Texas Longhorns Report Card: Defense vs UCF

You ready for this? It wasn't particularly pretty, so I hope you're not expecting a string of pats on the butt. Some of these kids deserve 'em. Some do not. It's hard to give the coaches anything but a knowing glare.

Defensive Line

Man those top three tackles are something special. Okam, Lokey, and Miller took turns blowing up the middle of Central Florida's line, routinely beating any attempts at single-blocks and often commanding two.

Our defensive ends are looking solid themselves, but they're hamstrung by having to babysit for our subpar linebackers. Seriously, our ends practically sit there on some plays for fear that the OLBs won't be able to do their jobs. It's a game of wait and see, instead of get up the field to disrupt the plays early.

Unless and until the linebacking situation changes and/or improves, this unit's strength is being wasted. No fault of their own, of course.

GRADE: A

Linebackers

What can we say that hasn't been said already? I honestly don't have to keep going over this, so let's just do the short version.

Jared Norton made three straight tackles in this game, and promptly disappeared. Muckelroy picked up a late hit foul and disappeared. (Funny, that's never kept Killebrew off the field.)

Instead, we're stuck with the three blind mice. With bad results again. Either this situation changes, or Texas continues to struggle. It really is that simple.

GRADE: F

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Can we give a hat tip to Ryan Palmer? No, I'm being serious - he's playing good football. Like, really. He's been solid. Especially last Saturday, and though he's still not the world's greatest cornerback, I've got nothing negative to say about his play at all. To the contrary, he was out there making plays on the ball and tackling like a beast. I loved it.

The same cannot be said for Brandon Foster who, despite his interception returned for a touchdown, had a miserable game. That he was named the Big 12 defensive player of the week is comical. I'm sure the kid has a ton of spunk and heart and drive and all that jazz, but he's not very good at playing cornerback. I shudder with fear thinking about him on Malcolm Kelly.

The safeties were pretty strong on Saturday, though Jackson still falls asleep on his coverage responsibilities too often. He's out of place on too many plays, and though he's getting a bit better as the season goes on, this looks to me like another case of the rule, rather than an exception: fifth year seniors aren't suddenly great players. He'll do for now, but he's occupying the spot Robert Joseph should be manning.

The unit hasn't been a problem yet this year, but we have to note that we've faced three pitiful passing games. That won't always be the case.

GRADE: B

Defensive Coaching

I remember talking to Duane Akina this summer and listening to him talk to me about the various ways that "pressure could hurt" the opposing offense. He made sure to emphasize that the "illusion of pressure" was as valuable as a blitz itself.

What do you think happened between then and now?

Who knows, but Coach Akina has yet to meet a blitz he doesn't like. Moreover, when it looks like Texas is about to blitz? They are! The only illusion is that this kind of possessed blitzing is sustainable over the course of a season. Opposing offensive coordinators across the Big 12 will lick their chops when they watch game film of this scheme. I shudder to think how many touchdowns Quentin Griffin would score against this particular strategy.

It'd be nice if someone kindly showed Coach Akina a tape of Carl Reese's last year at Texas, when the wheels officially came off. Unfortunately, Akina's taken Chizik's weakness ("No blitz, ever. Period. Hold your ground, sailors. The ship won't sink!") and taken it to the other extreme ("The ship is sinking! Everybody run!")

Find the middle gournd, Duane.

GRADE: D

--PB--

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