Onward with the defensive review.
The defensive line was mostly good last night, led by a dominant effort from Frank Okam. There are certain folks who bark about Derek Lokey being the best player on the Texas defense, and while I appreciate the importance of Derek Lokey to the team, it's flat out bullshit. A healthy Frank Okam is the best player on Texas' defense by a wide margin. There were several plays last night where he simply blew his lineman straight backward to flush Leonard out of the pocket.
Lokey, meanwhile, had a pretty poor evening. He struggled to get any penetration and he committed a silly personal foul to extend an ASU drive.
The defensive ends did a pretty good job getting pressure on Corey Leonard, but the backside contain efforts were frequently out of position. You have to give a lot of credit to the sophomore quarterback for Arkansas State, who played as tough and gritty a game as I've ever seen from a vastly outmatched opponent.
As for run defense, the linemen did a pretty solid job, though the ends have work to do on their containment responsibilities. We knew that coming into the season, though, and it's here where the losses of Robison and Crowder will hurt the most.
As for Orakpo, let's hope he's okay, because as good as Eddie Jones is, Orakpo could be an All American if he's out there. I'm more worried about the power ends.
After a strong start, Rashaad Bobino once again had a lackluster game. Five tackles from your starting middle linebacker is practically unfathomable. Not that Jared Norton, his backup, was much better.
Killebrew and Derry, meanwhile, looked a whole lot like they did last year. Derry was solid, if unspectacular. Killebrew was around the ball but a far cry from a difference maker.
Rodderick Muckelroy just disappeared after the first half. Did he get hurt? He sure looked good early on, but he barely played after that. What happened?
I had high hopes that this could develop into a team strength this year, but I might have been wishcasting. For starters, we need Kindle to be ready to play and play big when his suspension ends. We need to play Muckelroy more and see what he's capable of. I'm not sure, too, that he shouldn't be at MLB. I'm just astounded by how often Bobino winds up on the wrong side of various blocks. The defense is set up for the middle linebacker to remain unblocked and make plays. Unfortunately, all too often Bobino winds up letting the opposing team dictate what happens to him.
Sadly, this is all old news. How many times must it be said? The starters aren't very good.
Who could have predicted that Tweedle Dee (Foster) would have had a bad game? After all that raving from "inside sources" and the media members who lapped it up, Brandon Foster was exactly what he was last season - not very good.
Every year there are a couple of upperclassmen who haven't developed like people hoped, but who the coaches ensure us are going to be key veterans now that they've had another year in the program. One of the things people always forget, though, is that these kids very, very rarely take magical leaps forward after three years in the program. The best ones flash their talent very early in their careers and then amp it up. The ones that look outmatched physically early on? Stay physically outmatched. Especially in the secondary.
So it is with Brandon Foster. Ditto Erick Jackson, who was bad last night. Ryan Palmer was decent, but I wouldn't confuse him for a player who should be starting at Texas. The fact is that the young kids with superior athletic ability should be playing. And not after we lose a game. Now.
Start Beasley. Start Chykie Brown. Get Curtis Brown on the field. Let 'em grow up on the field. If you watched any of Oklahoma's game last night, you'll note that Sam Bradford looks plenty capable of picking on a bad secondary. Last night, Texas' was pretty average.
This has traditionally been Akina's strength, so it's put up time for him as a coach. Make the tough decisions, get the best players on the field, and figure out how to improve your linebackers so that your secondary isn't working so damn hard.
We'll get into the iffy personnel decisions in a moment, but I will take a second to note that Akina was true to his word about using the blitz more. When Arkansas State got into a rhythm on offense, Akina brought the heat, with solid success. He didn't over-blitz, but he used it at the right times. I liked that he's at least willing to bring pressure, where Chizik just stood pat as things imploded around us.
Even so, Akina's got to be careful with making sure that the head and body of the defense are coordinated. When we're bringing a blitz, it might be wise to have the rest of the coverage prepared for, say, a draw, screen pass, or quick slant in the seam. Corey Leonard handled us just fine. What happens when a real team comes to town? (Don't answer that.)
Unfortunately, the back seven of this defense is not championship material. Fixing the linebacker play is easy to call for, but will be damn hard to implement. If Bobino's going to keep playing this way, what do you do? Jared Norton didn't look ready. Do you try Muckelroy there? Is he even ready?
Fixing the outside should be easier. Parking Killebrew on the bench isn't a tough thing to do, and though he wasn't awful last night, the guy's not a playmaker. Scott Derry is the same solid-but-limited guy he's always been. Again - these aren't bad players, and would look just fine in Arkansas State uniforms. But they won't be winning anything meaningful for Texas. I think that's more or less established by now.
All the preseason Erick Jackson hype? As predicted - overblown. Fifth year seniors who haven't been good enough before don't suddenly become good enough now. Ditto for Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. They're fast, I guess, but they aren't good cornerbacks. And they're tiny.
I don't think Texas has any structural scheming problems to worry about on defense. They have personnel problems. If Akina wants to get the most out of his team, they'll have to make some tough decisions, lean on some younger talent, and park some of the guys with experience on the bench.
Is he up for it? I don't know. He's got the same game film you and I do now, though. I guess we'll find out next week.