The Texas Longhorns have struggled on defense this season, but not because of a lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
UT has 13 sacks through five games, third most in the Big 12. That's a significant improvement from 2011, when Texas had just seven sacks over its first five contests.
The main reason for the turnaround is senior defensive end Alex Okafor, who leads the Big 12 with six sacks. Okafor was named the Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Monday after recording two sacks and two forced fumbles in Saturday's 48-45 loss to West Virginia. He also blocked a field goal attempt in the contest.
"I felt like I had my best game as a Longhorn," Okafor said. "I don't have many games left. I have to give it everything I got every single play and I got to make sure my teammates are doing the same thing. Me being a senior, I have to be one of the best players on the field, and that's what I plan on doing every week."
So far, Okafor has done exactly that. He's much improved from a season ago, when he was limited to one sack over the first five games. Okafor finished his junior campaign with seven sacks. He is on pace to double that number this year.
Jackson Jeffcoat has also seen his numbers increase in 2012. The junior has four sacks through five games. Last season, Jeffcoat was held without a sack over his first six games. He finished the year with eight sacks to lead Texas.
Why have Okafor and Jeffcoat recorded more sacks this season?
"It's just maturity and experience," said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. "They're just older this year than they were last year. Last year, they just hadn't played. This game favors experience. For most of us, it takes some time to develop. They are playing at a very high level. I'm very excited for the way that they've played and the pressure they've gotten."
The Longhorns will need to generate pressure up front again this week against No. 13 Oklahoma and veteran quarterback Landry Jones. That didn't happen last year, as UT sacked Jones just once during a 55-17 loss.
"We have get him outside of the pocket and make him move and make him uncomfortable, not allow him to sit back and be comfortable," Jeffcoat said. "We like to get pressure on people."
By Austin Laymance/Special to the Star-Telegram