Texas Longhorns: Greg Robinson

Big 12 lunchtime links

February, 11, 2014
Feb 11
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Exclusive video of my workout this morning. Don't judge me.
Several new assistant coaches in 2013 made major impacts on established coaching staffs in the Big 12 during their first seasons on campus. Oklahoma State had two new coordinators making an impression; a pair of Oklahoma assistants revamped its line play; and a Kansas State alumnus helped a current Wildcat become a multipurpose star.

Here are the top 10 coaching hires of 2013 in the conference (Note: Since Texas Tech's entire staff was in its first season, the Red Raiders were excluded):

1. Glenn Spencer, Oklahoma State defensive coordinator: The OSU defense rose to another level during Spencer’s first season as defensive coordinator. The veteran coach, who had spent time as a defensive line coach and linebackers coach during his six seasons at OSU, took over the defense in 2013 and made it more aggressive and productive. OSU finished among the top 3 in the Big 12 in points allowed per game (21.6 points, 1st), yards per play (4.77, 2nd) , yards per rush (3.64, 3rd), third down conversion rate (31.4 percent, 1st) and yards per pass attempt (5.8, 1st). The Cowboys also forced a Big 12-best 33 turnovers, 11 more than they did in 2012.

[+] EnlargeJerry Montgomery
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiDefensive line coach Jerry Montgomery helped shape the Sooners into a force up front.
2. Jerry Montgomery, Oklahoma defensive line coach: The Sooners' defensive line improved tremendously during Montgomery’s first season. OU saw its tackles for loss jump from 53 in 2012 to 73 in 2013, and sophomore defensive end Charles Tapper went from raw talent with terrific upside to an All-Big 12 performer. In addition, Montgomery’s defensive line was able to handle the mid-season loss of defensive tackle Jordan Phillips as redshirt freshman Jordan Wade stepped into Phillips' spot without a major drop off in production.

3. Greg Robinson, Texas defensive coordinator: Robinson stepped in, replacing Manny Diaz, after the Longhorns' defense was embarrassed during the first two games of the 2013 season. The Longhorns defense didn’t transform into a dominant unit but Robinson stopped the bleeding after UT allowed 1,025 yards in its first two games. BYU and New Mexico State combined to averaged 2.48 points per drive. In UT’s final 11 games, opponents averaged 1.68 points per drive.

4. Bill Bedenbaugh, Oklahoma offensive line coach: The Sooners' first-year offensive line coach did a terrific job with a unit that was forced to shuffle around at various times this season. OU’s Sugar Bowl win was a great example of his impact as three of the five offensive linemen who started the game were making their first start in their career or first start at a new position. Guard Dionte Savage made his lone start of the season, right tackle Daryl Williams moved to left tackle and guard Bronson Irwin shifted to right tackle and held their own as the Sooners knocked off Alabama.

5. Larry Porter, Texas running backs coach: Porter did a good job with UT’s running backs during his lone season as the running backs coach. Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray combined for 373 carries, 1,684 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Just as important, the duo lost zero fumbles despite carrying the rushing load. Porter helped a talented group of running backs to be productive and protect the ball during his short stint at UT.

[+] EnlargeGreg Robinson
AP Photo/Eric GayUnder Greg Robinson's tutelage, the Longhorns improved immensely.
6. Andre Coleman, Kansas State receivers coach: As Tyler Lockett made catch after catch while overwhelming Big 12 secondaries, Coleman’s spot on this list became more and more secure. Lockett was a terrific playmaker and returner during his first two seasons in Manhattan, Kan. But in 2013 he became a terrific receiver as well. His route running and ability to consistently get open was a sign of the improvement he made under Coleman’s tutelage. Lockett had 81 receptions for 1,262 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior. In 2012, he finished with 44 receptions for 687 yards and four scores, although to be fair, the Wildcats threw the ball less during his sophomore season.

7. Mike Yurcich, Oklahoma State offensive coordinator: Oklahoma State’s offense was still among the Big 12’s best under Yurcich, finishing among the top three in the conference in points scored (39.1 points, 2nd), yards (448.8, 3rd), yards per play (5.91, 3rd) and passing yards (278.85, 3rd). Yet the Cowboys took a clear step backward in a few categories. OSU dropped from third nationally (7.01) to No. 45 in yards per play (5.91) and dropped from tied for 24th nationally (46.2 percent) to No. 80 in third down conversion rate (38.8 percent). Yurcich’s first season as a Division I coordinator wasn’t bad by any stretch, but it was far from perfect.

8. Tony Gibson, WVU safeties: Gibson left Arizona to join the Mountaineers’ staff as the safeties coach before the 2013 season. Darwin Cook continued to be one of the most productive defensive backs in the Big 12 under Gibson, earning All-Big 12 honors with 74 tackles and four interceptions as a senior. With WVU's defensive coordinator position open, Gibson could be a good fit to take over that side of the football.

9. DeMontie Cross, TCU linebackers: The veteran coach with NFL experience helped the Horned Frogs' linebackers rank among the team's top tacklers. Junior Paul Dawson went from 14 tackles as a sophomore to a team-high 91 tackles in 2013. Marcus Mallet (70) and Jonathan Anderson (66) joined Dawson among the top four tacklers on the Horned Frogs defense during Cross' first season.

10. Lonnie Galloway, WVU receivers: The Mountaineers' quarterbacks had a rough year yet the receivers as a whole were fairly productive, with WVU finishing fourth in the Big 12 in receiving yards from its receivers (2,604). Five different Mountaineers receivers caught at least 20 passes, including Ronald Carswell and Mario Alford, who each averaged at least 20 yards per reception.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll continue to close the door on the 2013 season. Every Big 12 team suffered at least one loss during the regular season, and losses can be as beneficial as wins. In this team-by-team series, we’ll take a look at the best loss of the year for each Big 12 team, including what happened and why it matters.

[+] EnlargeTaysom Hill
Chris Nicoll/USA TODAY SportsBYU QB Taysom Hill shredded Texas' defense, handing the Longhorns a lopsided defeat.
On Thursday, we focus on Texas.

Best loss: 40-21 at BYU on Sept. 7 in a game that opened eyes, not only in Austin, Texas, but nationwide.

What happened: The Longhorns defense watched as BYU rushed for 550 yards and averaged 7.64 yards per carry. Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill had 17 carries for 259 yards and three touchdowns. Texas, which started the season with talk of being in the national title picture, looked overwhelmed, outmatched and ill-prepared in the loss. And David Ash left the game with a concussion, the start of his head injury issues that cut his season short.

Look up worst-case scenario and this Longhorns loss is a prime example.

Why it was helpful: First off it woke up Mack Brown to the realization that a change at the defensive coordinator spot was needed sooner rather than later. Getting beat is one thing, but losing while the defense is lethargic, sloppy and lacking a competitive fire is quite another. Brown fired Manny Diaz the next day and hired Greg Robinson to take over the defense. The Longhorns defense was a different unit under Robinson, who simplified things while allowing UT’s athletes on defense to be playmakers instead of thinkers.

