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Texas Coaching Changes: Teryl Austin and Staff Announcements

Edited intro: Several of you have pointed out to me by email that if I wasn't willing to speculate on staff firings, then I shouldn't be reporting rumors related to staff hirings. My tolerance for the latter is substantially higher than the former, but it's a fair criticism, and if enough people think it's a distinction without a difference, I'll agree that being consistent is better. Because as I said before: it doesn't matter when we know what happens. It just matters what happens.

For those who missed the original intro, I passed along some information about potential timelines and retaining Major. It's nothing we won't know soon enough, one way or the other.

Now, after the jump, a few thoughts on hiring Teryl Austin...

Teryl Austin Evaluation

My preference was for a Randy Shannon, David Shaw one-two punch, but that dream apparently died with Randy Shannon's official interview, which I'm told didn't go as swell as Mack Brown had hoped. The chat with Teryl Austin did, and he's apparently our new Defensive Coordinator, although Bellmont has yet to make a formal announcement. The Dallas Morning News reports that there is nothing worked out yet, but for present purposes let's assume that the hiring of Teryl Austin is, in fact, going to happen.

What should be made of the hire? Well, it's a bit hard to say, because we don't know all that much about Austin as a defensive coordinator. Here's what we do know:

Schematically, Austin's base defense features a 4-3 front seven within Cover 2. Austin's coaching background revolves around defensive backs and his secondary at Florida performed solidly this season, and were particularly deft at taking the ball away. Spencer Hall describes Austin's schematic style as reflective of his experience in the pros; if Will Muschamp's style was fluid and adaptable, Austin's approach is more systematic. My sense is that, like I imagine Randy Shannon would have, Austin will do a good job of getting his charges to do what it is he wants them to do. But it's unknown whether, or how well, he's able to adapt his defense to meet varying approaches by offenses.

That's something to keep in mind, considering that the Big 12 has become one of the most progressive offensive leagues in the country. It's also potentially relevant considering the varying personnel options he's going to have at his disposal in college, which differs substantially from that in the NFL. I was particularly impressed by the MacGyver capabilities of Muschamp. We don't know much about what Austin needs to make things work, or whether he's as capable of getting what he wants from his defense while having to work with a weak link or three.

We're equally unsure who Austin is as a recruiter, although my instinct is that he's going to do well in that regard. Still, he is a relative unknown in this area and will have to prove himself as an evaluator.

If there's one proven strength about which to be excited it is on the developmental side. Austin did a fantastic job as a pro coach quickly bringing along DBs like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Antrel Rolle, and Ken Hamlin. (Which is one reason why it's easy to be optimistic about his potential as a recruiter: if he has the right eye for identifying top talent at an early age, he's got the pedigree to sell them on coming to Austin to get groomed for the pros. That sells in living rooms.) If Austin is as capable at developing talent as his resume and reputation suggests he will be, that's an important reason to be pleased he's on staff. Nevertheless, the defensive coordinator has bigger responsibilities, and Austin doesn't yet have the track record to judge whether he's a good coordinator, in addition to being a good coach. (See: Akina, Duane.)

In sum, there are things to like about Austin, and reasons to feel optimistic about his potential. Evaluating the hire based on Austin alone, there are encouraging positives, and nothing that sounds obvious alarms.

With that said, it's still a curious hire by Mack Brown. For starters, Austin is a DB specialist, which of course is Duane Akina's specialty, as well. That doesn't have to be a bad thing, but it's notable, and begs the question of what we plan to do about linebackers. No small part of our defensive improvement since 2007 was related to enormous improvement at linebacker, which Muschamp coached. It's something to keep an eye on.

Second, while Austin may well prove to be a good hire, it's interesting that in this moment of crisis, Mack Brown is banking on it. Hiring Austin in a stable environment isn't controversial, but in this environment, that Mack is willing to stake his reclamation project on it very much is. Mack Brown trusts his instincts, and we'll have to, as well. But there's no question it's a leap of faith. Mack's been wrong before, and if he's wrong on this one, his 'trust me' capital is about all spent up. We just went 5-7, and we just lost Will Muschamp. The margin for error is a lot smaller than it was heading into 2010.

Even so, a lot of us asked Mack Brown not to be 'safe' with his approach to all this, and he's gone out of on something of a limb with this Teryl Austin hire. Mack Brown has internalized that risk, and at the very least, I'll give him some credit for taking it.

But I hope he's right. He has to be.