Texas vs. Iowa State: 5 Improvements Fans Need to See from Longhorns' Defense
The Texas Longhorns picked up a much-needed bye week that will have them well rested for their Thursday night showdown against Iowa State in Ames, Iowa.
After a 1-2 start, Texas opened conference play with a win over Kansas State, which was a step in the right direction if there was one to be had after three games.
The Longhorns played a physical, run-stopping brand of defense that they haven't played in a long time, as they held the Wildcats to an average of just three yards rushing per carry.
Texas opens with a clean slate for Big 12 play, and at 1-0, is currently aligned for its championship aspirations, but big improvements still need to be made.
Stopping the Run
Texas showed great improvements in stopping the run against Kansas State, but now it is time to see the Longhorns do it on a weekly basis.
The leash is mighty thin after two horrendous defensive performances against BYU and Ole Miss. Considering the way that Texas was scorched on the ground in those two games, the Longhorns' defense is unlikely to get any kind of pass from its fans for the rest of the season.
Jordan Hicks' injury is a huge blow for Texas, but if it can find away to continue to play well against the run, it will have set itself up for a good second half of the season.
Iowa State rushed for 179 yards last Thursday night against Tulsa, and the Cyclones will be looking to do similar damage against Texas this week.
Texas has developed a reputation as a soft team to the outside, and a few glances at its efforts against BYU and Ole Miss is all it takes to see why.
The Longhorns brought a different kind of energy and physicality that can help them power through the Big 12. They are far and away from the best defense in the conference, but physicality sends messages, and Texas will need to make major statements on defense in the coming weeks.
With a defensive leader like Jordan Hicks done for the season, look for veterans like Jackson Jeffcoat, Adrian Phillips and Quandre Diggs to fill the void as physical playmakers.
Texas has secured at least one turnover is each of its four games this season, but its offense has been somewhat susceptible to giveaways as well.
Ball security has been a priority for Major Applewhite during his time at Texas as an assistant coach, but as long as the Texas defense can continue to force turnovers, the offense will have ample opportunities to capitalize on them.
The number of injuries on the offensive side of things is an obvious threat to legitimizing those turnovers, but we are far enough into the season to where the players on the field will simply have to perform.
Texas' defense isn't good enough to keep teams off the scoreboard, so creating more turnovers will be crucial towards balancing the production that the Longhorns' offense will have to create.
Production from the Secondary
While the Longhorns have been getting ripped on the ground, their secondary has been relatively quiet against the pass.
Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom are regarded as a couple of the Big 12's best cornerbacks, but with no interceptions and just 28 tackles between them through four games, will Texas be prepared enough to face the juggernaut offenses of the conference?
This is no big knock on the Texas secondary, which has been playing a decent brand of football. But with two seniors in Byndom and Adrian Phillips and two juniors in Diggs and Mykkele Thompson, one would expect to see much more involvement, statistically.
The injury bug finally hit the Texas defense, with Jordan Hicks lost for the season. His veteran presence will be missed yet again, but now it is time for the veterans at the back end to start their season.
Consistency from the Interior
Senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley has had a solid start to his final season in Austin, Texas, but sophomore tackle Malcom Brown is starting to come on as well.
Brown picked up his first sack of the season against the Wildcats and looked as disruptive as he has ever been all season. His emergence may be coming at an ideal time with the injury blow to Jordan Hicks at linebacker.
If Chris Whaley and Malcom Brown can begin to assert themselves physically and develop some consistency, Texas will be able to play very well on the inside with good team speed.
However, that's a big "if."