Maybe it wasn’t all the fault of Clay Jennings after all.
The one-year tenure of the former Texas Longhorns defensive backs coaches was nothing less than disastrous on the recruiting trail and on the field, as evidenced by the startling and unexpected sophomore struggles of cornerbacks Davante Davis and Holton Hill.
But while Hill has recovered to earn a starting role opposite fellow junior Kris Boyd, Davis is still languishing behind his classmates, with head coach Tom Herman noting on Monday that the Florida native still has to earn his trust.
So consider the current batting average for position coach Jason Washington as .500 on his reclamation projects.
As a freshman, Davis emerged as a potential future stalwart, forcing his way into the starting lineup over the last five games and eventually leading the team with nine pass break ups, in addition to a tackle for loss and an interception.
However, the departure of defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn seemed to have an impact on Davis during his sophomore season, despite the supposed ability of former head coach Charlie Strong and former defensive coordinator Vance Bedford as coaches of that position.
Davis often struggled to understand his assignments and fell out of favor with the coaching staff after starting the first four games — it was John Bonney who secured that trust instead, despite his penchant for allowing to much cushion to opposing wide receivers.
By the end of the season, Davis had recorded only 15 tackles, though he did also force a fumble and registered six of his tackles in the season’s final two games.
Unfortunately, if those tackles were a sign of late improvement, that development hasn’t translated into the Herman era.
“He’s physically able to do it,” Herman said. “He just has some breakdowns from time to time that can be costly, so he’s got to be more consistent.”
In other words, the mental side of the game is where the 6’3, 200-pounder still struggles. And it will be on Washington to find some solutions for the Longhorns, who are thin at the outside cornerback positions beyond Boyd and Hill.
There are some options, though — redshirt freshman Eric Cuffee isn’t one of them yet and neither is fellow 2016 class member Donovan Duvernay, but senior Antwuan Davis, who has been working at safety and nickel back, and the aforementioned Bonney, are both players who could move back to the cornerback position.
In fact, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando indicated on Monday that Bonney has been cross-training across the secondary since his arrival, including some work at cornerback during the team’s first eight practices of preseason camp.
It’s also possible that freshman Josh Thompson could emerge as the third outside cornerback — he may be the best athlete of the entire group — but Orlando indicated that the Nacogdoches product is in the same spot as Davis right now.
He needs to step up over the next few weeks.
While that is a difficult task for a true freshman relatively new to campus, Davis is running out of excuses for his own lack of development.