Most importantly, this loss instilled an “us against the world” mentality into the Texas locker room. Carrying the label "Texas football player" meant one thing when they boarded the plane to Provo, Utah, and quite another thing when they landed back in Austin. From that point forward, the Longhorns circled the wagons and focused on accomplishing the goal of winning a Big 12 title. That goal was still within reach on the season’s final day thanks to a 7-1 start to Big 12 play before their season-ending loss to Baylor. The complete turnaround was sparked by this loss.

Revealing stat: 15.24. Hill averaged 15.24 yards per carry against the Longhorns’ defense, the third-highest yards per carry average by an FBS quarterback in a game this season behind UCLA’s Brett Hundley (16.1 against Virginia Tech) and Auburn’s Nick Marshall (15.29 against Tennessee).

Quote of note: “Our game plan and goal and objective was to stop the quarterback and tailback. We did neither. The decision to change defensive coordinators was based on our lack of ability to stop the run, period.” -- Texas coach Mack Brown one day after firing Diaz and hiring Robinson.

Stats that matter: Texas season review

December, 13, 2013
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Each week this season, we dug into the numbers to break down three stats that mattered for Texas. Now it’s time to step back and review five that defined the Longhorns’ 2013 campaign.

1. 45

Once David Ash went down, Texas bought in big to a new identity as a physical offense powered by the run game. The Longhorns’ commitment to that philosophy was obvious in Big 12 play.

[+] EnlargeLonghorn Defense
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsWhile Texas' defense certainly faltered at times, the Longhorns were one of the best at rushing the passer.
Since its Big 12 opener against Kansas State, Texas ranked in the top 30 in FBS in rushing yards and yards per rush. That’s because Texas was rushing the ball an average of 45 times per game, a rate that ranked 14th nationally.

The Longhorns were one of only 11 teams to surpass 150 rushing yards in eight conference games, a feat matched by no other Big 12 program. They ran the ball on first down nearly 70 percent of the time for a total of 888 rushing yards.

Credit a veteran offensive line that played at a steady, solid level and a talented trio of backs, but a lot more people deserve praise for that too. This isn’t the identity Texas expected to accept in 2013, but once it emerged it was embraced.

2. Sixth

When Greg Robinson arrived in Austin, Texas’ defense was ranked No. 115 in the nation in total defense and No. 121 in rush defense through two games. The BYU game numbers were so outrageous that there was really nowhere to go but up for Robinson and this Longhorns’ defensive staff.

By Big 12 standards, Texas was statistically fairly average. In Robinson’s 10 games, the Longhorns ranked No. 6 in the league in scoring, total and rushing defense. They were the Big 12’s best in one key category: Sacks. Texas ranked among the 10 best nationally in that department with 37.

Texas’ final-season stats also show a marked improvement from 2012 in three areas: Scoring defense, yards per play and yards per attempt. If Oregon puts up 431 total yards in the Valero Alamo Bowl, though, Texas' defense will surpass the 2012 unit for most yards allowed per game in a season in school history.

3. 85

Texas’ four losses came by a total of 85 points, the closest of the bunch a 19-point loss in Provo. When you’re losing by an average margin of three touchdowns, you’ve got issues.

Add it all up and you could argue the offense was more to blame: In losses, Texas was 21-of-68 on third-down conversions (30.9 percent) and scored touchdowns on seven drives and went three-and-out on 17. The Longhorns’ 1.16 points per drive in losses ranked No. 96 in FBS. You can’t score fewer than 17 points per game against four of your toughest opponents and win, plain and simple.

But here’s something else to consider: The Texas defense’s ratio of turnovers forced to touchdowns allowed was 20-17. That’s good. In losses? 4-16. When a game started slipping away, the Longhorns rarely got game-changing plays from their defense.

4. 114th

This is no surprise, really, but a narrative has started to emerge in the past week from Mack Brown’s backers: Texas couldn’t win more games because of its quarterback. While it’s undeniable that Case McCoy’s worst game came with the Big 12 title on the line in Waco, what do the numbers say?

First off, McCoy was never going to be the downfield passer Texas coaches needed when drawing up their new spread offense. His yards per attempt average of 6.04 ranked a brutal No. 114 in FBS. He had zero 300-yard games. This wasn’t that unexpected.

What was expected is that he could play caretaker, and he did so with success most of the season. McCoy went 5-0 in games when Texas rushed for more than 175 yards. Of his nine starts, only three came against top-40 scoring defenses.

McCoy was better than serviceable in most starts. He was fantastic against OU. And he struggled mightily against the elite defenses of OSU and Baylor. Isn’t that pretty much what most expected?

5. 6-0

Can’t sum up this season without talking about the six-game win streak to start Big 12 play. Sure, only two of those wins came against teams that went on to become bowl-eligible, but to embark on that kind of a run after starting 1-2 was simply unexpected, especially when those two bowl teams -- Kansas State and Oklahoma -- have had Texas’ number for a while.

During that streak, the Longhorns averaged 35 points per game, gave up 21, had a top-25 defense in yardage allowed, a turnovers margin of plus-7 and a kicker who went 12-for-13 on his field goal attempts.

Texas was one of only 16 teams in FBS this season that managed to reel off six or more conference wins in a row this season. Funny thing is, Brown has now done that five times in the past decade.
AUSTIN, Texas -- From the first snap of Thursday's game, Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield had to know trouble was coming. The last thing a freshman quarterback wants to see is a defense he wasn't prepared for, and that’s exactly what Texas unveiled.

Mayfield had seen enough film to know who Jackson Jeffcoat was. He didn’t see any film of Jeffcoat darting around the field as a linebacker. There was no film of Jeffcoat attacking up the middle as a stand-up pass rusher.

“They just didn’t know what to do,” Jeffcoat said.

Before their 41-16 victory over Texas Tech, the Longhorns had never run what defensive coordinator Greg Robinson calls his “Spinner" package. The key chess piece in that scheme was Jeffcoat, who played a hybrid end/linebacker role and did a little bit of everything.

[+] EnlargeJackson Jeffcoat
AP Photo/Eric GayJackson Jeffcoat had a big night in Greg Robinson's "Spinner" package with three sacks.
“It just gives you some different options, you know,” Robinson said. “It creates a different style of defense to the offense, how they block and those kinds of things. We were fortunate most times that it helped us.”

It’s the kind of role that the son of a defensive line coach can get behind. Teammates say Jeffcoat called his new hybrid job the “Viper” position, and by all accounts, Robinson installed the scheme during Texas’ recent bye week.

In his first game at “Spinner,” Jeffcoat made a career-high three sacks and seven tackles. Not bad for a guy who was battling flu-like symptoms last week and even missed practice Tuesday.

