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Best Big 12 Defensive Prospect: Jeffcoat Or Colvin?

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Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images.
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images.

Looking ahead to the upcoming Big 12 season, both Texas and Oklahoma are eyeing a return to the top of the conference and challenging for the final BCS Championship game. Much of their success will be determined by their defensive abilities to hold off the high-powered offenses that litter the Big 12.

For Oklahoma, much of the defensive focus will center on Aaron Colvin, who returned for his senior season to elevate the Sooners back into title contention and challenge for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top corner. Texas' success will rest on defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat’s ability to return to form after season-ending surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle. 

Which of these two players will end the season as the best defensive player in the Big 12 essentially becomes a “dealer’s choice." Jeffcoat can dictate to an offense with his pass rushing ability, while Colvin has the ability to take away part of the field. With both players slotted to be potential first-round selections in the 2014 NFL Draft, determining the best defensive prospect in the Big 12 comes down how each can elevate his ability, as well as their team’s fortunes for the 2013 season.

Aaron Colvin, DB, Oklahoma

Colvin began his college career as a cornerback, starting one game his freshman year in the pass-happy Big 12. As a sophomore, he was named starting strong safety and led the team in tackles while highlighting his knack for making plays. Last season, he returned to his corner position and continued to blossom, recording 52 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks and 4 interceptions along with 11 pass breakups. Colvin was named to the Big 12 first team for his efforts. 

At 6-foot-1,181 pounds, Colvin possesses good size NFL teams covet. He shows the speed needed to be a shutdown corner in the NFL. He excels in zone coverage where he has shown an innate ability to find the ball in the air. Colvin exhibits the skill to see routes develop and anticipate throws. He has better off man skills at this point than press man. In his press alignment, he drifts back at times, allowing for cleaner releases than intended. He does show closing speed on breaks after free releases. Colvin may be one of the best open-field tackling corners in the country. His ability to “sprint tackle,” closing the air between him and the ball, limits any gains by wideouts. The Sooners utilize him as a blitzer, and Colvin has excelled in disrupting offenses in the backfield. 

If there is a knock on Colvin, it’s that he will try to make every play. Now, this is a great trait to have to rein in, but Colvin will at times disregard a responsibility in order to make a play, and that can be a 50/50 proposition. In my opinion, all the great corners have this trait of wanting to make every play. Colvin’s ability to determine and choose the times to make a game-changing play may distinguish him from merely being a good corner to becoming a great one.

Jackson Jeffcoat DE, Texas

Jeffcoat comes from an NFL pedigree. His father Jim Jeffcoat, was a pass-rushing terror for the Dallas Cowboys for 12 seasons and later became their defensive line coach.

In his sophomore season at Texas, Jackson Jeffcoat became a full-time starter, recording 71 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, 9 pressures and 3 pass breakups on his way to All-Big 12 second team honors. His junior year began well enough, starting the first six games before an injury cut short his season. Still, he finished second on the team in tackles for loss (11), four sacks and two forced fumbles.

At 6-5, 245, Jeffcoat is undersized as an NFL end. He has an explosive first step out of his three-point stance. He will rush from a two-point stance and work as a drop end in coverage in the Longhorns defensive scheme. Jeffcoat utilizes his long arms to keep tackles at bay while showing the ability to power offensive linemen along with a burst of speed in rushing the passer.

In the run game, he does a great job setting the edge, but at times he can get stuck on a lineman. Jeffcoat plays with a good pad level, but versus power teams he will get knocked off the ball. I would like to see him play with a bit more of a motor chasing plays. His forte is getting after the quarterback; he's posted at least one sack in 10 of his last 13 games. Jeffcoat has the type of ability that can alter an offense’s protections and potentially the Longhorns' bowl fortunes.

The best defensive prospect in the Big 12 is . . . 

Colvin and Jeffcoat are both talented and game-changing performers. One has the ability to pressure the quarterback, while the other has the ability to take away an offense’s best receiver threat. In the end, there can be only one No. 1.

Colvin has the ability to shut down a side of the field. He not only has excelled at corner, but was the leading tackle for the Sooners as a safety in 2011. Colvin can impact a game in coverage or as a blitzer off the edge. He is a weapon that can be deployed in a multitude of creative ways and make plays.

Jeffcoat has been a consistent edge rusher, but questions are inevitable coming off season-ending surgery. Jeffcoat will certainly be ready to address any lingering issues about his pectoral repair come August, but Colvin has been mastering his craft all spring. Colvin could have been a first round selection in this last draft, but he returned to prove he is the best corner in the 2014 draft class, while leading the Sooners back the BCS title contention.