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Texas Defensive Player to Watch: Malik Jefferson

Once a TCU recruiting target, Malik Jefferson will face off against the Frogs this Saturday as as Longhorn. With Boykin and Co. on the docket, Jefferson will have his hands full.

Former TCU recruting target Malik Jefferson prepares to tackle OSU QB Mason Rudolph
Former TCU recruting target Malik Jefferson prepares to tackle OSU QB Mason Rudolph
Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Back in November Malik Jefferson, then a recruit, listed TCU as one of his top seven teams. TCU really wanted to bring him in to help out with our two starting linebackers graduating at the end of the season.  The way things have played out, it's even more frustrating that Jefferson didn't end up a Frog. Lord knows that we could use him.  But it was not meant to be.  Jefferson committed to Texas on December 19th and according to him, his decision was based on trust. He trusted that the coaches at Texas would be able to help him reach his full potential.  He trusted that playing at Texas would give him the chance to be a star.

Malik is 6'3", 240, runs a 4.39 forty and was a five star recruit coming out of high school.  It's a shame that he didn't give Patterson and his staff the chance to help develop him.  We all know that they would have been up to the task.  So far though, he has indeed been given his chance to shine as a Longhorn.  Malik started the season for Texas as a starting outside linebacker, the Fox linebacker in Texas' 3-3-5 defense.  The Fox is a hybrid role, one perfect for Jefferson's speed and athleticism.  He has the flexibility in that role to line up as a down lineman and rush the passer, or to line up behind the line of scrimmage as a linebacker.  It is similar to the way the DeMarcus Ware was used when he played for the Cowboys.

Jefferson's first game in that role was the Longhorn's season opener in South Bend against #11 Notre Dame.  He managed nine total tackles, five solo and four assisted, and was generally the only bright spot that Texas had to point to when that game was over.  Texas has a long way to go to get back to being a contender in the Big XII, but Jefferson is an athletic freak in a defense that Gary Patterson called "the best athletically that we've seen".

Next up for Malik was Rice, a game that Texas won 42-28. The defense wasn't exactly impressive in that win though, as Rice outgained Texas 462 to 277.  In that game, Malik again had nine tackles, six solo and three assisted.  After that, The Longhorns dropped a 45-44 decision to Cal. Texas' offense showed some real life in that game and came a missed extra point away from tying the score with less than a minute left to play.  This game was the third in a row in which Jefferson had nine tackles, but this time he had three solo and six assisted.  This appears to have been the start of his regression.  In the 30-27 loss to Oklahoma State this last weekend, he only managed two tackles, both solo. What's somewhat surprising given his position and athletic talents, he has not been able to record a sack yet this season.

While he has looked fast and athletic in his first four games, his production has declined in the last two games.  Facing off against a team that recruited him heavily, you can bet that Jefferson will be anxious to get back on track and make a big impact this weekend.  As a freshman matching up against the high powered offense of the Frogs, he has a tall task ahead of him.  What could have been is over now and as much as we would love to see Jefferson suited up in purple this weekend, he won't be.  While we wish him luck in his career with Texas, here's to hoping he has some second thoughts about committing to the Longhorns over the Frogs come Sunday morning.