Needless to say, Kliff Kingsbury and his staff didn’t see Jeffcoat’s new role coming. Neither did the Red Raiders’ offensive linemen.

“No, that's something they had for tonight, which is smart,” Kingsbury said. “It's just smart.”

Jeffcoat's new role is not new in a Robinson defense. He used “Spinner” as the defensive coordinator of the New York Jets, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs. He used “Spinner” at Michigan and Syracuse. Robinson even broke out the scheme in 2004, while co-running Texas’ defense, including against Texas Tech.

Said Robinson in 2005, his first year as head coach at Syracuse: “At Texas last year, I really didn’t have a guy who [could be effective in it] … we used it a little bit because it was good against certain teams."

This time around at Texas, Robinson has a guy in Jeffcoat who, at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, looks the part. He played more than 60 snaps against Tech, and on no more than 16 plays did he line up as a defensive end. He rushed from his “Spinner” role on 23 plays, imitated a linebacker nearly a dozen times and dropped back into coverage a dozen more times.

“I think that’s something he thrived off of,” Texas tackle Donald Hawkins said. “Use your best player the best way you can.”

His new role was just what Texas needed. With Jeffcoat at “Spinner,” Robinson could highlight the Longhorns’ surplus of six defensive ends and compensate for having just two experienced defensive tackles. The three-man front that Jeffcoat lined up behind typically comprised of ends Cedric Reed and Reggie Wilson, with Malcom Brown at nose guard.

Texas’ defensive line produced eight sacks, 10 tackles for loss and nine quarterback hurries.

“I think they came out and really confused us,” Texas Tech lineman Jared Kaster said.

Reed, who recorded two sacks, added this: “Our defensive slogan is ‘QB breakers.’ We knew that if we put pressure on the freshman quarterback, he would lose his flow sometimes.”

Mayfield was benched after throwing for 237 yards and no scores on 44 attempts. He was sacked seven times and had to tuck and run nine times, usually because of pressure.

Texas’ linebackers needed the help, too. Steve Edmond was lost for the season with a lacerated liver in the second quarter. Kendall Thompson exited with a head injury. That left Robinson with Dalton Santos and Peter Jinkens, who also tried playing “Spinner” in the fourth quarter.

Will those depth issues necessitate more “Spinner” packages for Texas going forward?

“That’s just a thing we put in for this game. Who knows if we run it next week?” cornerback Carrington Byndom said. “But it is really useful.”

Byndom believes the scheme works best when going against passing offenses, and Texas expected the Red Raiders to pass 90 percent of the time. That won’t be the case against Baylor on Saturday.

Texas Tech’s running backs combined for eight carries Thursday. Baylor averages 48 rushes per game, and injured backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin have returned.

Jeffcoat was the centerpiece of Robinson’s grand plan for stopping Texas Tech. Next up is the Longhorns defense’s biggest test yet. There's no better time than now for everything Robinson has in his playbook.

“Any kind of advantage we can get, we’re trying to take it,” Byndom said.

What we learned: Week 14

November, 29, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas rebounded from its meltdown against Oklahoma State with a 41-16 victory over Texas Tech on Thanksgiving. A look at three big takeaways from the night:

[+] EnlargeCase McCoy, Pete Robertson
AP Photo/Eric GayCase McCoy and the Longhorns turn their attention to Baylor after routing Texas Tech.
1. Here's the formula: You want to know how Texas beats Baylor next week? Seemed impossible a month ago, that the Bears would put up 60-plus and Art Briles would have the last laugh, but Texas once again showed off many of the traits that have made this team a tough out in Big 12 play. A power run game, a menacing defensive line, strong play from the offensive line and secondary, a smart effort from Case McCoy, a defense that forces turnovers, the occasional huge play -- all that got put on display against Texas Tech. When it's not working, like against Oklahoma State, comebacks are very difficult. When it's all clicking, Texas can be pretty tough to beat.

2. Robinson deserves praise: He isn't one of the 40 finalists for the Frank Broyles Award honoring the nation's top assistant coach, but the job Greg Robinson has done to help Texas' defense get back on track this season remains impressive, almost shockingly so. You can tell that, nine games in, he's comfortable with the personnel at his disposal because he and his fellow defensive coaches are bringing new wrinkles to the table. The use of Jackson Jeffcoat in the "Viper" role with a three-man front against Tech was especially impressive. Robinson inherited a lot of talent, and this defense has proved to be a dangerous unit when playing to its potential.

3. The clouds overhead: Let's be honest, if Texas had stumbled and lost to a clearly inferior Texas Tech team, we all know what the narrative would've been. You would've heard people saying that was Mack Brown's final home game at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium. There will still be a few regardless, sure, but that kind of a convincing performance helps Brown's cause. The score was a lot closer than this game ending up being, truthfully. If Texas plays Baylor close or pulls off the upset, no matter the bowl result, Brown would have the right to say "good luck with that" to anyone calling for his job.

Longhorns bounce back to set up big game

November, 29, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- There's no better cure for a 25-point loss than responding with a 25-point victory.

That's not some old Darrell Royal saying or an axiom that coaches have been known to share. It's just a fact. And just when we thought we had Texas and its troubles figured out, this team fought to live another week.

The Longhorns who won six conference games in a row showed up again, keeping their Big 12 championship hopes alive with a 41-16 victory over Texas Tech on Thanksgiving night.

[+] EnlargeJoe Bergeron, Tanner Jacobson
AP Photo/Eric GayJoe Bergeron, wearing No. 32 in honor of injured Johnathan Gray, had 102 yards and a touchdown.
"Proud of our team. Proud of the way they fought," Longhorns coach Mack Brown said. "A lot of guys are banged up. End of the year. At least they've given themselves an opportunity to go to Waco and play for a championship."

There was plenty of talk in the past two weeks that Oklahoma State finally exposed Texas and its various flaws, that the six Big 12 wins that came before it were somehow less meaningful or some kind of mirage.

If the meltdown against the Cowboys revealed Texas' thin margin for error, Thursday's victory reminded how good Texas can be when it achieves everything it sets out to do.

Brown wanted a slowed-paced game, not a shootout. Texas had to control the tempo. Check.

He wanted to pound Texas Tech's recently awful run defense. Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown both surpassed 100 yards. Check.

He hoped Texas' defense could force erratic play by the Red Raiders' young quarterbacks. The Longhorns netted nine sacks, including three each from Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed. Check.

"It's not a pretty brand of ball. It's not very stylish," Texas co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said. "But it's what we had to do."

Thursday's performance was about as close to a defensive masterpiece as Texas could have hoped for. The Red Raiders' No. 1 ranked pass offense finished with 5.8 yards per attempt. They went 5-for-18 on third downs. Tech's leading rusher on the night? Punter Ryan Erxleben, who dashed 51 yards for the first score of the night. Texas' special teams gave up that score. Its defense allowed one touchdown the rest of the night.

