|Texas trying to plug holes in pass defense|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 19 August 2008 12:20|
The Longhorns set school records last season in pass defense futility, giving up the most yards (3,611) and touchdowns (23) and the highest completion percentage (61 percent). They were poor by anyone's standards, ranking 109th nationally.
So coach Mack Brown made some changes.
He hired a new defensive coordinator, snatching Will Muschamp from Auburn, and moved Duane Akina back to his familiar role as secondary coach.
If Texas is going to challenge for the Big 12 title, it will be their job this season to mold a young and mostly inexperienced secondary into one that can handle a league dominated by good quarterbacks and passing offenses.
Big 12 opponents averaged 302 yards passing against Texas last season.
``They can't play young,'' senior linebacker Rashad Bobino said. ``They have to play like vets.''
There should be plenty of physical talent to choose from. The secondary includes five players who were recruited as high school all-Americans, although four of those are redshirt freshmen or just stepped on campus.
``We've got athleticism. I like our speed,'' Muschamp said. ``So the tools are there. I'd rather be working with this than with a bunch of experienced guys who can't play.''
At cornerback, junior Ryan Palmer started all 13 games last season and led the team with six interceptions. Junior Deon Beasley has played in 20 games, although he has started only two. Their backups, sophomores Chykie Brown and Curtis Brown, total just 25 tackles between them.
At safety, junior Ishie Oduegwu has played in 25 career games with three starts.
This is where the highly touted freshmen come in. The coaches have mentioned redshirt freshman safety Earl Thomas as a standout in training camp. And redshirt freshmen safeties Ben Wells and Christian Scott were high school all-Americans, as were true freshmen corners Aaron Williams and Nolan Brewster.
Akina has coached the Texas secondary since 2001. Despite last season's failures he has the chops to turn things around after coaching two Thorpe Award winners the past three years (Michael Huff in 2005 and Aaron Ross in 2006).
``The maturity level is always your No. 1 concern when you've got a lot of (young) guys,'' Akina said. ``I think you've got to be patient with them. ... We've been through this drill a number of years ago when we were forced to play a lot of young guys early.''
Texas' poor pass defense could be blamed in part on the Big 12 itself, a league where 10 teams passed for at least 3,000 yards last season. Kansas (No. 14) and Texas Tech (No. 49) were the only Big 12 teams in the top 50 in pass defense.
But last season's problems didn't just come in the deep parts of the field.
Texas struggled to maintain a consistent pass rush and the linebackers were often victims of short passes that turned into long plays.
Muschamp's position responsibility is the linebackers, where Bobino, Jared Norton, Sergio Kindle and Rod Muckelroy will be called on to be much better around the line of scrimmage
``We're going to play eight spread (offense) teams,'' Muschamp said. ``If we don't tackle in space we're going to struggle.''