The New Texas Defensive Standard Is "NOS"

It doesn't mean much now to the casual Texas fan but, for the revamped Longhorn defense, the acronym NOS means everything. It's a new term that Co-Defensive Coordinator <B>Greg Robinson</B> has coined to indicate every single instance in which an individual defensive effort was even slightly subpar, or 'Not Our Standard'. Thing is, the entire defense pays on Sunday for each individual lapse on Saturday. How many NOS violations did Robinson detect against North Texas? You might be surprised.

There were 45, WLB Derrick Johnson announced Monday. And although the All-American WLB was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week for his three forced fumbles and six solo tackles against the Mean Green, he was not exempted from 45 up-and-down (running) drills when the team gathered Sunday afternoon. An NOS violation has more to do with lack of effort on any one play rather than making mistakes.

"Believe it or not, we did have a lot of mistakes during the game," Johnson said. "There are some things that we are going to correct as far as running to the ball more, or missing an assignment. We have a standard and we're trying to keep that."

The standard that Robinson has set is predicated less on schemes than it is on a fundamentally sound, swarming defense that forces turnovers and plays with an attitude of controlled violence.

"NOS is when you're not running hard to the ball," FS Phillip Geiggar said, "but I think there's some other stuff too. I think we ran to the ball well. You didn't see too many single-man tackles."

But under Robinson's microscopic gaze, he did see ample room for improvement. Overall, Texas is looking to improve upon a run defense that clearly was Not Our Standard in 2003. The 152.5 ypg surrendered (NCAA No. 58) was the lowest statistical ranking against the rush during the Mack Brown era. On Saturday, Texas held North Texas to 130 total yards, the third fewest total since 1990. North Texas RB Patrick Cobbs (whose 152.7 ypg led the nation last season) was completely shut down, carrying eight times for minus-one yard. (UNT coaches pulled Cobbs at the end of one quarter so as not to risk re-injuring his thumb.)

Granted, even 45 NOS violations did not come close to squelching a 65-0 Longhorn onslaught in a runaway that, for all intents and purposes, was over by the end of the first quarter. Here's the point: 45 could get you beat on the road Saturday at Arkansas (7:45 p.m., ESPN national broadcast).

"They pointed out that there were some key mistakes that North Texas didn't take advantage of," Geiggar said, "but if they would have, they could have scored. They (coaches) really hit us hard."

For example?

"One time we left one of the receivers by himself on a post route and they didn't catch it," Geiggar said, "so that could have been a big gain or a touchdown."

Although this seems like a small step, the incentive drills are much needed addition to a unit that has not shown the sustained, across-the-board, from-snap-to-whistle, effort in recent memory. It harkens back to a story that former All-SWC Pat Culpepper told me of how Darrell Royal once convened his team following a 14-14 tie at Rice in 1962. Texas was undefeated and ranked No. 1 nationally following consecutive wins over OU and Arkansas. Back when national titles were decided before the bowl season, that October 27 tie was the only blemish on the Longhorn record. Although they would not know it at the time, that deadlock cost Texas the national championship (a title it would eventually wear the following season). But the effort in Houston was so clearly not up the Royal's standards, he told the team (as it arrived back in Austin at 2 a.m.) that they were to meet for 6 a.m. practice at Memorial Stadium. What followed, apparently, was a Sunday morning version of the Junction Boys. Texas would go on to win 19 of its next 20 games.

From Day One, Robinson did not promise a certain statistic but rather a specific style of play: he demands that all eleven defenders fly to the ball until the whistle blows. Brown has said on more than one occasion that what gets you beat is when you have eight guys hustling and three taking lazy steps. The NOS drills seem to ensure that every member of the Longhorn D is consistently -- and relentlessly -- in step.

"We all want to be on the same track," Johnson said. "I don't want to do any more up-and-downs."

In that case, there can be no detectable hustle violations Saturday night in the Ozarks. Dating back to the last season of SWC play in 1991, Texas has dropped three straight to the Razorbacks (whose fans have had this date circled for years). Only once in the 75-game history of the series has Texas dropped four straight.

In short, another setback this weekend is NOS.

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