"It was a good game. I don't know if it was better or not. I guess you guys make those decisions," defensive coordinator Greg Robinson said. "We played real well here against a good offense."

But since so many will discount the result, pointing out that Texas Tech lost five in a row after starting 7-0, let's cut to the chase: If this is Texas, if these are the real Longhorns going forward, can they do enough to beat No. 9 Baylor?

Ask Brown whether his team played up to its formula for victory against Tech and he'll rattle off the things his team didn't do. Texas turned the ball over twice. Other than placekicker Anthony Fera, a Groza Award finalist who's now 19-for-20 this season, the Longhorns are still a mess in several areas of special teams.

His players were no different. They see a need for improvement. They won't celebrate this win much this weekend. They know what they're up against next.

Preparing for Baylor will require that kind of perfectionist attention to detail. Like Texas, the Bears showed their vulnerabilities against Oklahoma State. They're not at all unbeatable. But they have the respect of their next opponent.

"We fully assume Baylor will win [against TCU] and be right there," quarterback Case McCoy said. "It'll be a game that, as a senior class, we want to go out with a chance to put numbers on these walls and have a Big 12 championship."

The Longhorns made their senior night count. They made the next game matter. They're not done yet.

"We're still in the race," Jeffcoat said. "We had to win this one. This was a must-win. And we have to win the next one."

How Texas has grown under Greg Robinson

October, 22, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Greg Robinson is neither elusive nor evasive, but he does remain something of an enigma.

He’s met with reporters a few times in his nearly 45 days on the job as Texas’ new defensive coordinator. When the 62-year-old speaks, he rarely talks specifics about his defense, focusing more on the simple concept of hard work.

[+] EnlargeGreg Robinson
AP Photo/Eric GayGreg Robinson's changes to Texas' defense have been subtle but focused on fine-tuning and cleaning up mistakes.
That ideal makes it difficult for Robinson to explain why the Longhorns have enjoyed a defensive turnaround since he replaced Manny Diaz on Sept. 8. He makes it sound as if this would’ve happened eventually, as if it didn’t take much to produce better results.

“It’s easy to say a lot of things. The proof is in the pudding. Time will tell,” Robinson said. “But I just know this: We’re going to work very hard. Come Saturday, we’ll be able to evaluate. But I don’t know that there’s any magic wand that this is what does it. It’s a matter of just working and focusing in. That part of it, I believe that’s what we’ve got around here, guys who can do those things.”

This is essentially Robinson’s argument. The players got more reps every week. The coaches did some fine-tuning. Together they had a positive experience in a 31-21 win over Kansas State. They gained confidence. The puzzle pieces came together against Oklahoma.

He’s selling this process short, of course, and doing so rather humbly.

“I wasn’t real interested in revolutionizing anything in the defense or things like that,” he said. “There might be a twist here or a twist there, but I think it was just trying to help them do certain things and techniques they were doing and do them better. Maybe there’s a little something I can give that can add something to it.”

Ask Texas’ defensive leaders what changed since Robinson arrived and they’ll give mostly similar accounts. His imprint on the defense, while understated, is clear to them.

He brings energy and passion to every practice. He demands technicians. Do a drill right or you’ll do it again.

He’s taking a hands-on approach with every position on defense, not just the linebackers. He gets his point across without being a rah-rah guy, defensive tackle Chris Whaley said.

With 30-plus years of experience under his belt, he can easily spot a flaw, big or small, and explain how to get it fixed. Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said Robinson is specific and precise in those moments.

He also puts trust in Texas’ veterans. Cornerback Quandre Diggs says Robinson has a selected group of starters -- Diggs is one of them -- that he knows can get the defense going at any moment. Players respond well to that.

“He’s always wired up before practice,” Diggs said. “He has his guys that he talks to and he lets those guys know that we’ll have a great practice and we can’t settle just because we had a great practice the day before.”

He’s a positive influence. He gets guys to buy in and believe. And doggone it, people like him.

These are the little touches Texas needed. Its early-season struggles were not a product of inexperience or a lack of talent, and he hasn’t steered the defense too far away from what it intended to be under Diaz.

“Coach Robinson, he basically kind of reiterated what Coach Diaz was trying to get across and I think as a unit, as we saw how things happened, we took it upon ourselves that we were going to get this changed around,” safety Adrian Phillips said.

It’s hard to fairly compare the results Robinson has coaxed out of his players with Texas’ performances in Diaz’s two games of 2013. The first came against a New Mexico State team that’s now 0-7. The second was one of the worst performances in school history.

But throw out Robinson’s debut game against Ole Miss -- he had just three practices to prepare for the Rebels and zero time to make meaningful changes -- and the three-game progress is evident.

Since Sept. 21, Texas’ defense ranks No. 44 nationally in total yards, 52nd against the run and 53rd against the pass. This unit forced as many turnovers (seven) as it allowed touchdowns during that span, with 13 three-and-outs.

If those fairly average national ranks aren’t impressive, don’t forget that Texas had the third-worst run defense in the country and the 10th-worst total defense when Robinson came back to Austin. Back then, the Longhorns’ confidence could’ve crumbled.

It’s sky-high now that Texas has finally shut down the Sooners, and that victory seemed to be clear proof of progress not only in execution but also attitude.

“If everybody brings that type of energy to each game, we’ll win all the games,” Diggs said.

Robinson, meanwhile, is sticking to cautious optimism. He’s comfortable with this team. He senses confidence will continue to grow. But the answer for TCU this week is no different than his goal any other week: More hard work.

“You know what? There are no guarantees,” he said. “The moment you kind of think you’ve got it, you better look out.”

Brown taking job one week at a time

October, 15, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas – Just when everybody counted Mack Brown out, when the vultures were circling and message boards were ablaze, he did it. His Longhorns beat Oklahoma. Actually, they dominated Oklahoma.

For the first time in a long time in this rivalry, Texas wasn’t just the more physical and confident team in the Cotton Bowl. This team was better coached than the Sooners, too, and that was impossible to miss on Saturday.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
AP Photo/LM OteroMack Brown is showing he still has a lot of fight in him.
It was a fitting and much-needed outcome for Texas coach Mack Brown, who for weeks has repeatedly said he’s living one week at a time, focusing only on the Longhorns’ next foe and trying to ignore all the clouds and thunder overhead.

One Texas player admitted after the game that the team had to “save his career” on Saturday. Brown didn’t talk defiantly about what this win meant, though he had the right to after so few gave his team a chance.

“I think it says more about the state of college football and that anybody can beat anybody on Saturday if you play better than the other team,” Brown said. “It is all about how you play, and if you go out there and stand around, you probably can’t beat anybody.”

For all that has happened in six games, Brown’s week-by-week belief seems to be helping. He’s not letting his team ride the roller coaster of highs and lows, even if a 36-20 victory over the Sooners is about as high as Texas has known in four years.

“We can’t do that. We have to get back to work, and that is what these guys did,” Brown said.

