The Texas Longhorns defense may look like a new unit, but it's not. Since Manny Diaz was fired after Week 2 of the season, the Longhorns have played with a sense of urgency and physicality under new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson.
Robinson is not new to the football scene. His resume includes more than a decade of coaching experience in the NFL and more than two decades coaching at the college level. But many initially considered Robinson as Mack Brown's worst hire.
But Robinson is proving his critics wrong.
The Texas defense has overcome its worst performance of allowing 550 yards rushing to BYU, to holding its opponents to an average 152.6 rushing yards per game. Some may wonder how Robinson has managed to turn around the Longhorns once defeated unit, but the answer is simple—literally.
Junior defensive end Cedric Reed credits Robinson's simplified scheme as the major difference in the Texas defense. "The intensity and discipline is there," Reed said. "His schemes are a little more simple, and that really helped us out a lot."
Robinson also brings a different energy and passion to the defense every day. He puts trust in the veterans to lead the team, and players have responded well to that. Junior defensive back Quandre Diggs said Robinson has put together a group of veteran leaders to get the unit fired up every day—Diggs is one of the leaders.
"He comes with a different energy every day," Diggs said. "He's always wired up before practice. He has guys he talks to and guys who are the leaders on defense. He lets the leaders know we have to have a great practice every day. We can't settle just because we had a great practice the day before."
Since Robinson took control of the defense, the Longhorns have played fundamentally sound football. There are not as many missed tackles or apparent mental mistakes. Robinson's ability to teach fundamentals and recognize errors in every position group has been one of the most evident changes seen from the Texas defense.
"He's hands on with everybody," senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley said. "He comes around to see what every position is doing. You need your defensive coordinator to be hands on with everybody, not just his position group. He's watching every position and making sure we are all doing everything right."
Texas' goal of winning the Big 12 title seemed unlikely following the teams 1-2 start of the season. But Robinson's rejuvenated Texas defense has helped keep the conference title hopes alive. The Longhorns have a lot of difficult opponents on their schedule, but if the defense continues to grow as a unit, college football may once again see Texas back in a BCS bowl game.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar