Piece by Piece

As practice continues for the Longhorns, the new defense brought by Will Muschamp is taking shape as each piece falls into place. On Monday the Texas defensive coordinator spoke about the progress his defenders have made, the position battles going on and more.

A new attitude is already a part of the Texas defense in practice, now it's just a matter of Xs and Os. First-year Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp brings a new system to Austin, one that has to be learned by the entire defense, not just the freshmen, meaning there's a lot of learnin' to be done, but Muschamp says the adjustments have gone well.

"It's new to everybody. There's some different terminology and things. The older guys have done a good job of understanding it," said Muschamp.

According to Muschamp, the base concepts for his defense, including frequent use of the nickel package and the 'Buck' (LB/DE) position, have been installed and the players are comfortable with the new system, meaning that they can now get into specifics.

"Right now we're looking at a lot of third-down stuff and really practicing a lot of situational things," said Muschamp. "We did a one minute to win the game last night, we did a goal line, a lot of third-down work, a lot of situational transition off a turnover."

This Wednesday Muschamp will get a chance to see how far along his defense is when the Longhorns play their first scrimmage of the fall. Previously Muschamp mentioned that this Wednesday was his target date for setting an initial depth chart for his defense, meaning the scrimmage will be very important for those at contested positions.

The tightest race right now is at safety. Earl Thomas has all but wrapped up the starting free safety position, but strong safety is a three-way toss-up between Ben Wells, Blake Gideon and Christian Scott. Regardless of how it ends out, though, the Horns will start a pair of freshmen -- redshirt or otherwise -- at safety this season. Muschamp is looking forward to Wednesday so he can see how far along his young DBs have come.

"I think it's still a work in progress back there. Wednesday is going to be a very big indicator on where they are because (the coaches) are going to be off the field," said Muschamp. "We've done a good job as coaches of letting them make the calls, letting them make the checks, letting them see the formation, letting them disguise and Wednesday will certainly be a big test for those guys."

Because of the youth in the secondary, Muschamp has focused a great deal on putting together a front that will disrupt the quarterback on every down possible. Of course, rushing the passer is always important to Muschamp, regardless of the age of his defenders.

"I don't care if you're playing with a bunch of old men back there, (rushing the quarterback) is always important," said Muschamp. "We've got to get to the passer, we've got to affect him with four guys rushing."

One of the tactics Muschamp has been using is moving players to different positions with rushing the quarterback in mind. Back in spring, DE Lamarr Houston moved to defensive tackle to add more speed, as well as depth, on the interior. A relatively new change, though, has been LB Sergio Kindle occasionally playing a rush defensive end position, primarily on long passing downs. According to Muschamp, the position fits Kindle like a glove.

"He's got a God-given pass rush ability, so you've got to utilize his talents and put him in a situation where he can be successful," said Muschamp.

The new Texas defensive coordinator has been very busy in his short time at Texas and he, as well as Texas fans, hope the moves result in a faster, stronger and more intimidating defense.

"In order to be a good defense, you've got to strike and deliver a blow up front, get off blocks, run to the ball and tackle. That's what we need to do well," said Muschamp.

Wednesday's scrimmage, and all other scrimmages leading up to the start of the 2008 season, are closed to the public.

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