John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE
The Iowa State game is one of those weeks where its easy to focus on the big picture and ignore the game on the field. With the celebration of Veteran’s Day and the life of Darrell K. Royal preceding the game, the actual game could be viewed as a mere formality. In press availability, coaches and players took a moment to talk about where the team is headed into game 10 against the Iowa State Cyclones.
Johnathan Gray on November 6th's practice: Practice was good. Got physical today. It was a full-padded practice. Best-on-best. Went hard today. Got a lot accomplished getting ready for Iowa State.
Apparently, John Gray with the press matches John Gray with opposing defenses. Direct, to the point, no wasted motion, focused. Tuesday's full pads, physical practice is good news for Longhorn fans. The team needs as many full speed reps to continue improving the most critical area of development for the 2012 Longhorns, physicality. Iowa State is as physical a team the Horns will face this year, and not taking them seriously could prove to be a big mistake that derails the positive momentum created over the last 6 quarters of football.
Steve Edmond on breaking up Texas Tech senior QB Seth Doege's pass on Saturday: I was just reading the quarterback's eyes. He was looking to my right the whole time, so I just started drifting that way. I was just shuffling instead of running. If I had been running, it would have been picked off.
Improved linebacker play has played no small part in the recent improvement of the Texas defense. Steve Edmond has really started to come along in this stretch of improved defensive play. Coming into the season, the belief was Edmond's long arms and size would be used to occupy space in the middle and make throws over the middle a difficult task for opposing QBs. Aside from the interception early against Ole Miss, that aspect of Edmond's game really hadn't come into play. However, he got his chance against Seth Doege last Saturday and make a spectacular stretch to deflect a pass down the left seam. As he continues to get comfort making drops into zone coverage, he will have continued opportunities to turn those deflections into interceptions.
Duane Akina on CB Duke Thomas' confidence level: It is high, and Duke is a great player. I think Duke has the chance at being an outstanding player, and I think you will continue to see him get snaps. Of course, there are a couple of corners out there who are playing well and that are good corners themselves, and this is a good secondary. They came after him right from day one, right from the first snap. He got the sweep his way and then they came back with a slant and that is all it is. When a new guy comes out there, they are going to find out why you are not in the starting line-up. We understand that, but Duke did a nice job and I think you will see Duke's reps continue to grow as the season.
One of the interesting story lines against Texas Tech was the work Duke Thomas got early in the game. After Carrington Byndom was shaken up on a tackle, Duke Thomas came on in relief. He was a player that really opened eyes during his early enrollment in the spring, playing extremely well for a true freshman that was a high school quarterback. His relief work against Tech came before a group of more experienced cornerbacks ahead of him. Immediately, Tech went after the freshman, who made a strong play in run support at the line of scrimmage, then followed it by poorly closing out on a slant route and allowing a Tech WR yards after catch by turning to the outside. But the freshman held up in his limited opportunity in the game. Additional CBs stepping up and earning play time would be a huge benefit for the Texas defense, allowing Kenny Vaccaro to be played in more roles than simply covering slot receivers.
Duane Akina On the progression at safety position outside of senior S Kenny Vaccaro: I believe Kenny is one of the best defensive backs in the country right now. Since I have been here, we have seen some of the best defensive backs walk out of here. But what we are asking him to do with a very young defense we had never asked Michel Huff, Michael Griffin or Earl Thomas to do or as many of the things in terms of coverage and blitz. We have put a lot of run-pass strains on him. He is playing at a very high level right now, which is a very good model for Mykkele (Thompson) and Josh (Turner). I would say Kenny is playing as well as any defensive back in the country.
I'm going to take every opportunity to gush about what Kenny Vaccaro means to this defense. This Texas defense asks a lot of the senior, with literally no task off-limits. He's able to mask a lot of the deficiencies in the back seven, and I don't care to imagine what the defense would be without him. Here's to hoping he finishes out his senior campaign on a high note.