Ask Brian Jones

Former Longhorn and NFL linebacker Brian Jones answers your questions.

Q: What is the difference between Garnet Smith at the beginning of the Horns' 2003 season and Garnet Smith at the beginning of this 2004 season? A year ago, the coaches seemed to think that Garnet was a substantive talent who could be a key to giving the Horns a title-game caliber defense. Now Garnet is in the doghouse. Is it the injury last season, the switch from MLB to SLB, a lack of maximum effort on the practice field, his inability to handle pass coverage, his poor conditioning or ... name it ... that is keeping Garnet in the coaches' doghouse so far this year? Can he get out of the doghouse this season?

B.J.: That is a question that has dogged me for a while because here we have a young man last year, he was taking over the middle linebacker spot and he came in with all the fanfare and the hoopla and he was a feisty player and he was very vocal -- which I thoroughly enjoyed -- and he was a hitter, and I felt like he was going to be a leader on the team but unfortunately he goes down with an injury. But this year, I don't know what's going on there. First of all, I thought it was going to be a dogfight between he and Aaron Harris for the middle linebacker spot, but I guess the coaches were pretty well sold on Aaron Harris holding on to that spot and moving Garnet to the outside. I can understand moving one of the two because you want to have your best guys on the field at all times but I don't know whether it is Garnet hasn't been able to catch on at outside linebacker or if it has anything to do with grades or disciplinary action. I'm not sure whether or not he's in the doghouse, but it sure seems like it. And from what I've heard, once you get in that doghouse over there, it's hard to get out of...

Q: Through two games, Texas has yet to record a sack. Coming into the season, putting more pressure on opposing QBs was something Mack Brown talked about as a focus for this year's defense? What do you see as the reason the Horns have had no success so far getting to the QB, and what can they do to get that pressure by, say, the OU game?

B.J.: Well, what I saw a lot of in the Arkansas game was a lot of guys focusing on the quarterback and his running ability. As a defensive lineman, you need to get off on the ball. You can't be reading and reacting. You need to get off -- that's why you have those linebackers behind you to read and react. Those are the guys that can react and change positions a lot better than you can, so you need to get off on the ball. That's the first thing they need to do. Second of all, the technique is just bad. If you have to hold containment, you gotta hold containment, no ifs, ands or buts about it. You saw that at the defensive end position, you saw it at the linebacker position. If you're going to worry about the quarterback, the first thing you do is hold contain and I see the defensive line not getting off on the ball, reading, and yet the purpose of reading is to hold containment and they still weren't able to hold contain. That's the No. 1 problem why you're not getting a pass rush. Guys up front need to get off the ball. I mean, you're coming off like a bat outta hell and then those guys behind you, once you've reestablished the line of scrimmage by coming off, those guys behind you are going to read and react whichever direction the running back or quarterback goes. Of course you want to make tackles too, but the main thing for a defensive lineman is be disruptive, get off the ball and be disruptive and these guys aren't doing that.

Q: I have noticed that Michael Huff seems to throw himself at the ball carrier and frequently just bounces off without affecting the progress or direction of the runner. Since this tendency has persisted over two games, I wonder: is there any way to call this technique "proper form?" If I am correct that he does not use proper tackling technique, what does he need to do to correct this?

B.J.: [Laughing] These people are deep! Wow, what a question. Well, first off, you don't just thrust yourself at the ballcarrier; you want to run through the ballcarrier. That's why it's only in desperation that you ever leave your feet to go after a ballcarrier. To just lunge at a ballcarrier and not bring your arms and grab cloth, more times than not you're not going to make that tackle and I've seen more than just Michael Huff using just a shoulder and throwing rolling blocks, if you will, at the ballcarrier. You have to run through the ballcarrier. That's how you're taught to tackle. Run through the ballcarrier, bring your hips and grab jersey. That's how you tackle and make sure the guy goes down. Of course, every play may not be an opportune time to use that form but technically speaking that's the form you want to try to use and I see a lot of guys just throwing shoulders and not bringing their arms in and you can not play football that way. You can not be a good tackling football team if you continue to do that. [Follow-up question: How does this team compare to last year's team in terms of tackling?] I've seen poor technique in both games. I wouldn't say they are better than last year. One thing they are better at is swarming toward the ball. That's the big difference I've seen.

Q: I know it's still three weeks away -- who wants to talk about Rice and Baylor anyway -- but what's your early call on the Oklahoma game given what you've seen of both teams so far?

B.J.: Texas would get killed. If they play like they did the other night at Arkansas, they would get killed. It would be the same as we've seen two of the last four years. They'd hang half a hundred on us. You can't play like they did against Arkansas and think you're gonna win the OU game. First of all, the mistakes, the poor tackling, and I didn't really think the Horns were as physical as they needed to be in that ballgame. I thought Texas was going to blow Arkansas out. They should have. Arkansas is a good football team but not great, though. A young offensive line, you have a quarterback who is the only guy on the team with a bull's eye on his chest. He's the main guy. You stop him, you stop Arkansas and Texas couldn't do that and gave up over 400 yards total offense. And yes, they're going to play their best but... There's a certain mindset you have to have when you play these type of ballgames, and I see Texas players really flying around and throwing bodies into them when playing certain teams, and against other teams I don't see that. You have to come with that mindset all the time, especially in these big games. There's still a few weeks to go till that ballgame but right now, my early assessment is, no, Texas wouldn't beat Oklahoma.

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Brian Jones played middle linebacker for the Longhorns in 1989 and 1990, leading the team in tackles both seasons and earning all-SWC honors as a senior before an eight-year NFL career with the Colts, Dolphins, Raiders and Saints. He also recently worked as the sideline reporter for the Longhorn Radio Network, host of Longhorn Sports Center and co-host of a popular radio sports talk show in Austin. His 'Ask B.J.' columns appears weekly during football season on

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