July 23, 2007

Five reasons to feel good about 2007

For the first time in a number of years, there could be more questions than answers with the 2007 version of the Texas Longhorns football team.

There are questions about the offensive line, back-up quarterback, special teams and the linebacking group. The fact that Longhorns ranked 99th in pass defense in 2006 would be a huge question. That is not a statistic that you would expect for a team with two first-round draft picks and a total of three draft picks from the defensive backfield. The fact that all three of them need to be replaced in one year would scare the average fan about the prospects of the secondary for this season.

Allow me to squash your questions about the defensive backfield and turn your focus to other things. These are my five reasons why I'm not worried one bit about the defensive backfield at The University of Texas in 2007. Look for this group to be pretty good in the Arkansas State game and they'll only get better over time. By the end of the season, this group will be known around the country and it won't be due to an awful pass defense ranking.

1. SCHEME

In an effort to not dump the seemingly unexplainable problems with the pass defense on former defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, I recognize what he was able to do in the year before he got to Texas at Auburn and in his two years at Texas. In three years at the defensive helm at Auburn and Texas, his defenses lost three games, won a Big 12 and an SEC Championship, won three bowl games (two BCS Bowls) and won a national championship.

Now for what is really going on.

Chizik's concentration on the run defense and making pass coverage a secondary responsibility constantly made the safeties trail the play on deep throws. Without any sort of umbrella coverage on many downs, it left the defense open to not just passing plays but big passing plays.

The defense did keep opponents under 100 yards rushing in 11 of 13 games in 2006. However, the defense did give up more than 250 yards passing seven times in 2006. With two first rounders and three overall draft picks in the defensive backfield, that just shouldn't happen. A pressure-based, balanced attack on the defensive side of the ball in 2007 should allow the defense to not only be better overall but should be able to force more turnovers.

2. FRONT FOUR

Even with defensive ends Tim Crowder (2nd Round to Denver) and Brian Robison (4th Round to Minnesota) heading to the NFL, Derek Lokey's return from injury and Texas' ability to get pressure on the quarterback with the front four will do great things for the Texas pass defense.

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