We continue our look at the five biggest disappointments and surprises of 2006 with none other than Gene Chizik, recently departed defensive coordinator. Let's face it, the first three guys on this list were defensive players, the team's biggest struggles this year were on the defensive side of the ball, and I think that a number of the problems with this group have to be attributed to the man who was coordinating the whole shebang.
I've already noted that the linebackers were supposed to be a team strength this season, and while injuries were a part of the problem for this year's group, the way the problem was handled left a lot to be desired. Chizik had a near-obsession this season with stopping the run, a commitment Chizik went so overboard trying to pursue that the pass defense was a humiliating 114th in the nation in yards allowed.
Our safeties, neither of whom were elite cover guys to begin with, were pushed up around the line of scrimmage time after time, purportedly to make up for the poor play of the linebackers. That decision, though, left Texas' secondary painfully vulnerable to deep routes, play action, and trick plays. Most frustrating of all, though, was the seeming lack of adjustment on Chizik's part. We kept hearing that the safeties would change their approach and quit coming up to stop the run too much, but up, up, up they kept coming until - finally, tragically - the team was buried by Kansas Freaking State.
Further, Gene Chizik was more than the team's defensive coordinator - he was the team's linebackers coach. With an above average defensive line, it's simply unfathomable that Texas couldn't adequately slow down the run to leave enough help in the secondary for coverage. Chizik never managed to get his group of linebackers to play well, but he also failed to adjust his scheme to provide some sort of balance for the team's weakness. Chizik sat in his base defense stubbornly all season long, which, as the season progressed and the injuries mounted, resulted in a reactive system which gave all the power to the opposing offensive coordinator. The pass rush virtually disappeared, the safeties kept coming up more and more, and, inevitably, the opponents exploited what Texas was doing.
There were whispers, too, that Chizik wasn't doing a good job with his personnel choices. One of the first things we heard after Chizik's departure to Iowa State was that a number of other coaches felt that inferior players were starting and playing over guys with more talent. We can only speculate on whether that's true, but I think we all saw enough frustrating play from a number of players to think that there's some truth in that idea.
The bottom line is that this year's set of problems did not mesh well with the areas in which Gene Chizik excels. Given elite talent at linebacker and safety, Chizik's proven he can manage the defense. He proved this season, though, that his adjustment ability is lacking when there are injuries or personnel deficiencies. For that, Gene Chizik earns his spot near the top of the list of this season's disappointments.