Bedford looks for consistency from defense

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Sophomore linebacker Malik Jefferson tackles an Oklahoma State runner. Jefferson recorded 61 tackles in 2015, and was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the year in July.
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford addressed the media on Wednesday prior to Texas’ week one matchup with No. 10 Notre Dame. Bedford highlighted the Longhorns’ improvement throughout the off-season and the necessity for more consistency in 2016. 

“We’re gonna have to be better,” Bedford said. “You see a guy, he looks pretty for a play, then he gets four flat tires. We can’t afford to have that this season.”

Bedford fielded numerous questions about sophomore linebacker Malik Jefferson, the Big 12 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Jefferson quickly became a standout player for Texas in 2015. He ended the year with 61 tackles, seven of them for loss. 

But Bedford is looking for more sustained excellence from Jefferson, not just flashes of greatness. 

“[Jefferson] is learning how to play within the frame of the defense,” Bedford said. “Like a lot of freshmen last year, he flashed a lot. But you go in and watch the video as a football coach, he missed a lot of plays.”

Notre Dame’s offense will be in the same boat as Texas on Sunday — both will play two quarterbacks. Both junior DeShone Kizer and senior Malik Zaire are expected to receive snaps, forcing the Longhorns to gameplan for two signal-callers. 

Zaire started for Notre Dame in last year’s opener, shredding the Longhorn defense for 313 yards and three touchdowns. But a fractured ankle cut his season short prior to week three, ceding the starting job to Kizer, who threw 21 touchdowns in 11 starts. Bedford praised both quarterbacks and noted the difficulties they pose to Texas’ defense. 

“Both [Kizer and Zaire] are difficult to defend,” Bedford said. “They’re athletic, they can run. If you have good coverage they both can scramble.”

Texas’ defense is looking to improve after ranking No. 87 in scoring defense last year. But Bedford is confident in his team heading into opening night.  

“The attitude of the team right now is something we didn’t have last year,” Bedford said. “Guys are focused, they’re ready to go.”