Although our defensive line looks good and our linebackers seem salty, our defensive backfield is just plain unfair.
This is the best defensive backfield in the Big 12, and most likely the entire NCAA. My football pants are going crazy, to say the least.
The star of the defensive backfield after losing safety Earl Thomas is Aaron Williams, a junior nickelback who has serious Thorpe Award potential and first-round NFL potential.
Williams, a preseason All-Big 12 member, will make huge plays in the passing game and is truly a lockdown corner. Despite being a nickelback, he gets lots of time on the field, as Will Muschamp runs nickel sets a lot in the pass-oriented Big 12.
Williams has true designs on being a first-team All-American at the end of the year, and only the unlikely possibility of a weakened pass rush will hinder him.
Senior corner Curtis Brown locks down the other side of the field. Unfortunately for him, his shining moment came on his missed tackle on Michael Crabtree in 2008's loss to the Red Raiders, a play that kept Texas out of the championship game. He is also knocked for recording only one career interception in three years of play.
Despite these arguments, the Big 12 media has voted Brown onto the preseason all-conference team. If he can limit the mistakes (like missing crucial game-saving tackles against lower-tier Big 12 rivals), and if Aaron Williams shuts down the other side like he probably will, then Brown should be able to retain his All-Conference status.
Our third preseason All-Big 12 defensive back is a strong safety named Blake Gideon. Another player whose biggest highlight is a mistake, Gideon dropped an easy pick in the late fourth quarter against Texas Tech in the 2008 loss, an interception that would have put the game away and sealed a trip to the national title game.
On a positive note, he recorded six interceptions last year, second only to Earl Thomas, including one pick against Greg McElroy in Texas-Tide: Title. Six picks and 43 tackles (although a drop-off in tackles from '08) is a productive stat line, and if Gideon can match his interception numbers and increase his tackle numbers, then he will be a star in this star-studded defensive backfield.
On an unrelated note, he resembles Brad Pitt, so he's got that going for him also.
A player who hasn't made any preseason lists besides the All-Name team, Chykie (pronounced "shocky") Brown will also get lots of time at cornerback. There is one huge knock on Chykie though, agreed on by Orangebloods, coaches, and the media.
His problem? Inconsistency.
He definitely had his positive moments during last season, like his 44 tackles and his interceptions against Missouri and Oklahoma State. But there were times where he would allow more football players to slip between his covers than Kim Kardashian.
One example is Aggie Jeff Fuller's complete domination of him (skip to 0:58); Fuller caught three touchdown passes while Chykie chased behind. He would also miss crucial tackles, such as his complete whiff on Mark Ingram in the title game.
The key to having a second dynamic duo of brothers (see Acho brothers) will be Chykie's ability to consistently cover receivers man-to-man and keep them from getting loose in the secondary.
Replacing first round draft pick Earl Thomas is no easy thing to do. Although extremely talented and athletic, replacement Christian Scott will not play at the same level that Thomas did last year. Texas fans will see a drop-off at safety, mainly in the interception department, as Scott right now lacks the ball-hawking cover skills and closing speed that made Earl an All-American last season.
Another problem with Scott is that he missed almost all of 2009 with academic issues. He wasn't allowed to play up until Texas-Alabama in Pasadena, so he will be rusty and will most likely make mistakes in coverage.
Scott will be productive, but don't expect Earl Thomas. He's just not ready to dominate quite yet.
With three preseason All-Big 12ers, the Texas defensive backfield looks pretty awesome at this point. The main questions are Christian Scott and Chykie Brown. Can Scott be productive enough to somewhat make up for the loss of Earl Thomas? Can Chykie learn to cover man-to-man consistently or, more importantly, figure out the logic behind his name's pronunciation?
These two players have yet to prove themselves fully, and they will be the keys to a first rate defense.