Texas Preview 2006 - Defense
Texas Longhorns
Posted Jul 31, 2006

Texas Longhorns Preview 2006 - Texas Longhorn Defense

What you need to know ... Lost in the dominance of the 2005 offense was how good the defense was finishing tenth in the nation and eighth in scoring D. There are only four losses, but safety Michael Huff, corner Cedric Griffin, linebacker Aaron Harris and tackle Rodrique Wright were All-America caliber players. The cupboard is hardly bare with a tremendous end tandem of Tim Crowder and Brian Robison sure to be among the best in the country and more than enough talent in the back seven to fill up the All-Big 12 team. The big question marks are at tackle next to Frank Okam and at middle linebacker, where Rashad Bobino and Roddrick Muckelroy will battle it out, but there's not a lot to be worried about.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Michael Griffin, 124
Sacks: Brian Robison, 7
Interceptions: Michael Griffin, Aaron Ross, 3

Star of the defense: Senior SS Michael Griffin
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior NT Derek Lokey
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman LB Roddrick Muckelroy
Best pro prospect: Senior DE Tim Crowder
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Griffin, 2) Crowder, 3) DE Brian Robison
Strength of the defense: Defensive end
Weakness of the defense:
Proven linebacker depth

Defensive Line
loss of Rodrique Wright in the middle will be big unless Derek Lokey and Roy Miller can be more than adequate, but the rest of the line will be oh-my-goodness good with three All-America candidates in tackle Frank Okam and ends Tim Crowder and Brian Robison. There's more than enough quality depth to get plenty of production if injuries strike, but other than Okam, there aren't the huge, hulking tackles Texas usually throws out there.
The key to the unit: Derek Lokey and Roy Miller. If they're not rock-solid, teams will be able to double and triple team Frank Okam.

Defensive Line Rating: 9

Projected Starters
- DE Tim Crowder, Sr. - 50 tackles, 3 sacks, 9 TFL, 1 interception, 20 quarterback pressures
One of the nation's premier pass rushers, the 6-4, 270-pound senior has 42 quarterback pressures over the last two seasons and should grow into an All-America caliber player if he can be a bit more consistent. He has the size to be like a third tackle against the run and the speed burst to fly around the corner like a much smaller player.

- NT Derek Lokey, Jr. - 17 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL
A more than solid reserve over the last two seasons, Lokey is quick on the inside and strong at getting into the backfield. He's not the typical Texas space-eater checking in at only 275 pounds, and he's sure to be part of a steady rotation. He was a Big 12 all-star in the classroom.

- DT Frank Okam, Jr. - 48 tackles, 1 sack, 5 TFL, 11 quarterback pressures
Able to play on the nose or at tackle, the 6-5, 315-pound junior will be a key run defender and should once again be an All-Big 12 performer. With 20 quarterback pressures over the last two seasons, he has NFL quickness for a tackle and should be camped out in the backfield if the rest of the line can take a little bit of the heat off.

- DE Brian Robison, Sr. - 58 tackles, 7 tackles, 15 TFL, 4 broken up passes, three forced fumbles, 10 quarterback pressures
The former linebacker went from being a great pass rusher to a great all-around end becoming a rock against the run. He's a freakish athlete with speed and leaping ability in a 6-3, 267-pound body. Not just a great end, he's also an All-Big 12 performer for the Texas track team in the shot put and discus.

Top Backups
- DE Brian Orakpo, Soph. - 27 tackles, 4 TFL, 9 quarterback pressures
He might be too good to keep off the field. He's not going to replace Tim Crowder, but the 238-pound sophomore is an extraordinary pass rusher who earned Honorable Mention All-Big 12 honors despite his limited role. He has the potential to grow into an All-American over the next few seasons.
- DE Aaron Lewis, Soph. - 8 tackles, 1 TFL
Lewis got his feet wet as a true freshman seeing time in blowouts. Now he'll try to crack the rotation behind Brian Robison at one of the end spots.
- NT Roy Miller, Soph. - 19 tackles, 3 quarterback pressures
At 300 pounds, Miller is a bigger option than Derek Lokey on the nose. He had a strong true freshman season seeing plenty of action in the rotation, and now he'll likely be a starter at times throughout the year. He's one of the team's strongest players.
- DT Thomas Marshall, Jr. - 6 tackles, 1 TFL
The former offensive lineman wasn't able to stay healthy last year seeing time in eight games. He's 6-6 and 293 pounds with good strength and nice potential if he can get more work.

