Texas comes out with a quick onslaught of points. To counteract that, Texas must continue to pressure the Beavers on offense and extend its drives. There might be some hiccups with new playcaller Major Applewhite but Texas will have to overcome those to keep the Beavers at bay.

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