February 29, 2012

Practice Report Part II: The defense ...

Here are three names on defense that stood out Tuesday at practice:

Cedric Reed, Tevin Jackson and Desmond Jackson.

Let's start with Reed. If there is a positive that comes as a result of Jackson Jeffcoat's absence from spring drills it's undoubtedly Reed's development. Reed was a handful for every offensive tackle he faced in the first practice in pads on Tuesday.

The coaches know what they have in Jeffcoat.

The bottom line is Reed has a chance to be an impact player, too. His long arms, explosive lower body strength and speed made TE M.J. McFarland look silly on a couple of occasions Tuesday. It was a lesson for McFarland in getting his pads lower to get underneath Reed.

When you combine a healthy Jeffcoat with Alex Okafor, Reggie Wilson and Cedric Reed, there is reason to believe the pass rush will be a load in the pass-happy Big 12.

Tevin Jackson can obviously smell opportunity. With Demarco Cobbs out, Jackson is starting to make a case for himself at linebacker. Jackson went toe-to-toe with Joe Bergeron during an inside drill, and drew some oohs and aahs.

Kendall Thompson is also gaining a reputation as a hard hitter. And there was an Aaron Benson sighting on Tuesday at linebacker with a couple big plays.

And you can tell Kenny Vaccaro is a big fan of LB Steve Edmond.

"Steve Edmond doesn't know how great he is gonna be," Vaccaro said. "He's fast. His arms hang down to the ground. He flies around. Nobody moves him. He stepped on my foot today and I thought it was broke."

The leader of the LB group is without-question Jordan Hicks had a great off-season and has earned the respect of the coaching staff and every player on the defensive side of the ball.

Desmond Jackson may not be knifing through the offensive line and making plays in the backfield quite yet. But no one is moving Jackson. He holds the point of attack.

Jackson is so strong (he came in as a freshman benching 450 pounds and will probably be the next 500-pound bench guy on this team). And Jackson is so compact that he is going to play a key role this season in his ability to replace Kheeston Randall as the 1-technique (nose tackle).

The other NT drawing some strong early reviews is Brandon Moore. Kenny Vaccaro said Moore has been "dominating" at times.

"He's a big body," Alex Okafor said of Moore. "He's getting used to the speed of the game coming from junior college. But he's going to help us."

Okafor said he's getting more and more comfortable with the role of senior leader. Okafor and S Kenny Vaccaro are the only two seniors on the defense.

Vaccaro and Mykkele Thompson are running first-team at safety with Adrian Phillips out recovering from shoulder surgery. Leroy Scott is also working into the rotation as well as Sheroid Evans, when Evans isn't running track.

Vaccaro said he will play nickel defensive back along with Phillips and Thompson (and possibly Leroy Scott).

Vaccaro had a couple interesting things to say about whether or not he should have entered the NFL Draft this year.

"I actually think I probably should have (entered the draft), but I think I can up my stock," Vaccaro said. "I watch this year's safety class, I think I can compete with those guys."

Vaccaro said he recently became a father to a baby boy, and that it's changed his life.

"I want to get my degree because the way I play I'm so reckless that I might knock myself out," Vaccaro said. "So I'm definitely going to get that insurance policy. Everything I do will help him (my son) in the future."

When it comes to spring practice, Vaccaro said, "Sometimes I get bored back there since I've been here three years and know the game. But Coach (Duane Akina) told me I need to pretend like it's my first time out there."

Vaccaro said he's "put it on myself to learn the whole defense and put everybody in place because when something goes wrong in the course of a game, maybe I can help guys out at linebacker or another position."

Vaccaro has never been shy, and he says the 2012 defense is going to be better than 2011.

"This defense is gonna be better than last year - oh yeah," Vaccaro said. "No offense to anyone, but it's faster."

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