Longhorn DBs Growing Into Roles

Texas defensive backs coach Duane Akina talks about players growing into their talents, how the Longhorns fared against West Virginia and the challenge Oklahoma presents.

The common consensus is that the entire Texas defense struggled against West Virginia. But Texas defensive backs coach Duane Akina said that there were reasons for the secondary to be pleased with its performance.

"I think first you have to attribute it some to the offenses that we are lining up against are really pretty outstanding," Akina said. "If someone was going to tell me that Geno [Smith] would have been 3-for-12 on third down and [Tavon] Austin would have 102 yards receiving with 10 receptions and four of the catches were fast sweeps coming underneath and [Stedman] Bailey would have had 75 yards and eight catches, I think you would be pretty pleased with that.

"I guess I don't see it quite the same way," Akina said. "As an offense they are really productive and I thought we handled some of those things really, fairly well. There are some of the critical situations that we did not manage as well as in the Oklahoma State game. Really, in a lot of ways you don't look as much at numbers as you do situations, because there are so many different things that determine the outcome of the game. I think if you look at just raw numbers you are actually pretty satisfied with that game."

A huge part of that performance was the play of safety Kenny Vaccaro.

I think Kenny has really completed his game," Akina said. "I think Kenny had the ability for me to really talk about him in the same light that I have talked about some of the previous safeties. Now you have to go out and have that kind of senior year. With everybody, I have said that he has the ability to be [Michael] Huff, or a [Earl] Thomas or a Michael Griffin. That is who I said he could be, that kind of player. To date I think he has impacted the football game much along the same lines those guys did their senior years. He did an outstanding job against Austin. Like I said, 10 catches and he was matched up with him all night. The one big play that Austin had we were in a zone and he got 40 yards for a touchdown. If you want to look at that film, I think Kenny really matched up with an outstanding player very well.

"He is a very physical player, a dynamic blitzer and a very emotional player," Akina said. "When you become a press-man guy and you are lining up on those little 5-foot-8 slots that are very explosive and can stop-and-go, patience becomes a big part of your world now. I think that is where he has grown, because he is very strong and very physical and now he has the ability to be patient and be calm. "

Another player showing dynamic growth is sophomore safety Mykkele Thompson, listed as a starter against Oklahoma.

"He is coming along," Akina said. "When we recruited him, he was recruited mainly as an athlete. I really liked some of the things I saw with him running and jumping athletically. He is now starting to see the game quicker and become more confident. The reps are starting to matter and he is becoming a little more physical.

"Any time you recruit an offensive player that is used to avoiding contact, one of the first things you have to get them used to is running through contact," Akina said. "Sometimes that takes longer than others, but he is really starting to settle in in that area. He is getting the guys on the ground and I thought he really tackled well against West Virginia. There are a lot of tough tackling situations for him. Now we just have to take the last part of the experiment and that is to finish a couple of plays that were right there for him to make. "

Now, that safety duo will team up against yet another explosive, up-tempo spread offense this week, that of the rival Sooners.

"I think they are similar if you are talking about numbers," Akina said. "Like the last two offenses we played, they are No. 20 [No. 28] I think or somewhere in that range [in total offense]. They have a very capable quarterback that many people believed a year ago would come out in the first round. Maybe his raw numbers don't look the same, but when you look at actual arm talent and you have a five-year player, obviously he is a very capable player.

"I think their receivers are very capable also and they have helped themselves in the run game," Akina said. "They are probably a little more balanced then what we have seen the last two games, more like Oklahoma State. It will be another great challenge for us."

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