Inconsistent may be the best way to describe the tenure of senior cornerback Davante Davis with the Texas Longhorns, but that may be set to change entering his final season on the Forty Acres.
Davis arrived in Austin as a four-star prospect and wasted little time living up to that billing, at least initially. Under the guidance of Chris Vaughn, Davis appeared in all 12 games in 2015, including five consecutive starts to cap his debut campaign, in which he led the Longhorns with nine passes defended.
However, after Vaughn and Texas parted ways amidst his alleged role in a scandal surrounding Ole Miss, Davis struggled with assignments under defensive backs coach Clay Jennings and found himself benched after starting the first four games of the 2016 season.
The following fall with an entirely new coaching staff at Texas, a similar situation arose under the Tom Herman and defensive backs coach Jason Washington — the third defensive backs coach in as many seasons — prompting Herman to call the consistency of Davis into question.
“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.”
Fast forward to his final fall as a Longhorn and the narrative is drastically different.
There’s a much more encouraging story to tell, as Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando detailed on Saturday.
“To me personally, Jason Washington has done a great job with [Davis] mentally. He’s a pro now. He approaches the game,” Orlando said. “When we first got here, I think it was a collection of stuff that happened in the past. We were aware of what was going on with it. Jason reeled him in, gave him some confidence, he went out there because he’s got all the physical attributes out of a corner.
“Just polishing up his game. He’s doing some really, really good things for us. For me personally, he has a personality now,” Orlando added. “He’s got some confidence to him. If he does get beat on a play, he can just wipe the play away and go to the next one, which I don’t think necessarily was the case when we first got here.”
There’s a case to be made that Davis began to cultivate that confidence Orlando noted at the tail end of the 2017 season. After largely being limited to a reserve role prior to Holton Hill’s season-ending suspension, which also effectively ended his collegiate career, Davis started the final four games of the season and did so commendably, totaling 23 tackles, three pass breakups, and a pair of interceptions in back-to-back games to close to the season.
The first came in the regular-season finale against Texas Tech, as Davis made a play on McLane Carter pass that was a bit behind its target.
More than a month removed from that effort, Davis notched his second interception in as many appearances, as he jumped in front of a post route and beat the receiver to the ball to essentially seal the deal on a 33-16 Texas Bowl victory over Missouri.
The contributions of Davis to the Longhorns first bowl victory since 2012 extended far beyond his game-sealing interception, though. Per Pro Football Focus, his overall grade of 91.5 ranked as the best of any Longhorn in the Texas Bowl.
“Davis led all Longhorns with an overall grade of 91.5, which included a 91.1 grade in pass coverage. Davis was targeted six times, recording an interception and two forced incompletions. Of Davis’ seven solo tackles, six of them were stops.”
In the eight months since arguably his best performance at Texas, Davis has continued to impress as a headliner in a considerably competitive secondary. In addition to earning the aforementioned praise from Orlando, Davis secured a starting role at cornerback opposite of Kris Boyd, fending off competition from high upside redshirt freshman Kobe Boyce, and former high school All-Americans newcomers Anthony Cook and Jalen Green.
Davis is currently nursing a hamstring injury, but he’s expected back as the first-team boundary cornerback next week. He’ll return with a clean slate featuring as much opportunity as he’s enjoyed since arriving in Austin in 2015.
For the first time as a Longhorn, Davis is set to begin the season as a starter, and more notably, he’ll do some with some much-needed momentum and confidence.