Texas Longhorns defensive end Alex Okafor considers Reggie Wilson one of college football's best backups. That's about to change.
Wilson is prepared to make his first career start on Saturday when Texas (4-2, 1-2 Big 12) hosts Baylor (3-2, 0-2). The Haltom High School product will assume a larger role for the Longhorns with fellow junior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat out for the season due to injury.
"Reggie has just been a player in waiting," said Okafor, who leads UT with six sacks. "Before this, he was one of the best backups in college football. It's his time now."
Wilson has one sack, one tackle for loss and 11 total tackles in six games this season. He's filling in for one of UT's best defenders, though. Jeffcoat leads Texas with 11 tackles for loss and is second with four sacks.
"Obviously, you can't replace a player like Jackson Jeffcoat," Wilson said. "I know my role is to step up and help us win the next game. Jackson is a completely different player than who I am. I just have to play my game, do my part and help us win games."
Wilson has been waiting for an opportunity like this for a long time.
He didn't start playing football until seventh grade, when he was introduced to the sport. Wilson was born in Africa's Ivory Coast, where his parents relocated following a bloody civil war in neighboring Liberia. He spent 11 years living in Africa, often in refugee camps, before moving to the United States in 2003.
With a lot of hard work, Wilson has blossomed into a solid defender since coming to Texas in 2010.
"Coming in, the coaches knew that I was raw," Wilson said. "I always had speed and strength. But as far as the little things like which steps to take, eye control, just little things with my technique are things I've tried to work on over the years. I see improvement and I just need to keep getting better. I feel like I have improved every year and it's time for me to help Texas win."
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has also noticed Wilson's growth as a pass rusher. Wilson had three quarterback pressures in 13 games last season. He's already matched that number this year.
"Reggie Wilson is a guy who has really come a long way from last season," Diaz said. "Not just in terms of his ability to come off the edge and pressure the quarterback, which he's done a couple times this year, but in terms of being a dependable guy. He'll be asked to step up."
By Austin Laymance/Special to the Star-Telegram