The Defense Rests: Some Starters May Get Pink Slip

More than one Longhorn defensive starter could find himself relegated to backup duty come Saturday&#146;s game at Iowa State, head coach <B>Mack Brown </B>said Monday. For now, only four UT defenders have job security following that 65-13 debacle in the Cotton Bowl Saturday. And those who aren&#146;t ready to play like a Longhorn defender is supposed to, Brown added, &quot;need to stay out of the way.&quot;

The four are defensive tackles Marcus Tubbs and Rodrique Wright, WLB Derrick Johnson and SS Phillip Geiggar, whom Brown praised during his weekly press luncheon. When asked to specify the defensive players that coaches are considering for demotions, Brown said, "All of them, except for the four I mentioned."

"We’ve got some guys that didn’t play well who are going to have to fight for spots," Brown added.

Johnson turned in 13 tackles (9 solo) against OU while Geiggar contributed nine total, including a 10-yard QB sack. Texas got virtually no pass rush from its DEs leaving it up to Tubbs and Wright to try to get pressure on QB Jason White. Otherwise, the defensive breakdown was complete.

"We didn’t make plays," Brown said. "We didn’t get pressure on White. When we did, he completed the ball. We didn’t cover the people well. When we did, they caught the ball and we didn’t get them on the ground. They made a lot of yards after the catch."

Nearly all of Brown’s criticism was leveled at the defense, despite the fact that the offense was guilty of six turnovers.

"You can’t win if you don’t play great defense," Brown said. "You can’t turn the ball over six times but, if you do, you have a chance (to win) if you play great defense. We didn’t play defense, and that’s really disturbing."

This is what Brown, in essence, said when the team gathered for the first time back in Austin: "I told them that I would take responsibility but the assistant coaches and (players) were going to have to go back to work with me and that they needed to do a great job. We’re the third winningest (fourth, actually) program in America but in this game we’ve done a poor job. And this is a real important game to our program."

The point was well taken, Brown believes.

"I think they understand that I’m not happy," he said. "I think they understand how important that game is and how poorly we played in it. They’re not stupid, and they understand we’re going to go back to work. Those who aren’t going back to work need to stay out of the way."

Personally, I’d love to see hard-hitting sophomore Aaron Harris and hard-nosed sophomore Garnet Smith on the field at the same time alongside Johnson at linebacker. With Texas heading for another second tier bowl, let’s thank senior LB Reed Boyd for the memories (he has fewer tackles this season than both starting safeties) but, of course, Smith needs to get healthy first.

Smith suffered a high ankle sprain in the season-opener against New Mexico. He dressed for OU but didn’t play. But both Smith and Harris bring the kind of nasty, unflinching attitude that this defense badly needs. Harris has laid some serious wood the past two games. His time was limited Saturday because Texas went with more nickel and dime packages than usual to try to stop White, but we can expect less of that against the Cyclones.

"He had some big hits which I liked," Brown said. "I like his aggressiveness. When it was 27-13, he knocked the ball loose on a kickoff return. Maybe that will help us, and hopefully we can get Garnet back."

Smith’s status remains questionable for Iowa State.

"Garnet is key for us; we need him back," Brown said. "I don’t know if he’ll be full speed or not. He wasn’t last week at all. I hope he’s better today."

Obviously, there are bigger defensive issues than just at linebacker. Brown said its puzzling that the guys who didn’t make plays against OU are the same ones who made plays last season (who still, I might add, did not get to the QB, nor tackle well, against Arkansas in September nor against Texas Tech and Oklahoma last season).

"We’ve got to figure out why we didn’t make the plays," Brown said. "It seems like we were standing there some, or had the guy covered and didn’t knock the ball down. It’s a challenge to me and our players and our defensive coaches."

Otherwise, the pink slips await.


The Texas-Iowa State game (11:30 a.m. Central) will be available on a pay-per-view basis in Texas and Iowa. The game will be available to digital customers of local cable systems in both states as well as to nationwide DirecTV customers and Dish Network customers. The cost is expected to be $29.95.

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