When Greg Robinson took over the Texas defense, the group was in shambles. Instead of improving off what most considered a poor 2012 campaign, the defense was scorched for 550 rushing yards at BYU, leading to the dismissal of Manny Diaz as defensive coordinator less than 24 hours later. Also in that time period, Robinson was promoted from his football analyst position in the player personnel department to the same defensive coordinator job he held nearly a decade ago in 2004.
The rough outing against Ole Miss — Robinson had three actual practices to prep the troops — could be expected. But other than some late breakdowns, Texas looked much improved against Kansas State, and while the Iowa State game wasn't perfect, the Longhorn defense held when it mattered most. Then, of course, came Oklahoma. Texas held the Sooners to 13 offensive points and less than 300 yards of total offense, looking like a complete turnaround to the unit that Robinson inherited just a few weeks earlier.
"I really can't judge prior to being here, but I just think that there is a lot of young players, and I think that every rep that they take is a growing experience," Robinson said. "The more that you can get them to put together a good experience after a good experience, their confidence begins to grow. I just think that working hard can really help the development of your team, and if our players keep working the way that they have been working then good things are going to happen."
That development wasn't going to occur with a massive scheme overhaul, Robinson said.
"I wasn't real interested in revolutionizing anything in the defense or things like that," Robinson said. "There might be a twist here or a twist there, but I think it was just trying help them do certain things, a technique that they're trying to do — help them to do it better.
"A lot of times it takes reps, it takes turns, and maybe there is a little something that I can give that can add something to it," Robinson said. "All-in-all it has just been a matter of working hard and communicating and really getting to know these guys and see where they could use help here or there, then go from there."
So what has changed since Ole Miss?
"I think that they're gaining confidence," Robinson said. "When they can see themselves doing things right, that's how you build confidence in yourself. The more that you do it right, the more confident you get. I think that we've worked hard, but there's no guarantees. The moment that you kind of think you've got it, you better look out. You don't want to dwell on stuff like that, but it's a tell-tale sign that you, as a coach, have to bring it to somebody's attention."
Now the biggest question is perhaps whether the Longhorns can capture that confidence, that motivation, and carry it forward.
That's easier said than answered; it's easy to say a lot of things," Robinson said. "The proof is in the pudding, and time will tell. I just know this — we are going to work very hard, and come Saturday we will be able to evaluate it. I don't know that there is any magic wand that does it. It's a matter of just working and focusing in, and I believe that is what we've got around here — guys that are going to do those things."
This week comes with a little bit of an added challenge. Though TCU coach Gary Patterson said quarterback Casey Pachall wasn't quite where they wanted him to be in coming back from an injury, the Texas staff has prepared to face either Pachall, the Horned Frogs' starter at the beginning of the year, or Trevone Boykin, who took over the job after Pachall went out. Boykin, of course, led TCU to victory over Texas in Austin last year.
"We have to do what they do, and to say that the offense is going to be that much different — I don't think so," Robinson said. "I look at when Pachall was in against LSU and the plays they were running, they look similar to the things they are doing now.
"We are preparing for whoever is out there," Robinson said. "We know that, obviously, there is talk about him playing so we have to be tuned into that."