Texas Football: Recalibrating Season Expectations After Loss to BYU
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The Texas Longhorns set a school record for yards gained in their 56-7 win over New Mexico State in Week 1 of the college football season, finishing with 715. In Week 2, the Longhorns broke two more school records, but not ones they will want to remember.
BYU rushed for 550 yards and ran 99 offensive plays in handing Texas a 40-21 defeat.
Last week, prior to the Texas game, BYU running back Jamaal Williams said, per Pat Graham of The Associated Press, "[Texas] is going to bow down to our will and we're just going to go out there and do our thing." Well, Mr. Williams, you were right.
There were times Saturday night when the Texas defense looked worse than last season, which is difficult to imagine since the Longhorns finished last year as the worst statistical defense in school history. The NCAA rankings show just how bad Texas dropped off from Week 1 to Week 2.
|Week||Rush Defense||Pass Defense||Pass Eff. Defense||Total Defense||Scoring Defense||TFL||Sacks||3rd-down Eff.|
After the loss to BYU, Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com asked head coach Mack Brown if Manny Diaz would be coaching the defense against Ole Miss. Brown's response provided a glimpse of what was about to be Diaz's future at Texas: "I just got out of the game. I would like to watch the video," Brown said.
The video showed the Texas defense missing tackles, getting gashed in the run game and making BYU quarterback Taysom Hill, who rushed for 259 yards, look like Vince Young circa 2005.
The Longhorns' loss to BYU marked the end of the Diaz era at Texas and the second coming of Greg Robinson, who was co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Texas in 2004.
In his 16 years coaching at Texas, Brown has never replaced an assistant coach midway through the season. That's where Texas football is right now, which leads to the first question.
Is the 2013 Texas defense going to be any better under Greg Robinson?
Unfortunately for Texas fans, that question can't be answered at this point of the season. Robinson has not coached at the collegiate level since 2010, when he was the defensive coordinator at Michigan under Rich Rodriguez.
The 2010 Wolverines defense was one of the worst defenses in school history, giving up 188.9 yards rushing per game, and finished the season ranked 110th nationally in total defense. One could argue the entire Michigan coaching staff was doomed once Rodriguez arrived in Ann Arbor, but Robinson's last defensive coordinator job did not leave a great impression on Michigan fans.
When asked about Robinson's defense in 2010, Brown said, "[Michigan] had really bad players and a really bad team when [Robinson] got there."
But what is Robinson walking into now?
There is no doubt the Texas defense has talented players, but the Longhorns have struggled to execute and play a physical brand of football for two years. Is Robinson going to somehow force the team to execute and play physical defense in a way that Diaz couldn't?
When asked about Robinson Wednesday, Brown said: "We're not expecting to have a magic wand and get everything fixed Saturday. It would be foolish for me to say that." At least he is being honest, but that comment leads to the next question.
What are reasonable expectations for Texas' defense under Robinson?
The no-brainer answer is progress. But since Robinson has been out of the game for a couple of years, it is difficult to say what type of progress Texas fans can expect.
Robinson coached a successful Texas defense in 2004, but expecting the same results this season is not reasonable, considering the 2004 defense included 10 future NFL draft picks, six future All-Americans, two future Thorpe Award winners, one Nagurski Trophy winner and one Butkus Award winner. That caliber of talent is simply not on the 2013 Texas defense.
But according to Brown, Robinson is a great teacher and has an idea of what needs to be fixed. If Robinson can teach the defense how to tackle and is able to get players to execute his game plan, the Texas defense should significantly progress throughout the season.
What does the future hold for Texas?
The Longhorns' loss to BYU was only the second game of the season, but the game revealed a lot of issues for Texas—and not just issues on defense.
The offensive line was atrocious against BYU. Quarterback David Ash did not have the chance to do anything on offense because of the pressure from the BYU defensive line—a defensive line that lost its top three players from 2012.
Texas has not had an offensive lineman drafted since Tony Hills in 2008. To repeat that, since 2008.
Brown said all offseason that he was excited about the potential of the offensive line and that it had more depth now than it has over the last three years. On Wednesday, Brown repeated that, saying: "At the end of the year, we will look back and say this is the best offensive line we've had in a while. I'm still standing by that."
If the offensive line that showed up against BYU is what Brown was excited to see, any quarterback or running back at Texas is in big trouble.
Before the season began, there were projections that Texas could be in contention for the Big 12 title. With 19 returning starters, the Longhorns started the season as one of the most experienced teams in college football. Week 1 showed a strong Texas offense and a defense that looked to have improved its tackling woes from last year.
But after taking two steps forward against New Mexico State, the Longhorns took about seven steps backward against BYU.
Sure, it was only Game 2, but if Texas does not show major progress this week against Ole Miss, Texas fans better be prepared for a disappointing season.
Prediction if Texas doesn't show progress: 8-5
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.
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