Chasing Ghosts

The Texas staff prepared for a new New Mexico State staff this week. Read more about the challenges they faced.

When Texas coach Mack Brown described the Longhorns' season opener against New Mexico State, he touched on a concern for many coaches heading into a season's first game against a new coaching staff.

"It's a unique opener more than most because we don't know anything about their offense, we don't know anything about their defense; we've heard a few things, but we don't have a clue about what they're going to do," Brown said. "So we're going to have to go out and get a feel for what's happening in the ball game and then just coach. So we'll have to tell our kids, 'You have your eyes open, and let's figure out who they are in the first quarter and then let's go from there.' They've been really quiet with what they're doing with their schemes."

New Mexico State does return its defensive coordinator from a year ago. But with a new head coach in Doug Martin, who was the offensive coordinator at Boston College, and a new offensive coordinator in Gregg Brandon, who was Wyoming's offensive coordinator, it leaves the Longhorn defensive staff with a massive research project.

"It's never fun … you're chasing ghosts a little bit," said Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.

In fact, listening to the amount of film that the Texas defensive staff had to watch for the opener is staggering.

"This week, we've watched New Mexico State tape," Diaz said. "We've watched Wyoming tape because that's where their offensive coordinator was last year. Of course, we watched our game against Wyoming, then we watched other games against Wyoming. And then why were they different against us than these other teams that they played against. We watched two or three other college football teams that will go unnamed."

And then it becomes even more obscure.

"We watched junior college tape because their quarterback is new," Diaz said. "He only played six snaps last year, but then he played junior college, so we watched him. We watched their wideout. We've watched a lot of different guys in a lot of different colors running around on the field. But you still have a limited amount of practice time where you have to figure out what they're going to do."

With that limited time, how do the Longhorns handle their preparations?

"What you really do is you say this: you say OK, No. 1, what have we got from our offense? So what conceptually have we seen that we should be able to respond to? We've done it for the past three or four weeks," Diaz said. "What do we do defensively that we have not seen from our offense but you sort of have to get taught? As you're teaching this coverage, if you haven't seen this route concept, you have to run it. Because you know even if we're not running it, we're going to get it. So you get more to teaching your fundamental rules, in terms of just how we play this even if we haven't seen it. You practice some of those concepts."

Even then, Diaz said it's important to remember that, as a first game, there's always going to be an adjustment period.

"It's no different for them. They'll be going through an adjustment period with us," Diaz said. "But you fix a lot of this with effort. You fix a lot of this with toughness. You fix a lot of this with violence and just rallying the football. Then, we'll come to the sideline and we'll look at what's going on.

"There's going to be some feeling out process on both sides in the game," Diaz said. "But don't let that stop you from playing fast. Don't let that stop you from the things that you have to have as a great defense, which is great effort, great leverage, and then great violence when you get to the ball."


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