All the signs were supposedly there towards the end of the last season — Texas Longhorns cornerback Kris Boyd was more consistently in the right position, limited his mental mistakes, and even secured the game-clinching interception in the end zone against the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
For the nation’s No. 1 cornerback in the 2015 class, it appeared as if consistent improvement during the offseason under new cornerbacks coach Jason Washington could vault Boyd into the discussion of the Big 12’s best at his position.
Instead, Boyd’s 2015 season has largely been characterized by mistakes in coverage and an inability to make game-changing plays.
Against the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl, Boyd was beat on the first touchdown pass by Baker Mayfield when he couldn’t make a play on the football. When Oklahoma called a trick play with running back Trey Sermon throwing the football, it was Boyd who gave up the 42-yard completion after biting on the run.
Double moves have also been a source of frustration for Boyd.
The frustration for the coaches has been that the junior hasn’t translated his success in practice onto the field — otherwise he wouldn’t still be in the starting role.
“To me, Kris is doing the things he needs to do in practice,” defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said on Wednesday. “But what his biggest deal is that he takes his training and applies it to the game. Don't go into this thing and all of a sudden throw it all out the window.”
The coaches understand that the defense needs Boyd playing at well and maximizing his significant talent.
“The kid loves football and it's my job and it's everybody's job in this program to get him to focus in and get him to do his job at a high level because when he does do that, he's got first grade talent,” Orlando said. “It's all there, we just have to get it out and work our tails off to get that guy working at a high level.”
During practice this week, the coaches used a handheld camera to record Boyd on every rep. One thing they wanted to see was where Boyd has his eyes on each play and whether there are any issues with his technique in his lower body. So the project for Washington right now is “reaching the kid and getting him better,” as Orlando put it.
While some fans have wondered why Boyd keeps receiving playing time despite his struggles, Orlando made it clear that junior Davante Davis and freshman Josh Thompson are receiving opportunities in practice.
“Whoever wants to challenge a guy for that spot, then go ahead and take the guy down, but you do it in practice,” Orlando said.
So far, that hasn’t happened, but the Texas defensive coordinator did say that there will be a rotation against Oklahoma State this weekend, which has been noticeably absent at the cornerback position.
The question is, can Boyd learn to trust his training or will his play on the field eventually force the coaches to give Davis or Thompson a bigger opportunity?