He said all the right things on Saturday, that what mattered was that Texas is 3-0 in the Big 12 and its seniors got a final win over OU. Privately, though, you have to imagine he savored this victory as much as any in his career.

There will be many who say the victory over OU doesn’t change the end game. Perhaps Texas was already past the point of no return, no matter the result of this game, and that a new head coach will be coming to Austin this offseason regardless.

There is a time for that discussion, and it is a lengthy one. But now isn't that time.

Brown put himself in a difficult spot this season with all of his offseason vows that Texas was about to go on another big run. He set the bar of expectations high. Then his team started 1-2 and he fired his defensive coordinator two games into the season. Time to panic, right?

“I know it’s hard to believe, but as a coaching staff we really don’t pay a whole lot of attention to what media says,” offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said. “We really try to keep our kids in line and make sure their minds are ready to go.”

The hiring of Greg Robinson as Texas’ defensive coordinator is showing promising results, none better than in the OU game. That bold move is, at least for the time being, paying off, and Robinson fully understood what beating the Sooners meant for Brown.

“It is all-important for Mack Brown because, let me tell you something, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Mack Brown,” Robinson said. “I just wanted to come help him, because he is that kind of guy. I think our players feel the same way and I know our coaches feel the same way.

“He’s a good person and he has had tough situations that he has been having to deal with here for a while. I’m just so happy for him; I really am. I think he deserves it.”

If his team, coming off a bye week, stumbles at TCU and takes that first conference loss, the rumor machine starts up again and the expensive chair in his office gets a little more uncomfortable. That’s the nature of college football and the roller-coaster ride.

But for one day and one game, the head coach reminded his doubters he’s not done fighting. Mess with Mack and you just might get the horns.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 7

October, 14, 2013
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Taking stock of Week 7 in the Big 12:

Team of the week: Texas. Not only did the Longhorns pull off the biggest Red River upset in 17 years, they completely reversed the outlook of their season. At 3-0 in the Big 12 standings, Texas is right in the middle of the conference race. The Longhorns also finally found an identity in Dallas, which could make them a tough out during the second half of the season. The Longhorns ran the ball with authority between the tackles behind their experienced offensive line, which took pressure off quarterback Case McCoy. Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, meanwhile, disguised his defenses beautifully and utilized Texas’ speed in timely blitzes. Baylor remains the favorite to win the Big 12 crown. But Texas, which travels to Baylor in the regular-season finale, could be a factor. What a difference a week makes.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
Jackson Laizure/Getty ImagesBlake Bell had one of the worst performances statistically by an OU QB since 2005.
Disappointment of the week: Oklahoma. While Texas found its identity in the Cotton Bowl, the Sooners seemingly lost theirs. The defense’s Achilles' heel resurfaced from last season, as Oklahoma couldn’t stop the run. That made the Sooners vulnerable against deep passes, which McCoy capitalized on with a pair of long touchdowns. As much as the defense struggled, the offense looked completely lost. Blake Bell took four sacks, threw two interceptions and was utterly miserable on third down. Bell’s QBR on third down, in fact, was 0.1 percent (he had been 89.8 on third downs coming into the game). Bell wasn’t much better the rest of the game with an Adjusted QBR of 2.8, which was the fourth-worst single-game adjusted QBR of any FBS quarterback this season. Curiously, Bob Stoops said the offensive staff didn’t feel comfortable running Bell in this game. And the Sooners couldn’t figure out which running back to feature, with no back receiving more than seven carries. This is a team that doesn’t look like it knows who it is all of a sudden.

Big (offensive) men on campus: The Texas offensive line, Kansas State quarterback Daniel Sams and Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro.

The most experienced offensive line in the Big 12 blocked like it at the most opportune of times. Kennedy Estelle, Mason Walters, Dominic Espinosa, Trey Hopkins and Donald Hawkins paved the way for Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown to become the first Texas duo to top 100 rushing yards apiece in the same Red River game. The Bevos up front also kept McCoy upright, as the Texas quarterback was not sacked all day and barely pressured, either.

In Manhattan, Sams played valiantly in K-State’s 35-25 loss to Baylor. He rushed for 199 yards and three touchdowns and almost single-handedly kept the Wildcats scoring with the high-powered Bears. Sams' late interception that effectively ended the game was a huge mistake. But his 86.1 Adjusted QBR was 13th-best in college football for the week. Sams now is second in the Big 12 in Adjusted QBR (86.5) for the year, trailing only Baylor’s Bryce Petty (95.1).

Amaro continues to be a security blanket for Texas Tech’s true freshman quarterbacks. Against Iowa State, he had his best game yet with nine receptions for 143 yards. Amaro leads the Big 12 with 47 receptions. Teammate Eric Ward is second with 34.

Big (defensive) men on campus: Kansas State defensive end Ryan Mueller, Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon and Texas defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed.

Along with Sams, Mueller was a major reason the Wildcats were in the game in the fourth quarter. In what might be the defensive highlight of the season in the Big 12 so far, Mueller stripped Petty while simultaneously recovering the fumble to set K-State with field position in the third quarter that would turn into a go-ahead touchdown. Mueller finished with seven tackles, two sacks and a pass breakup.

Dixon, meanwhile, came up with the defensive play of the game, as he beelined to the sideline to intercept Sams with four minutes to play. Off the turnover, the Baylor offense sealed the victory with a touchdown that put the Bears up two scores.

Jeffcoat and Reed, meanwhile, were terrific against the Sooners. The swarming defensive end duo totaled three sacks and kept the Oklahoma running backs from bouncing much of anything outside.

[+] EnlargeDaje Johnson
AP Photo/Brandon WadeDaje Johnson delivered Texas' first punt return for a touchdown since 2009.
Special-teams players of the week: Texas returner Daje Johnson, Texas kicker Anthony Fera and Iowa State returner Jarvis West.

Johnson delivered the dagger to the Sooners with a weaving 85-yard punt return touchdown late in the third quarter, which put the Longhorns ahead 30-13. It was Texas’ first punt return touchdown since Jordan Shipley did it in 2009. Fera came up big on special teams, too. He nailed a 43-yard field goal right before halftime that stymied the Sooners’ momentum from a long Roy Finch kick return that led to a touchdown the previous drive. Fera also nailed 50- and 31-yard field goals to be perfect on the day.

West kept the Cyclones above water in the first half as the Iowa State offense struggled. His 95-yard kickoff return -- Iowa State’s first non-onside kick return for a touchdown since 1994 -- tied the game in the first quarter 7-7. West later added a 38-yard punt return, and he finished with three receptions for 36 yards.

Play of the week: With the Red River Rivalry tied 3-3 in the first quarter, Texas' Adrian Phillips came off the edge untouched on a third-down zone blitz and slammed into Bell. The hit caused Bell’s pass to flutter behind intended receiver Jaz Reynolds and into the arms of defensive tackle Chris Whaley, who rumbled 31 yards for the touchdown. The Longhorns never gave up the lead the rest of the way.

