Buying back into DBU’s resurgence

Alex Briseño

When Texas hoisted the crystal ball trophy after a 41-38 national title victory over then-No. 1 USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl, the term Defensive Back University didn’t cause controversy. It resided at Texas. The 2006 game featured Texas’ defensive backs Michael Huff, Aaron Ross, Cedric Griffin, Tarell Brown and Michael Griffin — all were selected in the NFL Draft. Times have changed, though.

It’s been quite some time since Texas and USC went blow for blow, almost 13 years to be exact. Players have come and gone to the NFL. Others have gone into coaching, like Michael Huff, who is now an assistant defensive backs coach for
the Longhorns.

The glory days of DBU are a distant memory for most of the players on the current roster — the majority of them weren’t even 10 when Vince Young brought the title back to Austin.

“They (players) ask me about it (the game) all the time,” said Huff, who talked to the media before Texas’ matchup with USC last year. “Even before USC, they always bring it up in off-season training just to talk about the game. They were all kids, a lot of them didn’t even watch the game. It makes me feel old.”

Now, after a strand of lackluster performances during the Charlie Strong era, the term DBU is now a controversial one.

Senior cornerback Kris Boyd said he grew up watching Michael Huff, Quandre Diggs and Boyd’s cousin Curtis Brown, or as he calls it, the “DBU legacy.” When Boyd committed to play college ball at Texas, he and former Texas cornerback Holton Hill already had a goal.

“That’s something me and Hollywood (Holton Hill) talked about when we committed here, like how we were going to get it (DBU) back going and have people saying, ‘Oh man look at that secondary at Texas,’” Boyd said. “I’m just here to show them that this is what it’s about to be, DBU.”

Last year, Holton Hill, DeShon Elliott, PJ Locke III and Kris Boyd all starred in a highly-respected Texas defense led by Todd Orlando. Even after the secondary made significant improvements, they weren’t ready to reclaim the highly coveted title.

“We have done nothing,” Elliott said last season. “DBU’s still not here. That’s not for us.”

With Elliott and Hill off to the NFL, it’s up to veterans Boyd, Locke and Davante Davis to guide the freshmen in the right direction, something the seniors didn’t have much of when they were the newcomers. And according to Boyd, the freshmen have already bought in.

“It means a lot to show that they care. We came in as younger guys and tried to do the same thing,” Boyd said. “We didn’t have as much guidance, but they do. To see them buy in as soon as they get here. They look at us like, ‘I’m pouring my heart out for you, so tell me what you want.’ I can’t do anything but respect that.”

After a strong preseason camp, the freshmen are all over the depth chart. From Caden Sterns to B.J. Foster, Texas’ freshmen could be the group that helps return the unit to prominence, and they know it.

”We make each other better,” Sterns said. “The dude (Foster) is going to be really good, probably one of the best defensive backs to ever come through here. We’re already talking about DBU and ABS: America’s Best Secondary. We have our own little thing going.”

As the freshmen continue to build confidence, the veterans know where they’re coming from and where they’re headed. For now, though, they know it’s still too early to say DBU is back at Texas.

“Me personally, I don’t really like to emphasize that (DBU) too much,” Locke said. “I feel like we’re still in progress of letting that term come back. Until our old heads say we can use it, we can’t use it. Personally I don’t feel like we’re there yet. We’re on the right track. We can keep building toward it, but I don’t think we’re there yet.”