Is Bowl Game an Audition for Akina?

By now, Texas defensive coach Duane Akina's Alamo Bowl game plan is in place and awaits execution on December 30. But does his scheme and game-day performance also serve as a de facto audition for the defensive coordinator's job that opened November 27 when Gene Chizik accepted the head coaching job at Iowa State?

To some extent, head coach Mack Brown questions how Akina can audition for a job that he has held since 2004.

"People forget that Duane has been our coordinator over the last three years with Greg Robinson (2004) and Gene Chizik (2005-06)," Brown said. "The only difference (in the Alamo Bowl) is he'll be calling the defense."

But it's a relatively big difference. Both Chizik and Robinson had the final say when calling the defense on game day. Robinson also had the 'final whistle' during practice, making him solely responsible for when each play was ended. Akina, of course, has been Texas' co-coordinator for three seasons, but the buck has yet to stop with him.

"(Akina) has been involved in every game plan," Brown said. "He's done everything with Gene and with Greg that we've done over the last three years. Duane has been the ultimate team-guy because he's worked in every ballgame with the game plan and never took any credit for anything."

Publicly, Brown has never backed away from his stance that he would neither contact nor interview potential candidates until after Texas' bowl game. Most aspirants would be involved in bowl games themselves, Brown noted, adding that he does not want players distracted by the hiring process. ("They'd all be in their rooms trying to Google who the next coordinator might be," Brown laughed). Yet, Brown acknowledged that Texas has received plenty of phone calls from interested parties, and that he has a mental working list of "about 15." The names most prominently associated with the opening have been Alabama defensive coordinator/interim head coach Joe Kines and Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta.

The only on-the-record confirmation that Brown has provided is the obvious: Akina will be considered. The only question is whether Brown believes the sixth-year assistant is now ready to fly solo. Sources close to the situation have said that Brown is 'very interested' to see what kind of game plan Akina devises for the Alamo Bowl, indicating that the outcome will be a factor in Brown's final decision.

"Duane will do a great job, along with our defensive staff, with the game plan and we'll play great defense against Iowa," Brown said. "He's been involved with the game plan the six years he's been here, specifically over the last three years. We have a person prepared to call defenses if the guy who normally calls them can't, if for some reason. Duane's been that guy for the last three years. We're confident that he'll do a good job."

Chizik called the defenses from the coaches booth the past two seasons, but Brown expects Akina to continue to coach from the sideline against Iowa. Interim linebacker coach Jeff Koonz will remain upstairs for the bowl game.

"If you're in the booth and you're an emotional guy," Brown said, "then you're so far away from your guys that you need somebody on the boundary who can gather them and lead them, and that's been Duane. One of his strengths is his enthusiasm. I would think that he would want to be on the field and be hands-on. We would then put somebody else up in the booth to try to help him if there's something we don't see. Most of it you can see from the boundary. If they (offenses) came out in something totally new, like we had happen this year against Ohio State -- they came out with no backs -- something like that, you need to get everybody settled down, and sometimes it's easier for a guy to see it all immediately where it may take you four or five plays downstairs."

Brown has asked Akina to continue to coach the secondary regardless of whether he becomes the solo coordinator or if he continues to share in that responsibility. At the very least, Brown will be looking to hire a linebackers coach this January. It is expected that Koonz will coach linebackers at Iowa State next season.

The Horns practiced for the final time in Austin this season on Thursday and are scheduled to practice at 4 p.m., December 25, at the Alamodome.

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