Before the season began, the Texas Longhorns defense was thought to be one of the best in the country. They returned most of their starters from last year when the defense finished among the top in the nation in nearly every defensive category.
It was believed that the defense would be the ones that would carry the inexperienced offense throughout the year.
Now, four games into the season and much to the surprise of college football fans, the Longhorn offense has exploded behind the play of sophomore quarterback David Ash, while the defense is the side of the ball that is struggling the most.
Poor tackling and the giving up of explosive plays have been the weakest part of the Longhorn defense so far this season.
Opposing offenses have ben averaging over 6 yards a play against the Horns. Sure, the Longhorns have faced two very good offenses in the Ole Miss Rebels and the Oklahoma State Cowboys, but if Texas hopes to make their way back into the national picture, their defense must find a way to turn things back around–particularly in the Big 12 conference , which boasts the best offensive teams in the country.
In his press conference on Monday, Longhorns’ head-coach Mack Brown suggested that there may be some changes on the defensive side of the ball as they prepare for Heisman front-runner Geno Smith and his powerful West Virginia Mountaineers offense who are scheduled to be in Austin this weekend.
In the secondary, Adrian Phillips has been the one struggling most. Brown suggested that this weekend, he could be replaced by either Josh Turner or Mykkele Thompson.
But not to pick on Phillips, the Longhorns linebackers have been struggling a lot as well. It didn’t help that Texas’ lead tackler Jordan Hicks didn’t play this weekend, and it seems unlikely that he will be ready this weekend.
Brown also told the press that he is looking to limit freshman back-up linebacker Dalton Santos‘ time on special teams, an area that he has stood out so far this season, so that he can be more fresh on defense.
Ultimately, defense begins and ends with tackling, and the Longhorns have to improve in that area–especially if they hope to limit the Mountaineers and the rest of the Big 12 offenses.
The talent is there; the question is simply whether or not the Longhorns defense will be able to get it done and right the ship in time.
“We know how well we can play. Now, we just have to go out and do it,” junior cornerback Carrington Byndom said. “You have to start from somewhere, and this would be a great week for this defense to really start swarming to the ball.”