It's rare at the University of Texas for the focal points of an offseason not to rest squarely on its players. The stability that comes with having the same head coach for 16 seasons will do that to a program.
This spring appears to be one of those exceptions, though, as the Longhorns prepare to embark on their first spring practice under new head coach Charlie Strong and his staff, which consists of only one holdover from the Mack Brown era (Bruce Chambers).
Because of this, LonghornDigest is going to take a closer look at each member of the staff leading up to the first day of spring practice on March 18.
On Wednesday we took a closer look at linebackers coach/recruiting coordinator Brian Jean-Mary.
Today we'll take a look at a man who is tasked with replacing the coach largely responsible for turning this program into what many consider to be "DBU," or "Defensive Back University."
Defensive Backs/Special Teams Coordinator
Linebackers coach at Tulsa, 2000 (Jan.-Feb.); outside linebackers coach at Arkansas, 2000; outside linebackers/strong safeties coach at Arkansas, 2001-03; outside linebackers coach at Arkansas, 2004; safeties coach at Arkansas, 2005; director of on-campus recruiting at Arkansas, 2006; safeties coach at Arkansas, 2007; defensive backs/recruiting coordinator at Ole Miss, 2008-11; cornerbacks coach at Memphis, 2012-13.
The Vaughn Digest:
Vaughn's biggest asset to this staff, at least early on, might not necessarily be the knowledge he's acquired from his time coaching defensive backs for the majority of his 16-year career. Rather the relationships he built with Texas high school coaches in his time as the recruiting coordinator for Arkansas and Ole Miss, two schools who recruit the state extremely well. Those could come in handy as the staff tries to find its footing within the state's borders. A native of Florida, Vaughn played linebacker at Murray State and also has experience coaching that position. His track record as a defensive backs coach speaks for itself. Those units at both Memphis and Ole Miss improved drastically under his guidance.
He replaced: Duane Akina
How he differs from Akina:
You just don't replace someone with the track record of Akina, who was as beloved a coach at UT as there was under Mack Brown. One of the most respected coaches in the country, Akina coached three Thorpe Award winners, six Thorpe Award finalists, and 28 NFL defensive backs. Many of those players frequented Texas practices and games to catch up with their old position coach. He just had a way of relating to players and drawing the best out of them with his fiery demeanor and never-ending passion for the game. Vaughn is said to coach with a similar style and a youthful nature that should expedite his relationship with Texas' DBs. Where Vaughn might really differ from Akina is from the overall defensive back experience of the staff in coaches like defensive coordinator Vance Bedford (DB at Texas) and Strong (safety at Central Arkansas). Vaughn should really be able to key in on the cornerbacks because of this.
Player he will most improve:
Senior safety Mykkele Thompson
Perhaps Vaughn's best coaching job was the transformation he helped Marshay Green make at Ole Miss. Green was recruited as a receiver but Vaughn saw potential and began grooming him as a cornerback. He entered the starting lineup in the third game of the 2008 season and went on to start 22 games in his final two seasons. Green even earned Defensive MVP honors in the 2009 AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic as part of a secondary that held Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree to just 30 yards receiving. In Thompson, Vaughn will have the chance to further the career of another former high school offensive playmaker. A quarterback in high school, Thompson has started in 18 games at free safety for Texas, including 12 last season. Although he ranked sixth on the team with 72 tackles in 2013, Thompson has left much to be desired from a player who seems to have all the tools to be an all-conference caliber player.
Recruits will love:
The type of defensive back he'll want them to become. As a defensive back in the Big 12, you'll have a chance to make more plays with the ball in the air than any other conference in the country. If you want to make a name for yourself, this is as good a conference to do it in as any. Vaughn loves the aggressive style of play that Strong asks of his defenses, especially in the back end. It's proving ground out wide with nowhere to hide. If you are up for the task, Vaughn will work with you to make the most of those opportunities.
Predicting coaching future:
Making the jump from Memphis to Texas isn't something that happens every day, especially when your put in charge of a position group that has become synonymous with the program over the last decade. There's no reason to think he'd leave this situation anytime soon. He's been extremely loyal to Houston Nutt throughout his career so you'd have to think he'd be a candidate to join Nutt if/when he gets another head coaching position.