Texas Looks to Establish a 'No Passing' Zone

RCB Tarell Brown and SS Marcus Griffin are expected to play Saturday at Nebraska. Their return comes at an opportune time as Texas continues to try to shore up its uncharacteristically porous secondary while preparing for the Cornhuskers' West Coast passing attack.

"I'm sure we'll have a chance to get them to line up and play," Co-Defensive Coordinator Duane Akina said. "That will be a good help for us."

Tarell Brown (toe) and Marcus Griffin (ankle) are listed atop this week's depth chart. Yet, Akina remains disappointed with his erratic pass defense that is giving up 210.2 ypg (NCAA No. 77).

"It's something we really wanted to get better at," he said. "It's not a characteristic that we're proud of. We've done a good job over the years in that area. It's been disappointing."

There's no underestimating the impact that attrition has had on establishing continuity among the DBs. Either Brown or Griffin have been out of the starting rotation in four ballgames this season.

"The biggest problem we've had this year is giving up big plays in the secondary," head coach Mack Brown observed. "I think it's because we've had so many problems that it's been very difficult. We're trying to find out who the other (backups) are that can help us, and still try to be simple enough where inexperienced players can play and still have enough to stop a good throwing team."

Coaches are quick to point out that all eleven players are responsible for pass defense, whether it's a lineman pressuring the QB or a linebacker who has coverage assignments. WLB Drew Kelson has been slow to recover from a high ankle sprain while his backup, Roddrick Muckelroy, will miss his fifth straight contest with a torn tendon in his ring finger. Backup SLB Sergio Kindle is also gradually making up for lost time after suffering an ankle injury the second day of August camp.

"Anybody can spin it however they choose," Akina said. "I'm not one of those. It's a Who's-Next philosophy with the idea that the next one who steps up will do a good job. We just need to get better at that position no matter who's out there."

The flipside is that Texas' primary defensive focus has been stopping the run and for forcing more turnovers. Texas is No. 2 nationally against the run (47.7 ypg) and has 14 take-aways in the past three games. It's why Brown wants to put the deficiencies in his secondary in the proper perspective.

"Against Baylor, we had five straight stops on defense, scored two touchdowns on defense, forced five turnovers and had five sacks and walked off the field mad because we gave up six explosives (completions of 16+ yards) in the pass defense," Brown said. "Those are all things we can correct. With our injuries, it's helping us that we're being forced to develop some depth for the rest of the year and the future."

Brown's injury pressed true freshman Deon Beasley into action Saturday on a night in which QB Shawn Bell completed 26-of-48 passes for 320 yards.

"I've gone through a lot of true freshman," Akina said, "and he had as good of a first-day performance that I've seen out of a guy."

In general, Akina's MO is to keep senior LCB Aaron Ross at the point of attack by positioning him in the direct line of what an opposing offense primarily want to accomplish on each play. Overall, Texas will be scheming to stop Nebraska's West Coast controlled passing attack that has incorporated a power running game into its arsenal. The Huskers are averaging 42.8 rushing attempts per game and putting the ball in the air 25.4 times each outing. The result, statistically, has been the type of balance that coach Bill Callahan wanted to bring to his offense. Nebraska is currently averaging 207.7 rushing, and 240.7 passing, yards per game.

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