Texas Football: 5 Keys to Fixing 'Horns' Tackling Woes in 2013
Bad tackling and the Texas Longhorns were pretty much synonymous in the 2012 season, causing stirs among the burnt orange faithful about just how much progress its team was making.
Many pointed to the inexperience at linebacker in the absence of Jordan Hicks, while others blamed poor coaching and discipline for the team's tackling woes. In a fast Big 12 conference where up-tempo offenses are everywhere, the Longhorns were exploited at linebacker, and it is a position of huge interest this spring.
Improvement from the linebackers is a given if Texas is to make any sort of splash in the BCS or even in the Big 12, and the solutions have yet to come.
With Texas returning every linebacker to its roster for the 2013 season, there should be no reason to see a noticeable development from the group, which should help some of the problems in the secondary.
But before any tackling issues can be resolved, a number of things have to go well and go right this season.
Injuries are a part of the game, and the Longhorns would do very well at linebacker to avoid that part of it.
With Jordan Hicks having missed 10 games last season with a hip injury, the 'Horns were completely void of experience and leadership at linebacker, and it showed.
Fixing up the rotation at linebacker can go a long way toward improving the entire defense, and staying healthy is a key effort in doing so. That's where Hicks become essential to the linebackers.
Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat ran into another torn pectoral late last season, challenging defensive end depth, and the Longhorns will welcome him back with enthusiasm.
If Texas can manage to keep its star players off of the injury report, a consistent front should be expected from a defense that struggled mightily in 2012.
Stronger Emphasis from Coaching Staff
The fundamentals of the game are the building blocks of success, and if the players demonstrate weakness in those areas, it is up to the coaching staff to break it all down to build it back up.
That means better efforts will have to come from the top, starting with defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and trickling down to the various position coaches to see a complete reformation of discipline.
But before any games are won, the preparation will have to come this spring and summer, and that's where the players have to make the biggest leaps.
Better Discipline from Players
Discipline in tackling and positioning poked holes all over the Texas defense in 2012, as the defensive shortcomings resulted in the worst unit ever fielded in Longhorns history.
Ultimately, the defense underperformed in virtually every area of the game, and the results have to match the standards set during the offseason. Coaching can only go so far, and that's where the talent has to take over.
Hopefully, the coaching staff stocked its roster with the right kind of guys so that if one is not getting it done, there will be five others willing to lay it on the line to get on the field.
Texas was one of the youngest teams in the FBS last season, and with the Longhorns losing Alex Okafor, Kenny Vaccaro and Brandon Moore, Texas will need to see its youth improve with age.
Steve Edmond, Peter Jinkens, Kendall Thompson, Tevin Jackson, Josh Turner, Mykkele Thompson, Duke Thomas and Malcom Brown all saw snaps as inexperienced players. With a number of games under their belts now, that experience has to show up in the form of results.
No longer will inexperience be an excuse.
With the veteran presences of Okafor and Vaccaro gone, leadership will have to come from somewhere else.
With that role comes the expression of accountability, something the Longhorns lacked in droves last season when defensive performances were consistently teetering on the verge of atrocious.
Hicks' return figures to help in the leadership department, but the Longhorns will need more vocal leaders to emerge on defense.