September 24, 2009

Muschamp 101: Inside the mind of UT's DC and future coach

Will Muschamp said he got some e-mails this week wondering about his team's pass defense. Then he was asked if he kept any of those e-mails, laughed and said no.

"We've got a 101,000 defensive coordinators right out there," Muschamp said pointing to Royal-Memorial Stadium. "But that's good. That's what you want.

"You want to be somewhere where people are passionate about winning. You want to be somewhere where football is important.

"You want to be somewhere that people want to win the national championship and play perfect because that's what I want, too. So I love it. That's part of it. Coach Brown says, 'They're never going to storm our field.' I love that."


Muschamp said his defense isn't playing as consistently or as well in zone coverage as it should.

"Consistency is the issue," Muschamp said. "We've got to have a little more consistency in our performance. Putting four quarters together.

"We've been a good man team this year. And that's great. But you've got to be able to play zone. You can't play man all the time. Too much chocolate cake makes you sick.

"You play that over and over again, people start taking shots on you. You've got to be able to mix zone and get eyes on the football, especially with all the zone read we face.

"That's something we've got to improve greatly. We've got to make strides there."


Muschamp said he did not relax his defensive calls in the second half against Texas Tech. He said there some costly breakdowns.

"We kept calling the game," he said. "We didn't back off. On the 13-play drive, 10 were pressure or man. I go back to a missed tackle and two fourth-down conversions.

"We call a max blitz on the touchdown, we've got two guys free at the quarterback, and we're late on the blitz. You can't hang a guy out. Those are things we've got to get better at, and our kids understand it.

"The last drive of the game, where we stopped them on the fourth down, we got a little conservative on that drive because it's a two-score game and you're trying to eat clock. When they crossed the 50 we pressured. That's a fundamental belief of mine.

"In a two-score game, you make them bleed as much of the clock as you can. Once they cross midfield, you call a pressure defense, third-down defense, which we did. It worked. Other than that, we didn't do anything philosophically different. We just needed to cover better."


Some, including Mike Leach complained that Sergio Kindle's hit on Tech QB Taylor Potts that caused a fumble should have been flagged - or worse. But Muschamp called it "a great hit."

When asked if it was clean, Muschamp said, "They didn't call it. It was a great hit. It's a judgment call. Difficult call.

"The rule was really more emphasized last year. I don't know why it's getting more publicity this year. But it's for player safety and to keep from leading with the butt of the helmet and causing helmet-to-helmet contact.

"It's a bang-bang play. It happens fast. It's a judgment call. I think it's a tough call for the officials. I liken it to holding. If they call it, it's holding. If they don't, it's not."


Muschamp said he decided against playing more dime against Texas Tech because his linebackers - Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson - are too valuable on the field.

"Athletically, I don't like taking Emmanuel Acho or Keenan Robinson off the field," Muschamp said. "From a production standpoint, those kids are playing very well, and it goes back to getting your best 11 on the field."

Muschamp called Jared Norton's season-ending shoulder injury "unfortunate."

"He's worked really hard after having the shoulder surgery in the spring," Muschamp said. "Just got a tough blow there, and I hurt for he and his family. Hopefully he'll be able to apply for a medical and come back next season."

*On getting Deon Beasley back, Muschamp said, "Deon gives us some fresh legs back there in the secondary with as much passing that we face within our schedule. We're looking forward to getting him back on the field."

*On Nolan Brewster being bracketed as a starter with Blake Gideon this week, "Nolan Brewster, given his opportunities, has played well in all three ballgames. It's more of what he's done as opposed to what Blake hasn't done. Blake's been very productive for us.

"But when you face the passing teams we face, you have to get fresh legs on the field that you can count on. It was really a vote of confidence to Nolan to tell him, 'Hey, we think you're doing a heck of a job, and you deserve to get on the field.'"

*On Roddrick Muckelroy's performance (seven tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFLs, 1 pass breakup and 1 QB hurry) against Texas Tech, "The guy has the blue-collar,lunchpail attitude. He works at it every day. He spends a lot of time studying what we do and what the opponent does. He's a very hard-nosed kid.

"He's got a lot of edge to him, which I like. And it seems like he gets a lot of production and tackles in a big-time atmosphere. He's done that before, but it seemed to happen with some big hits in a timely fashion (against Texas Tech).

"One of the biggest plays he made was right before the half when he takes out three of their linemen, and Emmanuel acho strips the ball out. If he doesn't take those linemen out, they are going to block Emmanuel and block Muck, and they've got us.