Stat of the week: Bell’s QBR against Texas was the lowest by an Oklahoma quarterback since Rhett Bomar posted a 1.6 against Tulsa in 2005.

Quote of the week: "We love the guy. We’re playing for the guy. You all keep writing those articles bad about him. We’ll keep playing for him." -- McCoy on coach Mack Brown

Pressure is on for new Texas coordinators

October, 8, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- When you start off the first Mack Brown-Bob Stoops duel with a 17-0 deficit in the first quarter, you quickly figure out what pressure means in this rivalry game.

But on a week this important, Major Applewhite won’t be regaling his Texas players with film or tales from 1999.

[+] EnlargeGreg Robinson
AP Photo/Eric GayGreg Robinson lost in his only outing against the Sooners.
“No, I won’t waste their time,” Applewhite said.

Greg Robinson still remembers his first and only Red River game with fondness … even if Adrian Peterson burned his defense for 225 yards and Oklahoma won 12-0.

“I don’t know that I ever had more fun in a game,” Robinson said. “I hated that we lost, but man, it was just a great experience. … It was a great game and it was so unique.”

The Texas team that takes the field Saturday against No. 12 Oklahoma should, with the exception of David Ash’s absence, bears a strong resemblance to the 2012 team. Fifteen guys in Texas’ starting 22 have previous starts against OU. It’s the Longhorns’ change of coordinators that could provide a unique twist.

Applewhite has five games under his belt now as play-caller. Robinson has coached three games. Both have been handcuffed to some extent by a rash of injuries and, in the case of the defense, the rapid transition required when changing defensive coordinators two games into a season.

For as much scrutiny as Brown continues to face, to say both of his coordinators have something to prove this weekend is probably an understatement.

Texas fans will be fixated on the game plan Applewhite draws up for Saturday, especially after the strange run/pass balance the Longhorn offense struck in a 31-30 win over Iowa State.

Case McCoy attempted a career-high 45 passes while Johnathan Gray got 16 carries on the night. At one point in the game, McCoy dropped back to pass on 15 consecutive plays. The Longhorns punted eight times on the night, and on six of those failed possessions they attempted no more than two rushes.

Against ISU, the game plan was loaded with run/pass options and McCoy made decisions based on the looks the defense offered. After doing more film review, Brown and Applewhite both said they should’ve run the ball more in Ames.

“I’m comfortable with Case throwing the football, but I think looking back on the other night we wanted to do a little bit more in the run game,” Applewhite said. “In the second half, there were some times when we called some things and we didn’t have success for whatever reason. In terms of winning the game, that was obviously our goal. But I’m not going to sit and dwell on it too much, it’s time to get ready for the next one.”

Since Ash went down at BYU, McCoy has led the Longhorns on 34 offensive drives -- 12 have ended in scores, and 16 in punts. The challenge for Applewhite and co-coordinator Darrell Wyatt against the Stoops brothers will be playing to strengths while still being unpredictable.

And the way Applewhite sees it, there’s no point in saying more is on the line this year than in past Red River games.

“I think it’s all on the line when you play Oklahoma, every year,” Applewhite said. “I don’t think these kids or the coaches or anybody else feel any different. It’s the Oklahoma game. It’s what you come to Texas to play for. Same thing on the other side. It’s extremely important. It’s bragging rights, it’s what you get to talk about when you’re old and tired.”

Think Robinson doesn’t want this one as badly as anyone? Exactly one month has passed since Robinson took over for Manny Diaz. Progress has been made, but Saturday will be the real measuring stick of how far this defense has come.

Robinson doesn’t give much credence to discussing the pressure that Texas’ coaching staff faces this week, because the fact is, this big-time game is what the job is all about.

“The pressure of wanting to win and of beating them is exciting,” Robinson said. “It’s an opportunity for all of us. So I think that’s how you look at it. It’s how much can you get out of your guys come Saturday to do the right things and play well. That’s the challenge. I think we’re all excited about accepting that.”

In the end for Robinson, Applewhite and the staff, all that matters is putting the Longhorns players in a position to end to Oklahoma’s reign over the Longhorns.

“Doggone it, we want to get it back on our side,” Robinson said. “I’d like to think that’s the mindset with everybody that’s involved. We all feel like we have a responsibility to our Texas fans.”

Planning for success: Texas

October, 3, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- When the news came out Monday that all three linebackers of Texas’ 2012 recruiting class are now starting, the collective response from Dalton Santos, Peter Jinkens and Timothy Cole was universal: This is going to be fun.

If the celebrating the trio has done on their Twitter accounts is any indication, it’s safe to say the second-year linebackers are more than up to the challenge Thursday night at Iowa State (6:30 p.m. CT, ESPN). This week, their contributions should be critical.

[+] EnlargePeter Jinkens
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesPeter Jinkens is part of an all-Class-of-2012 starting linebacking corps that Texas will unleash against Iowa State.
Texas defensive coordinator Greg Robinson was looking for a spark in the wake of losing the Longhorns' most talented linebacker, junior Jordan Hicks. His season-ending torn Achilles was the last thing Robinson needed in his quest to repair the run defense.

The Longhorns defense fell apart without Hicks last season during its toughest five-game stretch. His absence opened the door for others, and a total of seven linebackers earned starts in 2012.

Yet Robinson didn’t chose any of the remaining six to take over for Hicks. He picked Cole, a redshirt freshman from Brenham, Texas, who’s spent nearly all of his debut season on special teams.

“Tim did a tremendous job against Kansas State on special teams, and because of that and practice the last four days, Greg Robinson is convinced he wants Tim out there as a starter,” Texas coach Mack Brown said.

There’s the benefit of getting a fresh set of eyes on Texas’ linebackers. Cole wasn’t in line to contribute much to that unit before Robinson took over for Manny Diaz last month.

A four-star prospect who came to Texas last year with best friend Malcom Brown, Cole makes up for non-prototypical size (he’s listed at 6-foot-2, but that’s generous) with a strong football IQ and a knack for leadership.

When Texas was recruiting him, Brenham coach Glen West vowed that Cole would end up being a team captain for Texas. His new coaches don’t doubt that, and teammates recognized what made Cole unique early on.

“Since he got here, he was different than a lot of other guys,” defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. “I knew he was a little more mature than other guys. His football game has come a long way since he first got here, but he looks good. He knows he has to step up and play well, and I think he will.”

He’ll team up tonight with Jinkens and Santos, two high-energy sophomores coming off strong finishes in Texas’ win over Kansas State. Steve Edmond will likely have some role in the game, but he can’t play in the first half after receiving a targeting ejection in the second half against KSU.

Juniors Tevin Jackson and Kendall Thompson were the presumptive favorites to step into the lineup in Hicks’ place, but the Longhorns’ young trio won over their new position coach.

