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Rice Breakdown: Defense

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Gene Chizik was not pleased with what happened with the Buckeyes came to town. First and foremost, with himself.

"We didn't get the job done on defense, and that starts with me."

The man who hadn't lost in 29 games was outcoached by Jim Tressel and the Ohio State staff last week, but as we've been saying over and over... it happens. Even to the best of 'em. Following the disappointing performance last week, Chizik said that everybody's job was on the line, and the first team defense certainly responded. Let's take a look.

Defensive Line The unit we've been touting as one of Texas' best ever simply didn't have a great first two games. They were solid against North Texas, but not dominant. They were neutralized by Ohio State. Finally, against Rice, we saw some of the things we've been waiting to see.

And it all started with the tremendous play of Roy Miller in the middle. Miller didn't record a huge number of tackles on Saturday night, but he was blowing the Rice linemen off the ball on play after play after play - getting low, driving his blocker(s) back, and killing every play he was in on before it began. The coaches have been raving about his development; Saturday, finally, we saw why. Texas absolutely needs that from Miller to free up the rest of the line to make plays, which they were able to on Saturday... thanks to Miller.

Crowder, Robison, and Okam were all making plays against Rice; combined with Miller, there was nothing Rice could do to run the football. Okam was an absolute monster, eating up everyone Rice threw at him. The Owls managed just 24 yards rushing on 17 attempts, for 1.4 yards per rush play. (The official numbers show Texas allowed -12 rushing yards, but that includes sacks, which are pass plays.) You can't ask for better line play than what Texas got on Saturday. Anything short of an A would be too critical.

Linebackers The talent waiting behind the starters has gotten more and more playing time, with some interesting results. After a shaky game against Ohio State, Roderick Muckelroy played very well against Rice. As much as Chizik loves speedy players that can fly and make plays, Muck's going to keep playing more and more. He's got a legitimate shot to be great. Scott Derry, meanwhile, provided nice minutes in recording seven tackles. And, yes, (did you notice?) Sergio Kindle made his Longhorn debut in the 4th quarter, helping out on one tackle.

There still remains some sorting out to do on the depth chart, perhaps. Killebrew, Bobino, and Kelson are still your nominal starters, but there is some chance that Muck and Kindle could press them hard for playing time. Kelson's still not fully healed, though Mack Brown noted on Monday that they have no plans to redshirt him, despite him not playing a down yet.

For now, the unit is a work in progress, but Chizik has to like where this group can be by the mid- to late part of this season. Against Rice, the group was pretty good, if not elite. We'll offer a B.

Secondary Well, the starters were good. And true freshman Robert Joseph is still impressing the pants off of me. We got a good look at how much the Tarrell Brown suspension hurt the Horns last week, and even more this week. Once Ross and Brown left the game, Dink and Dunk.... err... Foster and Palmer... allowed the Owls to march down the field for their only score. On the fateful drive, Joel Armstrong completed 6 of 7 passes for 83 yards, including a 6 yard TD to Jarett Dillard.

This begs the question of what happens should Brown or Ross get hurt? Is it time to start giving minutes to Chykie Brown to see if he can be a contributor right away? My instinct is to say yes. Something to keep an eye on.

Marcus Griffin did miss the game with an ankle injury, but there's no shortage of guys that can do his job. The key is at cornerback. When we're healthy and/or not suspended, everything's fine. Behind them... less good. For Saturday, the unit gets a B. The backups just weren't very good.

--PB--