Vaccaro Sounds Off on Defense

Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro discusses the Longhorn defense, and what's going wrong for the unit.

The Texas defense watched the whole Oklahoma film as a group together on Sunday, something that led defensive end Alex Okafor to state Monday that he had no faith in the Longhorns' run defense.

"[Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz] just put on some film yesterday of the Oklahoma game and three or four guys really playing hard, and some guys not playing hard," said Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro. "It's just causing a cancer on the team because if we're gonna ever be anything decent, everybody's just gotta play hard. A lot of people can't see it, but when you really break down and watch the film, that's all we need to do, it's just everybody needs to want to make the play every down. And it's not like that right now. People are expecting … people are looking for [other] people to make plays right now."

Vaccaro said he didn't understand how players could play like that.

"Honestly, I really don't know because that's just the mentality of one player," Vaccaro said. "It's your decision … what caliber player you want to be. I don't know. I don't know why somebody wouldn't play hard. I don't get it.

"Every down, I really, really try to play as hard as I can," Vaccaro said. "I just don't know why, if anyone would want to do any less, I don't know. But it'll get turned around."

It won't get turned around by grand speeches, Vaccaro said.

"That's just not what's going to fix the defense," Vaccaro said. "Like I said after the West Virginia game, big speeches are not what's helping us right now. It's got to come from within … each player.

"I'm not pointing out any direct player," Vaccaro said. "But every snap needs to be [treated] like it's your last."

That includes tackling.

"I think our intent needs to be different," Vaccaro said. "As I watch the film, I look at tackling as, it's technique, but also just how you're attacking the ball, too. Sometimes we didn't want to strike, we were just absorbing. And that's how you get run over."

With younger players, Vaccaro said the difficulty can come in making them understand how important their assignment is.

I think young guys don't understand that what they do in the game matters so much in a play … what gap you fit might affect the next person to you," Vaccaro said. "I understand if AO doesn't hit the right gap, the run won't bounce outside. So I don't think young players know their role as well as they need to sometimes, how much it matters."

Vaccaro talked about the challenge of getting players lined up correctly.

"If we're still worried about getting lined up, how can you talk about being a decent defense," Vaccaro asked. "Lined up is the easy part."

At the same time, Vaccaro conceded that the defense wasn't getting lined up correctly.

"So we've got to get that corrected," Vaccaro said. "[Just getting] lined up isn't going to win you any games."

Vaccaro said one example of the defense's struggles was the 95-yard touchdown run for Damien Williams.

"It was bad gap cancellation," Vaccaro said. "I was in on it, but honestly, I just tried to make a Superman play, and that was all I could do on that play. There was some inside stuff that needs to be fixed because it hit in the 'A' [gap]."

But while many people put the defensive blame on Diaz, Vaccaro said it was up to the players to fill their roles.

"I believe in Coach Diaz," Vaccaro said. "Everything Coach Diaz tells me to do, I do it to the fullest. I think what I need to do is just get everybody, we all need to buy in together and just understand we can get this thing turned around. It's not over.

"Those guys, they just need to take what Coach Diaz said yesterday in that their role matters," Vaccaro said. "Every step they take matters. And don't worry, they need to progress. I remember my sophomore year, I was busting all over the place. But if you're going to bust, at least do it 100 miles per hour."

Vaccaro said the Longhorns had to get things fixed quickly with a high-powered offense coming into town on Saturday.

"It's a big game for us, not just because it's Baylor," Vaccaro said. "Just because we've lost two in a row and we just need to bounce back with a win. We need to get some momentum going into this next stretch of games."

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