|Former Texas RB finally thriving at DE|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 30 October 2008 10:00|
When a smaller linebacker dropped the 275-pound fullback for no gain in the last regular season game of 2006, it was time to try something else. Melton, whose production had waned after he scored 10 touchdowns as a freshman in 2005 when Texas won the national championship, was moved to defensive end.
The change took a long time to pay off, but with two sacks last week against Oklahoma State, Melton is emerging as a pass-rushing force to complement Brian Orakpo as the No. 1 Longhorns (8-0) get ready to play No. 6 Texas Tech (8-0) on Saturday night.
``It's probably where he should have been the whole time,'' Texas coach Mack Brown said.
Melton's uncle, former NFL defensive back Ray Crockett, had tried to tell everyone, Brown and Henry included, that his nephew's future was on the defensive line. Melton, however, wanted to run and score touchdowns.
Williams and I wanted him to be. We both worked at it really, really hard and for whatever reason it didn't work,'' Brown said. ``Now, he's become a great player.''
Texas fans loved watching him run over smaller defenders at Rice and Sam Houston State. They also saw what would eventually be his downfall.
Too often, Melton tried to run light on his feet, trying to cut and move like he was 50 pounds lighter. Instead of bashing his way over the goal line for the game-clinching touchdown at Ohio State in 2005, he dived for the corner and didn't make it. Texas still won and all was forgiven, but a pattern would soon emerge.
``I was younger. I thought I could jump a little higher than I could,'' Melton said this week.
M linebacker, his only carry in a game Texas lost was his last. By the Alamo Bowl a few weeks later, he was on defense, leaving behind 625 career yards rushing and 16 touchdowns.
``My coaches told me I could be pretty great. I took the challenge,'' he said.
The transition was hard. Melton had to learn everything, from where and how to line up, how to fight off blockers, and how to read the play as it developed.
``I was pretty bad,'' he said. ``I had never gotten down in a stance, not even in high school. They had a good time watching me try to work my feet.''
A drunken driving charge in the summer of 2007 led to a three-game suspension and many hours of team-imposed community service. He played in 10 games last season but made only 11 tackles.
``That situation was pretty bad. I've tried to put it behind me, do community things and get my head on straight,'' Melton said. ``You can do what's right or you can slack off. I went back to work.''
Last spring, Texas got a new defensive coordinator in Will Muschamp. Melton had a clean slate and a chance to impress. He's lighter now, having shed 15 pounds from his days as a running back.
Melton has tried to model his game after Orakpo, who is arguably Texas' best pass rusher since All-American Tony Brackens in the mid-1990s.
``We had to really fine tune his game: fix his stance, reading run and pass, all types of little things you need to be a good defensive end,'' Orakpo said.
Melton's two sacks against Oklahoma State came in the second half. The first forced a punt and the second came late in the fourth quarter with Texas leading 28-24.
Texas will need to pressure Tech quarterback Graham Harrell if it hopes to slow down the Red Raiders' passing attack. Harrell has been sacked only three times this season. Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson had been sacked only four times until Texas dumped him five times last week.
Texas has been ranked No. 1 for nearly a month. Melton is one of the few current Longhorns who had a big role on the 2005 championship team and he sees some similarities to that season.
``This team reminds me of '05. Everybody likes each other. That's good,'' he said. ``I've got some memories from that year, but I'm enjoying this right now.''
Even though he's not scoring touchdowns anymore?
``It was fun,'' Melton said. ``But I like hitting, too.''