Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we took a deep dive this summer into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series offered a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We went down the entire roster, starting with No. 1 Shiro Davis, and today we complete the series with our final player, No. 99 Desmond Jackson.
No. 99 Desmond Jackson
Senior defensive tackle
Recruitment rewind: The state's top defensive line prospect in 2011 considered two schools: Texas and Alabama. But once Jackson got his Texas offer at a 2010 junior day, he committed on the spot and never wavered. The Houston Westfield standout ranked 31st in the final ESPN 150 for his class, was the state's No. 4 overall recruit and played in the Under Armour All-America Game.
Career so far: Jackson showed flashes as a true freshman, with 10 tackles and two sacks in 12 games, and joined the starting lineup as a sophomore. He started 11 of 13 games and recorded 33 tackles, seven TFLs and two more sacks. He backed up Chris Whaley as a junior until Whaley went down with a torn ACL at West Virginia. Jackson was credited with starts in two of Texas' final four games but was thrust back into a major role to end the year. He worked with the No. 1 defense again in spring ball.
Best-case scenario for 2014: Jackson becomes a consistent problem up the middle for interior linemen, teaming with Malcom Brown to give the Longhorns one of the nation's best defensive tackle duos. He's always been a good run-stuffer at 6-foot-1 and 305 pounds, a weight-room warrior and one of the Longhorns' strongest players. He might even be one of Texas' most underrated assets on defense. But Jackson has yet to prove he can play like an all-conference performer week in and week out.
Worst-case scenario for 2014: You know Brown, being the behemoth he is, will draw extra attention from opponents this season and probably more than a few double teams. Jackson will have to capitalize on those prime opportunities and help this defensive line get the push it needs against the run and the pass. He's been good for two sacks a year, and it'd be disappointing if Jackson isn't in the backfield wreaking havoc more often as a senior.
Future expectations: The senior came to Texas as a top-five defensive tackle prospect nationally and seems like a sure bet to end up playing in the NFL. His on-field resume to this point, while solid, probably wouldn't be enough to ensure a selection in the draft next spring. But there's no reason to think Jackson has peaked, and working with a new defensive line coach with new ideas could bring out the best in him. If the new staff can coax bigger, better things out of its veteran players like Jackson, that might make the difference between Texas being a good team and a great one.