Defensive adjustments needed in midst of coaching changes

Peter Sblendorio

Not even a full day passed after Texas’ disheartening 40-21 loss to Brigham Young University before head coach Mack Brown felt the need to make a change to his coaching staff.

Now, the burden falls on the players to make changes of their own.

After surrendering a school-record 550 rushing yards to the Cougars last Saturday, Texas’ defense enters into a state of transition. Players took the ousting of defensive coordinator Manny Diaz personally and plan on spending the week fixing the issues that have plagued the defense the past few seasons.

“When you give up 550-some yards on defense and the defensive coordinator gets fired the next day, you kind of feel responsible,” senior cornerback Carrington Byndom said. “We do take that upon ourselves. There’s nothing we can do about it but just continue to get better and strive to keep working for this weekend.”

The Longhorns struggled with poor tackling and allowed the Cougars to plow through the middle of the defense at will. Junior linebacker Jordan Hicks believes fixing the issue starts with better execution and says achieving this starts with ensuring the Longhorn defenders are on the same page on every play.

“I think a lot of that comes with understanding why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Hicks said. “Whatever just needs to be done, like ask more questions, get in the film room more, whatever — we’ve got to be able to know that we’re doing everything right and going through practice and feeling very confident coming out on Saturdays knowing that we’ve prepared.”

Diaz’s replacement is former Texas co-defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, who comes with 36 years of coaching experience. Robinson began working as a football analyst for the Longhorns in July, and Brown believes that he will make an immediate impact in improving the team’s pursuit to the ball. 

“He makes great adjustments,” Brown said. “When he was here before, we tackled very well. We chased the ball. We were very sound fundamentally, and he’s a guy that kids love to play for.”

The Longhorns know enhancing their run defense is a vital step in keeping points off the board and getting the ball back in the hands of the offense. That’s where Robinson comes in — he was successful in stopping the run with a 2004 Texas team that relinquished just 107.4 yards on the ground per game.

Robinson has only four days of practice with his new team before Texas lines up against Ole Miss on Saturday. The coordinator met briefly with the Texas players for the first time Sunday evening, and Hicks admits that he is unsure of whether Robinson will employ changes to the schemes they ran under Diaz.

“I don’t know what to expect defensively,” Hicks said. “I’m not sure if we’re sticking with the same stuff or taking it in a new direction. I have no clue. We haven’t talked about it yet.”