Chizik Checks In

Inside Texas caught up with Co-Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik (briefly) as coaches shuttled between team meetings and two-a-days.

Just because Chizik is entering his second season at Texas doesn't mean he's installing many schemes upon the foundation he laid with last year's Top 10 unit. Players have said they appreciate the fact that Chizik doesn't complicate things and that most of the pre-season has been spent fine-tuning the machine. But Chizik would be the first to tell that coaches are never completely satisfied and, as such, the tweaking and honing has been directed at a couple of key areas.

It's been mentioned on several occasions that an emphases this season is forcing more turnovers, particularly increasing the number of interceptions. The Horns came away with just 11 picks (NCAA No. 70) last season, but Chizik believes improvement is directly related to the simple fact that players are now acclimated to his system.

"The better they know the defense, the better they know where the 'hot routes' are, the better they'll know where the opportunities are going to occur before they occur for them to be able to get interceptions," Chizik told Inside Texas. "If they fumble, the ball's on the ground, and we do fumble drills every day. You never know when those are going to occur, and you never know when you're going to have an opportunity to create one. But with interceptions, you can alert your defense of the situations where there is a high chance we can get a pick. We've got some things built in there. I think the familiarity with the defense right now goes a long way in that regard."

Another hot topic, in the triple-digit heat, is replacing All-American Rod Wright and Larry Dibbles (11 starts) on the D-line. But Chizik's face lights up at the mere mention of NTs Roy Miller and Derek Lokey.

"Roy is having a great game and Derek is having a great camp," Chizik said. "Frank (Okam) is steady as always, but the emergence of those two has been really significant. We feel good about where we're at inside. We're trying to bring on some other guys right now to try to create a situation where we can play four of five guys in there."

Head coach Mack Brown loves the fact that (relatively) smaller NTs like Miller and Lokey make it difficult for blockers to "dig them out." Both are talented enough that opponents can ill-afford to discount them and key on Okam, but Chizik said it's a misconception to think that his 'three-technique' in the interior makes it more difficult to double-team Okam.

"It depends on what schemes you run," he said. "The three-technique and the nose tackle are still going to have the same problems. It really doesn't matter one way or the other."

Earlier this week, Brown threw props at sophomore DEs Aaron Lewis and Brian Orakpo. Even though seniors Tim Crowder and Brian Robison have combined for 50 starts, Brown is convinced there would be little drop-off when the second-team DEs are on the field.

"It's just a matter of reps for those guys," Chizik said. "It's a different speed in college. The tight ends are bigger in college than linemen were in high school. They have to learn the speed of the game, but they're really doing a good job of understanding the defense and where they fit in."

Chizik is also placing a premium on getting more pressure on the quarterback and doing a better job of stopping the run. Texas posted 34 QB sacks (NCAA No. 39) in 2005.

"Tackling is the main issue right now," Chizik said. "We're getting great effort but, right now, we've got to go back and work on our tackling and hone up on some of the defenses, and blitzes, and things of that nature."

The Horns are scheduled to practice 7:30 a.m., Friday. Saturday's Fan Appreciation Day scrimmage is now slated to begin at 7:30 a.m. at Royal-Memorial Stadium with an autograph session to follow.

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