"The defense is built around Derrick," Robinson said during Tuesday's Coordinators press conference, "but, at the same time, we have to stop North Texas. Getting Derrick to understand what their offense is, how to diagnose the things that they're doing, that's the most important thing. If he's right in knowing what he's doing and knowing how to control where he's going, he's going to make a ton of plays."
Anyone who has seen even a handful of Longhorn games these past three seasons already knows Johnson has amazing closing speed and can flat out bring the wood. But it's the elements of tackling that precede the actual physical contact where Robinson has been most instrumental in elevating his game, Johnson has said. D.J. is convinced his new position coach has taught him to get better leverage at the snap of the ball, take better pursuit angles, cut back significantly on his tendency to overpursue as well as doing a better job of shedding blockers. Johnson will also blitz early and often in Robinson's system. (When asked Monday how many times he blitzed in the Holiday Bowl, Johnson was silent for a moment before responding, "I think once.")
When asked if Johnson's versatility and sheer athleticism allowed Robinson to tweak his defense, the DC replied: "We moved him to nose tackle yesterday, and I think he's going to play a role."
From day one, Robinson has insisted that "it's not about systems or schemes" but the kind of "attitude" that players bring to the defense.
"We've talked about playing with controlled violence," Robinson repeated for the umpteenth time since his January 27 hiring. (In fact, Robinson says he has no idea how he came to wear the label of being some sort of cerebral, finesse, read-and-react coach.) Even so, the Texas D had a lot to learn (ranging from the fundamentals of tackling to more emphasis on zone defense and disguising blitz packages) from the start of spring drills in early March until the start of the regular season this Saturday.
"The first week of the spring, their heads were spinning," Robinson said. "But I was pleasantly surprised at the osmosis I saw in the defense between the spring and the fall."
In other words, the rate of absorption was heightened during the summer months when several defensive players remained in Austin to work out the kinks.
"The guys were working with the offense but were calling out the defensive plays," Robinson said. "
Part of Robinson's transition back from the professional to the collegiate ranks is adjusting to the NCAA mandated 20-hour limit to train players.
"They didn't tell me it was a week," Robinson joked. "I thought it was a day. That's four hours of sleep."
So, is everything in place for Saturday's opener?
"It better be," Robinson said.