"We didn't read the screen up front, and they probably get into our area and are kicking a field goal. It wouldn't show up in the stats, but a play like that was absolutely huge for our football team."

*On the performance of DT Lamarr Houston so far, "He's played well for us. He's gotten a lot of good push inside for us. He had a lot of one-on-one opportunities (against Tech) and cashed in on those opportunities. He played well.

"He played more than 60 snaps, and his endurance held up. He worked awfully hard over the summer. He's really bought in to that being his home inside.

*On his decision to move Houston from DE to DT last year, "I thought athetically he'd be a great mismatch inside because of his lower body flexibility and change of direction, and we didn't have any other ones. That made it a little easier, too."

*On the plays being made by Sam and Emmanuel Acho, "Emmanuel had two great strips on the ball (against Tech). That's something we talked about all week - ball security - because they tend to wave the ball around. He just took it from the practice, to the meeting to the game field. He's a very intelligent young man, and he's got tremendous upside as a football player."

*On the Achos having a nose for the ball, "Sam plays hard. He's always coming to the football, and generally good things happen when you're near the ball.

"There was a sign in an office where I used to play that said, 'You can judge the defensive player's importance to his team by the distance to the ball when the ball is down.'

"I don't know how true that is because you have to leverage for pursuit angles. You have to be smart. But he works hard and is around the ball and he's been there to cash in."

*On hitting the D's goal of three forced turnovers (against Tech) for the second time in three games, "Emmanuel (Acho), Aaron Williams and Earl Thomas have that instinct. Keenan (Robinson), Sam Acho, Muck also.

"We emphasized it last year, but we didn't see the results. I think it's players letting their instincts take over and not thinking so much. I don't know that, but it's a thought."

*On how Chykie Brown is doing, "He's fine. On the touchdown pass, we're in a max blitz. We bring six and they have five protecting, and we have two who were a little cautious and don't come like they should and we get caught on a double move, and it's tough. They did a good job of executing and we didn't do a good job defensively in time of the pressure.

"He's had a couple missed tackles, but I think he's done a good job of covering in man and getting his hands on receivers and playing his man down the field.

"But from the zone standpoint we have to do a better job with our eyes and seeing it from a splits standpoint and formations.

"The thing is he's been great and receptive with coaching, and I think Duane (Akina) does as good a job of coaching the secondary as anyone in the country."

*On Texas being 10th in the Big 12 in pass defense, giving up 268.3 yards per game through the air, "Stats are so skewed. I get e-mails about pass defense. Well, let's look at pass efficiency defense. It gives you a little more broad spectrum.

"When you're playing a team like Wyoming, and they're down, throwing it 52 times. You play a team that throws it 65 times, you're going to give up some yards. I don't want to give anyone a yard, but I'm also realistic.

"I think passing efficiency defense is a much better stat. Is our run defense tested? No. I mean come on. I'm sure we're pretty high (No. 3 in the Big 12, giving up 60 yards per game), but it's not relative right now.

"That's why I'm not a fan of statistics as a real indicator of where you are as a football team.

*On if Texas has unloaded its playbook, "Sometimes you want teams to see things on film. Other times you rep things during the week that you may not use in a game, but you are working on something for a future opponent.

"Some things you don't want to get on tape. It goes game to game. Then, we've got what we call our exotics that we do a little different."

*On UTEP, "Trevor Vittatoe is more of a thrower. They have run zone read. They are a 10, 11 and zero personnel. Duane (Akina) was at Arizona, when Mike (Price) was at Washington State. I was at Auburn when their offensive line coach was at Alabama. So there is some carryover.

"(UTEP receiver) Jeff Moturi is a big-time wideout. Change of direction, play in space. Vittatoe throws it a lot better than I would like him to."

*On Sergio Kindle's success rushing the passer against Texas Tech and so far this season, "Being a pass rusher is a lot like being a pitcher. You've got your fastball and then a counter off of that.

"I think a lot goes into an offensive line. What is he doing? We give them a gameplan for how they might rush. Is he a quick setter? Is he going to set you on the line? Is he a deep setter like Tech was? What is he doing?

"We give them a gameplan for how they might want to rush, and read the sets. Does he set his outside foot? I thought Sergio pitched a wonderful game Saturday night, like he has most of the year.

"He really changed things up in the rush. He uses the speed, the speed-to-power and then the power rush. He's worked hard in the off-season and really improved from where he was a year ago."

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