A Tale of Two Coordinators

One could argue that Texas Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis has done his best job of coaching this season, while the jury is still out on Defensive Coordinator Duane Akina's effectiveness in calling the shots for the first time in Austin.

Take away the record-setting Vince Young-led offense of the 2005 national championship season and this year's unit is on pace to finish as Davis' most prolific. The Horns are averaging 471.5 ypg (NCAA No. 12), trailing the 1969 national champion Horns by little more than one-half yard per contest. However, Davis puts a disclaimer on an offense that did not find its identity until 13:05 remaining against Nebraska.

"This offense has been explosive," Davis acknowledged, "but it has not been consistent. We've shown signs lately of being more consistent."

Then again, Texas hasn't exactly faced a murderer's row of defensive teams. Just two of Texas' opponents this year have defenses currently ranked in the Top 40 (TCU, Oklahoma). At the same time, the production is courtesy of young, patchwork offensive line directed by a sophomore QB who was considered a consolation prize when signed in 2005. In short, less productive Longhorn offenses have possessed more firepower.

As such, "it hasn't been the easiest year," Davis continued. "It's been a challenge, but they're finishing up pretty well."

Davis has passed to set up the run in every game this season except Texas Tech. But the fact that RB Jamaal Charles has revitalized a Longhorn rushing game the past three ballgames now gives Davis the option to lead with his ground game. Charles has rushed for 1,366 yards this season on 214 carries (6.4 ypc) this season, but nearly half of his production has come on the past three Saturdays. Against Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, Charles has run for 644 yards, seven TDs and has averaged 8.9 yards-per-carry. His 124.2 yards-per-game is tops in the Big 12 Conference after learning to run downhill even in Davis' stretch offense.

While Colt McCoy may never be considered a dual-threat QB in the strictest sense of the word, he has proven mobile enough make off-schedule plays in both facets of the game. It tends to draw linebackers and cornerbacks closer to the LOS, setting up scenarios where Charles only has one man to beat to hit pay dirt.

"We like that match-up every time," McCoy said.

The match-ups that keep Longhorn fans on the edge of their seats (and within arms-reach of Maalox) are when Texas' undersized DBs and less-than-vintage starting linebackers try to defend the pass. Texas' pass defense is staggering to the finish line, giving up 267.6 ypg (NCAA No. 103). At times, the Horns have been exploited by throwbacks and high screens. Receivers have generally found room to roam in that wide-open space known as the deep middle of the Texas defense. It was optimistic to expect significant improvement from a bad pass defense that replaced three starting DBs and both starting DEs.

"I've been disappointed, at times, with our inconsistency," Akina said. "We're looking forward to the game where everybody is hitting on all cylinders."

The inconsistencies may be crystallized in two specific plays. Remove DeMarco Murray's 65-yard TD run from the equation, and Texas held Oklahoma to 105 rushing yards on 40 attempts -- more than half of Murray's rushing yards came on that third-quarter burst. Akina attributed it to "poor angles" and "over-pursuit". Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree had but 70 yards on five catches heading into the fourth quarter but finished with 195 yards on nine grabs.

"Some of that is blown assignments," Akina said. "Some of it is just not getting it down. As a coach, I always take responsibility."

Former defensive coordinator Gene Chizik placed such premium on stopping the run that it often burdened an injury-riddled secondary and a trio of starting linebackers who will never be confused for Tommy Nobis. As a whole, the unit was excruciatingly vulnerable to play-fakes, allowing a school record 3,071 yards through the air. The flip-side was Texas' best run defense of the post-War era (61.2 ypg, No. 2 all-time UT).

A difference this season is that Akina insists he does not want the defense to be as one-dimensional as it was last year. At the same time, his duties as DBs coach have been minimized by his oversight of the entire defense.

"I'm a lot more involved in the run game now," Akina acknowledged. "It splits your time. I'm a lot more involved in just making sure everything is running right.

Yet, with both Longhorn coordinators bemoaning the lack of consistency, the silver lining for a 9-2 team that still has a shot at a Big 12 Conference championship is that each unit has managed to pick-up the slack when their counterparts struggle.

"When the offense wasn't on rhythm, the defense has been on-rhythm and kept us going until the offense found its stride," Akina said. "When the defense hasn't been on rhythm, the offense kept us going. We've found ways to win games."

Horns Digest Top Stories