Texas players met with the media on Tuesday night after practice to preview Saturday’s road matchup against No. 10 TCU. Here are two notes from the media availability.
Jefferson named semifinalist for Butkus Award
On Monday, junior linebacker Malik Jefferson was named a semifinalist for the Butkus Award, which is given annually to the nation’s best linebacker at the end of the season.
“It’s awesome,” Jefferson said. “It’s one of my secret goals that I’m working on.”
Jefferson has finally had the breakout year this season that so many have been expecting. The junior is currently the Longhorn leader in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks and quarterback hurries.
Jefferson, a highly coveted five-star recruit coming out of Poteet High School, showed flashes of his potential in 2015 in his very first game as a Longhorn when Texas got blown out by Notre Dame in South Bend, 38-3. Since then, it’s been an up-and-down couple of years for Jefferson. But this season, he has thrust himself into the national spotlight and turned into a nightmare for opposing offenses.
“I come back and look at it from where I started — from the beginning of this college career to where I ended up now — I just say thanks to everybody that’s been there supporting me,” Jefferson said. “Especially the players who have helped me make these plays and be a player on the field and for them having my back the whole way.”
At his Monday press conference, head coach Tom Herman said there were only two juniors on Texas’ roster that NFL scouts have inquired about. Those two juniors are Jefferson and injured left tackle Connor Williams.
Whether or not Jefferson leaves following this season is still too early to predict. But Jefferson has made the most of his junior season thus far and could very well be playing in the NFL come next year.
Offense gains momentum after win over Baylor
Herman said it best in his Monday press conference when he discussed the Longhorns’ defense and its role on the team at the moment.
“It’s no secret that they’re carrying us right now,” Herman said.
In a complete reverse from the narrative surrounding last year’s Texas team, it’s been the defense that has shined for the Longhorns this season, while the offense has sputtered. Texas has lacked a running game and experienced multiple injuries on the offensive line and at the quarterback position. But the players’ confidence in the offense has never wavered despite some disappointing performances.
“I wouldn’t say (the offense is) pressing,” sophomore defensive end Malcolm Roach said. “We have faith in them. We love our offense. We know they’re gonna
contribute for us.”
On Saturday in Waco against a winless Baylor team, the Longhorns finally found a little bit more consistency on the offensive side of the ball and were able to run it effectively, something that has been uncharacteristic for much of this season. Texas put up over 30 points in regulation for just the third time this season.
“Of course we pull positives out of it,” senior wide receiver Dorian Leonard said. “You go back, you watch film, you fix the mistakes and you use the stuff that you did well to help it develop your game into the next week.”