They’ll have to reward his faith with a stout showing against the Cyclones, who got a 137-yard rushing performance out of newcomer Aaron Wimberly last week vs. Tulsa.

In their first three game without Hicks last fall, Texas’ defense let opposing running backs produce games of 199, 207 and 167 yards, respectively. That can’t happen again, not if the Longhorns are hoping to turn the season around after a 2-2 start.

What matters more to Brown, though, is the leadership void that Texas must fill now that Hicks won’t be on the field. Jeffcoat said he’ll take on the responsibility along with defensive tackle Chris Whaley and defensive backs Carrington Byndom and Adrian Phillips.

Simply having more seniors to rely on this time around means more accountability across the board.

“That’s a lot of guys who can keep their positions up and make sure guys don’t start slacking off and guys pick up the slack from what was lost with Jordan,” Jeffcoat said.

The sophomores are doing their part, too. Of the 25 members of Texas’ 2012 class still on campus, Cole is about to become the 13th to earn a start.

While others broke into the starting lineup in year one, Cole was patient. He kept working and kept waiting for an opportunity. Here it is.

“He’s upbeat and positive and smart and never makes a mistake,” Brown said. “Greg Robinson said the other day, ‘Don’t tell him something that’s wrong, because he’s going to remember it and he’s going to do it.’ He just plays so hard. It’ll be fun to watch him on Thursday night.”

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 5

September, 30, 2013
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This week's Power Rankings feature a new No. 1, as last week's No. 1 takes a tumble:

1. Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0 Big 12, last week 3): The Sooners take over the top spot after delivering the most impressive Big 12 win of the season. Notre Dame is not the same team as last season, but the Irish hadn't lost in South Bend since October of 2011. OU has been a different team since Blake Bell took over at quarterback, and Bell was fabulous Saturday, throwing for two touchdowns without a turnover while churning out first downs with his arm and his legs. The OU defense is clearly better, too, picking off QB Tommy Rees on Notre Dame's first two possessions, with linebacker Corey Nelson returning one for a touchdown. The Sooners were clearly a team overlooked in the preseason, and, after five weeks, are looking like a clear Big 12 favorite along with Baylor.

2. Baylor (3-0, 0-0 Big 12, last week 2): After the off week, the Bears' offense will get its first real challenge this weekend from West Virginia's defense that appears to be the most improved unit in the league. Baylor has been unstoppable so far, but the level of competition is about to undergo an uptick. Can the Bears keep it up? They've shown no signs they can't.

3. Texas Tech (4-0, 1-0 Big 12, last week 4): Despite having the week off, the Red Raiders move up a spot with Oklahoma State's loss. The big question in Lubbock is who will be starting at quarterback for Tech come Saturday against Kansas. Baker Mayfield? Davis Webb? Michael Brewer, who has been progressing well from the back injury? The Red Raiders have been solid defensively, and the skill talent is legit. If Tech can get better play from its quarterback, this team could be a handful -- even for OU and Baylor.

4. West Virginia (3-2, 1-1 Big 12, last week 8): What a difference a week makes. The Mountaineers produced the most impressive in-conference win of the season with a 30-21 victory over preseason favorite Oklahoma State. West Virginia's defense continues to play at a high level (Maryland's 37 points were somewhat of an anomaly because of West Virginia turnovers) and Clint Trickett sparked the offense with his energy and leadership. West Virginia's offense is still pretty limited, but at least it no longer looks completely inept with Trickett at quarterback. The Mountaineers can't score with Baylor this weekend, but maybe they can slow the Bears down? Nobody thought West Virginia could slow Oklahoma or Oklahoma State, either, though Baylor's offense is at another level. We'll see.

5. Texas (2-2, 1-0 Big 12, last week 5): The Longhorns have a couple of interesting games looming. Thursday, Texas travels to Iowa State, which looked much better offensively in a 38-21 win at Tulsa this past Thursday. Then, Texas gets surging Oklahoma in Dallas. This figures to be the defining two-game stretch of the season for the Longhorns. Win the next two, and the season -- as well as Mack Brown's status in Austin -- looks totally different than it did two weeks ago. The off week could not have come at a better time for the Longhorns, giving acting defensive coordinator Greg Robinson another week to acclimate to his defense and quarterback David Ash another week to recover from the head injury that knocked him out of the Ole Miss and Kansas State games.

6. TCU (2-2, 0-1 Big 12, last week 6): Did TCU's offense finally uncover an identity during a rainy fourth quarter against SMU? The Horned Frogs poured on 31 points in the final quarter and did it with some new faces, as Ty Slanina, Ja'Juan Story and Cameron Echols-Luper all factored into the scoring onslaught in the first real action of their TCU careers. The Horned Frogs can really turn their season around with a win in Norman this weekend. That won't be easy, though, if All-American cornerback Jason Verrett (shoulder) and defensive end Devonte Fields (foot) can't play.

7. Oklahoma State (3-1, 0-1 Big 12, last week 1): The Cowboys plummet six spots after an uninspiring performance in Morgantown. It was just one loss, but it was a loss that exposed weaknesses across the board. For the first time in seemingly forever, Oklahoma State's kicking game is awful. The Cowboys' secondary gave up 320 yards to a West Virginia passing attack that previously had been completely futile. And on the other side of the ball, when the Mountaineers dared QB J.W. Walsh to beat them deep, he couldn't do it. That allowed West Virginia to stuff the Cowboys' running game, which also doesn't appear to have that bell-cow running back Oklahoma State has been accustomed to featuring. The Cowboys are better than they looked at West Virginia -- but how much better?

8. Kansas State (2-2, 0-1 Big 12, last week 7): Bill Snyder maintains the Wildcats will stick with the two-quarterback system, which has yielded mixed results. K-State has moved the ball better when Daniel Sams has been in at quarterback. But when he's in, the Wildcats are virtually no threat to pass. Sams has 29 rushes and only four passing attempts. Is Sams really that poor of a passer? Maybe it's time for K-State to find out.

9. Iowa State (1-2, 0-0 Big 12, last week 10): It's hard to believe a center could make that much of a difference. But the return of Tom Farniok sure seemed to do wonders for Iowa State's offense, which finally got going in a 38-21 win at Tulsa. The Cyclones also finally involved running back Aaron Wimberly, who ignited the running game with Iowa State's first 100-yard performance in more than a year. With former blue-chip junior-college transfer E.J. Bibbs emerging now at tight end, QB Sam Richardson no longer appears to be on his own. Jack Trice will be rocking Thursday night for the Longhorns, as Iowa State has a chance to land a signature win to build off of for the rest of the season.

10. Kansas (2-1, 0-0 Big 12, last week 9): The Jayhawks have a winning record but have been mostly unimpressive. Can they turn around the offense against Texas Tech? That will hinge almost entirely on quarterback Jake Heaps, who has talent but has been unable to find any rhythm so far with a collection of unproven wideouts. If the Jayhawks can be competitive this weekend, it will be a good sign they are moving in the right direction. If they get blasted, it could be a long season, especially with Iowa State and West Virginia seemingly having found their stride.

