UT Defense: As Bad As It Gets?

View Small TextView Normal TextView Large TextView Extra Large TextPrinter-Friendly Article

By Bill Frisbie, Inside Texas Lead Writer
Posted Oct 16, 2012
Copyright © 2014 InsideTexas.com


News Image
Manny Diaz

Texas’ defense has sunk to John Mackovician levels and is on course to become the worst-ever in program history in several key categories.  Its run defense ranks dead last in a league where defense is a national punch line. Now, frontline players are publicly calling out teammates and questioning what is shaping up as a historically inept unit.

 

“We have no confidence in our run defense,” defensive end Alex Okafor said.

Texas is yielding 209.2 rushing yards per game and ranks 103rd nationally. Statistically, even John Mackovic fielded a better run defense during his six-year tenure. The last time Texas was gutted for more than its current 5.1 yards-per-rush was 1956. 

“Tackling is something we should have learned a long time ago,” cornerback Quandre Diggs said. “Right now, we should be polishing up on those things.”

Texas missed at least 16 tackles against OU.  It combined for 32 whiffs in the previous three ball games.

The fact that most of the defensive starters simply aren’t putting forth the effort is “causing a cancer on the team,” according to safety Kenny Vaccaro.  It’s a baffling dynamic for the senior who previously tongue-lashed teammates for their listless performances. 

“I don’t know why it’s like that,” Vaccaro said.  “Honestly, I really don’t know. It’s your decision to be the caliber of player you want to be. I don’t know why somebody wouldn’t play hard.  For me, it’s shocking because, every down, I really, really try to play as hard as I can, so I don’t know why anybody would want to give it any less.”

The numbers don’t lie. Here are the low-water marks for Longhorn defense relative to where things currently stand:

 

Most Yards-per-game:

401.2    (1993)

449.7    (2012)

Most yards-per-play

6.6       (1993)

6.4       (2012)

Most yards-per-rush

5.5       (1956)

5.1       (2012)

Most points per game allowed

33.3     (1997)

32.5     (2012)

 

The old adage is that it starts with coaching, but coordinator Manny Diaz is pleased that so much of the in-house rhetoric is stemming from players.

“For the first time, I’m starting to see the movement for us to become a player-driven team,” Diaz said, adding that he had no qualms with his players’ candid assessment. “Our run defense was horrendous Saturday, and that responsibility goes to me.”

The regular season is half over, but Diaz insists that the problems remain fixable. Part of it is as simple as players lining up six inches more to either the left or the right, he said.  He wants his defense to play with more abandon, echoing Saturday’s statement that players “can’t be physical if they are unsure” of what they’re supposed to do.  But he quickly added Saturday that his scheme had been as simplified as it could get.

“It comes from the confidence that you can go get it done,” Diaz said. “What happens is that you over-think tackling somebody, and when you over-think, you start playing slow. When you play slow, it looks like you’re not aggressive. It’s not that you don’t want to tackle.  It’s actually just the opposite. You get so worried about not making the tackle that you forget the first fundamental of tackling:  you go lights-out.”

Like many teams, Texas does not practice live tackling between the first team offense and defense, players confirmed.  Scout team members are typically the only players tackled all the way to the ground.  Diaz made vague references to changing up some drills this week, but only specified that it was the type of change intended to enhance the level of intensity. 

For now, Diaz cautioned his players to pay no more attention to what is being said of them following Saturday’s blowout than they did during the pre-season when Texas’ defense was touted as the team’s strength. 

“The story of this defense is not written this week,” Diaz concluded.  “It’s just half time.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New to Inside Texas?