New Coaches Already Leaving Mark On UT Program

For the second straight year, Texas is breaking in three new coaches as the Longhorns gear up for spring training, starting Friday, February 25. It means there have already been some notable changes at the Forty Acres resulting in, ideally, an improved product on the field.

Co-Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik replaced former DE coach Dick Tomey in the off-season program and is now teamed with OL coach Mac McWhorter and strength and conditioning Jeff (Mad Dog) Madden. The former Auburn DC and National Defensive Coach of the Year replaced Greg Robinson who accepted the head coaching job at Syracuse last month. The highly energetic Robinson was a favorite among Orangebloods, leaving some fans to wonder how Chizik has transitioned into the program and what modifications he intends to make.

"The off-season program is very, very similar to Greg Robinson's," Brown said. "(Chizik) is high energy. He's very aggressive. He's very demanding. And he's very positive. That's hard to find."

Chizik is Texas' third DC in three seasons while former Georgia assistant Ken Rucker has assumed former RB coach Michael Haywood's spot. Haywood left to assume Offensive Coordinator duties at Notre Dame following a two-year stint as UT's running backs coach. Former Longhorn defensive standout Oscar Giles, who was part of the 1990 'Shock The Nation' Southwest Conference champions, took over last month as DE coach when Tomey announced he had accepted the head coaching job at San Jose State University.

Brown admitted this week that he doesn't necessarily like change, nor did he particularly enjoy having to re-engage the interview process so quickly. Yet, Brown believes the program is already reaping the benefit of his staff additions.

"In some ways, change is good because change helped last year," Brown said, before adding, "We had to re-establish ourselves after the Washington State loss with a new staff and start over in the off-season. We started the off-season program two weeks ago better than the way we started last year."

Rucker will recruit East Texas while Giles has been assigned to the Houston area formerly held by Haywood. (Note: the 2005 recruiting class marked the first time in Brown's tenure that Texas did not sign a prospect from Houston. In fact, the only Houston-area prospect that Texas pursued with consistent vigor was TE Martellus Bennett.) Rucker has spent a good portion of the last 15 years in or near the state of Texas, and is acclimated to Lone Star State recruiting. Before his two-year stint in Athens, he coached running backs at Texas A&M in 2001 and 2002, as well as an earlier stop in Aggieland (1994-97) in the same position. Carl Torbush, Brown's replacement at North Carolina, hired Rucker away from the Ags in '98 as a special teams coordinator and linebackers coach. Rucker also coached running backs for Arkansas (1990-92) and Baylor (1993). Chizik, meanwhile, spent six years as an assistant coach and coordinator at Stephen F. Austin.

Co-Defensive Coordinator Duane Akina will be responsible for San Antonio and South Texas recruiting. Brown wants both Chizik and OC Greg Davis to recruit central Texas "so that they can stay closer to home". Neither Davis nor Chizik will travel for recruiting purposes during the regular season. As reported two weeks ago in the Scoop, TE coach Bruce Chambers is the new recruiting coordinator while WR coach Bobby Kennedy is his top assistant.

"Sometimes changes hurt you a little bit in recruiting, but our staff feels like we've got a real good grasp of where things are next year," Brown said.

Giles has spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Houston, where he worked with the Cougars’ defensive line. He joined the Houston staff prior to the 2003 season after spending three seasons at SMU.

"Oscar knows so many of these kids because he's been around the recruiting of them," Brown said. "He played here, so he brings a different energy and spirit."

Defensive staff met extensively this past Thursday, and one of the makeovers under consideration is what Chizik intends to do with the linebackers. Robinson's preference was for, in essence, two MIKE linebackers inside and a SLB that could cover the TE as well as provide outside run support. The question is whether Texas will go with the same scheme, or if the WLB will operate more like the SLB. The latter was an approach Brown used at North Carolina, in which both positions were virtually interchangeable and basically functioned as outside linebackers who would also blitz as well as provide coverage.

"That will be what we have to decide during the first seven days," Brown said. "The big discussion is, who is WILL?"

Again, the question has to do with scheme rather than personnel but, obviously, the scheme (once chosen) will dictate which player ends up at WLB. Currently, journeyman Eric Hall has moved from SLB to WLB for spring drills.

"You could easily move Eric Hall back to defensive end because he's a good pass rusher," Brown said.

If so, Robert Killebrew would emerge (as many expect) at WLB with second-team All-Big 12 MLB Aaron Harris returning for his senior year and Eric Foreman back at SLB.

"By and large, the linebackers responded to Greg and I'm seeing the same thing with Gene," Brown noted.

In terms of overall personality, Chizik has been described on several occasions as a "no-nonsense" guy who clearly is on the fast track to a head coaching gig, probably more sooner than later. Yet, many who have met Chizik describe him as possessing the same heightened level of intensity as Robinson. Under his tutelage, the Tiger defense finished No. 1 in the country in points allowed (11.3 ppg) on the way to the SEC championship and a 13-0 season in '04. Chizik's unit gave up just one rushing TD during the 11-game regular season. His defense has not allowed an opponent to rush for 150 yards or an opposing back to total 100 in 17 games. Auburn ranked fifth in total defense (277.6 ypg) in 2004. The Tigers also finished the season ranked 10th in passing defense (173.5 ypg), and 12th in rushing defense (104.2 ypg), and did not allow a rushing touchdown until the eighth game of the season, giving up only four all year.

"Greg brought credibility, along with Dick," Brown said. "Gene brings credibility, being the Defensive Coach of the Year."

Just like Robinson, Chizik will have the final say in calling the defense. Unlike Robinson, Chizik will be in the press box rather than on the field during on game day.

"I could have made Duane the Defensive Coordinator by himself this time but I wanted to get the best staff we could get," Brown said.

In other words, the nationally recognized top assistant in D-I football wasn't going to leave a coordinator's position at Auburn just to be a positions coach at Texas.

The first seven days of spring ball will be devoted to teaching fundamentals and the base defense (a 4-3 front backed by a secondary that plays zone more often than not; Texas went with zone about 60 percent of the time in 2004, Brown estimated). Drills are slated to begin at Denius Field, 3:30 p.m., Friday. The session is open to the public.

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