Five things learned about Texas' defense

September, 27, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- To say the past month has been a crazy one for Texas' defense would probably be an understatement. Let's take a look back at what we know and what we still don't know after the first quarter of the Longhorns' season.

Here are five things we've learned about Texas' defense after four games:

1. Run defense problems resumed

Through four games, Texas is ranked last in the Big 12 in nearly every major defensive category. A lot of that has to do with the failings of its run defense, which currently ranks fourth-worst in the nation at 260.2 yards per game. While the BYU game did inflate those numbers, and the defense's performance against Kansas State helped, the stats are what they are. To some extent, they provide a glimpse into the uphill climb the Longhorns face in repairing their run defense, which has been battered by option football and mobile quarterbacks.

2. Bringing back Diaz was the wrong call

[+] EnlargeCedric Reed
John Albright/Icon SMIJunior Cedric Reed has joined Jackson Jeffcoat to form a solid defensive end tandem for Texas.
Not trying to beat a dead horse here, but we can't talk about the Texas defense's first four games without addressing the coordinator who coached in two of them. Mack Brown brought back Manny Diaz, believing he was still the right man to run the defense after a promising finish to 2012. Then BYU rushed for 550 yards, and a day later, Diaz was gone. Brown believed he couldn't afford to stick with Diaz and let this defense get any worse. If it took only two games to reach that conclusion, it's clear keeping Diaz this offseason was a regrettable move. We won't really know the full consequences of that decision until the end of the season.

3. With time, Robinson could get the job done

At this point, the aforementioned stats do not matter at all if Texas wins. That's all that's being asked of new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson at this point: He needs to put a defense on the field that can win games, that won't fall apart in key moments. Brown trusts that Robinson can coax his players into being better tacklers and playing with passion and consistent execution. He's still getting familiar with his personnel and implementing his own concepts, and we might not know what this defense can end up being for a few more weeks. Losing linebacker Jordan Hicks was a serious blow, one that will require making some key changes. But it seems Robinson's players have bought in and are serious about turning the season around.

4. Defensive ends, line emerge as strength

Texas knew it had an NFL-caliber talent at defensive end in Jackson Jeffcoat, but Cedric Reed has been a revelation. They two have combined for 52 tackles, eight tackles for loss and four sacks this season and have been one of the best aspects of this defense. The trio of Chris Whaley, Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson has made strides, too, to form a front that can get after quarterbacks. If this defense gets where it wants to be, this line will be a big reason why.

5. Doesn't mean a thing until Oklahoma

The Longhorns could enjoy a breakthrough defensive performance against Iowa State and play one of their best games of Robinson's brief tenure. That wouldn't surprise anyone, even after the loss of Hicks. But just as the Red River game again will be the measuring stick for this season and this program, it also will serve as the real test of the Texas defense's progress. Brown hired Robinson to fix this defense in time for Big 12 play, and he needed to have serious progress by the time his team travels to Dallas. Against Oklahoma, he could cash in on his risky move and get big results, or Texas could pay dearly for it.

Robinson sees Texas defense progressing

September, 25, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Greg Robinson can spend hours in the film room and at a dry erase board planning and scheming for opponents. That’s the easy part, the job he’s been doing for more than 30 years.

But getting to know his own kids takes time. Entering week three as Texas’ new defensive coordinator, Robinson is glad that familiarity is finally coming along.

“I don’t call them by their numbers anymore,” Robinson said with a chuckle. “Starting to call them by their names.”

[+] EnlargeGreg Robinson
AP Photo/Eric GayNew Texas defensive coordinator Greg Robinson saw drastic improvement from his players in game two since taking over for Manny Diaz.
Robinson arrived in Austin on a Sunday night two weeks ago with the daunting task of fixing up Texas’ defense with only three days of practice at his disposal amid the embarrassing 40-21 loss at BYU that cost Manny Diaz his job.

He’s been hard at work ever since, doing everything he can to prepare for Texas’ opponents and find solutions for the flaws he inherited. Nobody expected perfection in his first week on the job, but Mack Brown needed to see progress by week 2, when Big 12 play began. And time heals all wounds, right?

The time Robinson gets this week is invaluable. A bye weekend means no opponent, which means plenty more time to focus on his personnel and implementing his ideas. It means, finally, he can slow down.

“Having a bye this week is really, really helpful,” Robinson said.

He hasn’t installed everything he has planned, but an extra 10 days could do wonders for him and his players. Getting Iowa State on a Thursday night next week also means extra prep time for Oklahoma.

As Diaz learned the hard way, this is a results-driven business. No matter the challenges Robinson faced in taking over on less-than-short notice, he has to coax better play out of his Longhorns defenders. If Texas’ performance against Kansas State is any indication, he might have this defense back on the right track.

We could go over all the numbers that say Texas’ defense got better from week 1 under Robinson to week 2, but most of them aren’t going to tell the story. Frankly, Ole Miss’ offense is better than the one K-State brought to Austin. A few numbers are promising, though.

Ole Miss averaged 6.04 yards per rush. K-State, which ran only four fewer plays than the Rebels, was held to 3.03. Texas stopped twice as many Kansas State rushes at or behind the line of scrimmage than it did against Ole Miss.

An interesting measure of a bend-don’t-break defense is how often an opponent scored after getting its initial first down on a drive. Ole Miss scored on 75 percent of those occasions. K-State? 33 percent.

Some of that is scheme and preparation, and a lot of it is motivation. Texas was staring down the possibility of starting the season 1-3. That scenario was unacceptable to its seniors.

“We control our effort,” defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. “That’s the thing. They can’t coach effort. We have to go and play hard, executed everything. That’s what we did. We made sure we executed the plays they put it.”

In the moments after the BYU loss, the leaders of Texas’ defense offered their unconditional support to Diaz and said he was still the right man for the job. They didn’t know much about Robinson when he arrived, but they’re buying in to what he brings to the table as their new leader.

“He made the promise that he was going to give us all he had, and that’s what he did,” defensive tackle Chris Whaley said. “We make the promise that we’ll give him all we have, so it was a great second week.”

Brown said he’s proud of how Robinson has collaborated with the rest of Texas’ defensive coaching staff. He has an especially strong connection with Duane Akina, the veteran secondary coach whom he’d worked closely with back in 2004.

“They’ve done such an amazing job,” Brown said. “They argue, they fight, but they did in ‘04. Then they come up with good stuff.”

They’re just getting started. Senior safety Adrian Phillips – or No. 17, as Robinson probably called him -- said he’s looking forward to finding out just what kind of coach Robinson really is over this next week.

The defensive coordinator can appreciate that. He too is starting to get a better sense of what he’s working with.

“Just being in the room with these guys, I’d be shocked if they didn’t just keep doing what they’re doing,” Robinson said. “And that’s getting better.”

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