The 2013 season was supposed to be a sailing-off-into-the-sunset-on-a-burnt-orange-horse-with-wings kind of thing for head coach Mack Brown and his tenure with the Texas Longhorns.
And it still can be—sort of.
Dropping two of his first three games was hardly the start Brown had imagined coming into the season.
Nineteen returning starters from a team that won nine games a year ago, combined with a host of juniors and seniors, made for quite the pamper party in the months leading up to August.
But following a 40-21 beatdown by BYU, which rushed for 550 yards on the 'Horns, Brown made the move that kick-started a Texas team that looked frustrated and hopeless.
That move's name was Greg Robinson.
The Greg Robinson Show
Robinson, who replaced Manny Diaz as defensive coordinator for the Longhorns after the BYU loss, is one of the ultimate reasons why Brown and his team have emerged from the pile of rubble that was the 1-2 start.
The numbers do not quite do the performances justice, but there is a new edge that Robinson's defense seems to have that Diaz's did not.
Positioning has been better, discipline has been better, tackling has been better and physicality has been better.
There's no more dancing up and down at the line of scrimmage trying to induce confusion. Instead, the Longhorns are just playing simple and sound defense and letting their athleticism take over from there.
|Manny Diaz vs. Greg Robinson as Texas DC|
|Diaz (28 games)||Robinson (9 games)|
|Points per game||25.6||25.4|
|Yards per game||366.4||365.8|
|Takeaways per game||1.9||2.3|
|Rush Yards per game||157.3||143.2|
|Pass Yards per game||209.1||222.6|
|Yards per play||5.3||5.3|
The Defensive Line
Texas has been getting huge production from its defensive line, and the confidence has trickled down to the rest of the defense.
There were times during Texas' six-game winning streak when all four of its starting linemen were playing at All-Conference levels. They may not be there when the dust settles, but Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed are two of the best defensive ends in the Big 12. Both of them are two big reasons why Texas has experienced success defensively.
Back in 2010, with youth and inexperience riddling the roster, Texas posted a 5-7 season and helped usher in this rebuild.
Facing similar situations and scenarios in 2013, this Texas team has responded with more maturity, execution and mental focus.
Observe the play of the older guys like Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs in the secondary and Reed and Jeffcoat up front. Offensively, Case McCoy has rallied this team to being on the cusp of a Big 12 title. A veteran offensive line has steadily improved over the course of the season.
The execution levels are at a much higher clip, and the experience is showing.
The Bottom Line
After falling to 1-2, Brown and his players reevaluated themselves and stuck to their preseason goals, all of which have been accomplished or are still intact.
So as much as Brown has appeared to be the handiest man in Austin, his players have stepped up in huge ways, especially on the defensive side of the football.