The potential is there for this to grow into a dominant corps by the end of the season. The big question mark is in the middle trying to replace All-American Aaron Harris. Rashad Bobino will move over from the weakside to give it a shot, but he'll have serious competition from star-in-waiting redshirt freshman Roddrick Muckelroy. Robert Killebrew is a solid outside defender, while Drew Kelson and Jeremy Campbell bring good speed to the weakside.
The key to the unit: Figure out the middle situation early this fall and hope for true freshman Sergio Kindle to be ready for primetime right away.
Linebacker Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- Robert Killebrew, Jr. - 67 tackles, 4 sacks, 10 TFL, 3 broken up passes, 10 quarterback pressures
Killebrew wasn't Derrick Johnson, but he was a solid all-around defender on the strongside turning into a sensational pass rusher as well as a sure tackler. He has good size at 6-2 and 230 pounds and hits like a ton of bricks.

Rashad Bobino, Soph. - 53 tackles, 2 sacks, 7 TFL, 4 quarterback pressures
A weakside linebacker for most of last year, the quick Bobino will try to replace Aaron Harris in the middle. Despite his experience, he'll have to fight to keep the job with Roddrick Muckelroy looking like the real deal. It's possible he could end up moving back to the outside.

- Drew Kelson, Jr. - 36 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL
The former safety ended up being a decent backup linebacker producing steadily all throughout last season. He's very smart, is always in the right position, and makes up for his 215-pound size with a physical style of a much bigger player.

Top Backups
- Roddrick Muckelroy, RFr.
He's the real deal. Not only is Muckelroy 6-2 and 230 pounds, he has sprinter's speed and showed flashes this spring of being a potential Butkus Award winner. He'll still have a hard time beating out Rashad Bobino for the starting spot early this fall, but it'll be a shock if he doesn't end up starting somewhere for at least half the year.

- Jeremy Campbell, Soph. - 1 tackle
A slightly bigger option than Drew Kelson on the weakside, the 6-2, 220-pound sophomore spent most of last year as a scout teamer. He's not going to be more than a reserve this season, but he has the athletic ability to eventually grow into the rotation.
- Sergio Kindle, Fr.
He did a little of everything for Woodrow Wilson High in Dallas rushing for 5,632 yards and 86 touchdowns and making 411 tackles in his career. He's 6-4 and 225 pounds and fast enough to be a sprinter on his high school track team. After coming to school early, he'll back up Robert Killebrew on the strongside.

Defensive Backs
Texas was eighth in the nation in pass defense and fourth in pass efficiency defense, but that's partly due to not playing too many teams that threw the ball on a regular basis. Texas Tech put up 369 yards (albeit in a blowout) and Matt Leinart cranked out 365 yards in the national title game. What gets lost is how well this group tackles. Tarrell Brown and Aaron Ross might be the best hitting corners in the country, while Michael Griffin could follow Michael Huff's lead and win the Thorpe Award. There's good depth with the luxury of having backup corners in Ryan Palmer and Brandon Foster who are faster than the starters.
The key to the unit: Marcus Griffin and Erick Jackson have to combine to replace Michael Huff, while Tarell Brown and Aaron Ross have to be steady on the outside.
Secondary Rating: 9

Projected Starters
- CB Tarell Brown, Sr. - 70 tackles, 1 interception, 8 broken up passes, 2 TFL
Arguably the best unsung cornerback in the Big 12, Brown has 24 career starts as one of the team's top cover-corner over the last few seasons. He saved his best game for last cranking out ten tackles against USC showing off the hitting ability that could eventually make him an NFL safety.

- FS Marcus Griffin, Jr. - 32 tackles
While not nearly the talent his twin brother Michael is, Marcus is a solid all-around defender with a nose for the football. He has some huge shoes to fill replacing Michael Huff, but he should end up among the team's leading tacklers.

- SS Michael Griffin, Sr. - 124 tackles, 4 interceptions, 8 broken up passes, 5 quarterback pressures, 3 fumble recoveries, 4 blocked kicks
238 career tackles isn't bad for a former running back. Michael Huff won the Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back last season, but it could be argued that Griffin had the better year. He's one of the nation's best defensive backs with next level playmaking ability and unlimited range. He's a master at blocking punts and is great at forcing turnovers. A sure tackler, he came up with 23 stops against Texas A&M and 14 against Baylor.

- CB Aaron Ross, Sr. - 62 tackles, 3 interceptions, 9 broken up passes, 2 TFL
He only started two games at corner, but he finished seventh on the team in tackles and third in broken up passes. He had a huge Rose Bowl with two forced fumbles and showed off this tackling ability against Oklahoma State with 15 stops. Along with his safety-like hitting, he's also quick enough to be an All-Big 12 punt returner

Top Backups
- CB Brandon Foster, Jr. - 16 tackles, 1 broken up pass
Fast, fast, fast. His 5-9, 180-pound size doesn't matter because of his world-class speed. He spent the last two seasons as a backup at right corner and will see time behind Tarell Brown again.
- CB Ryan Palmer, Soph. - 8 tackles
While not all that big at 5-10 and 15 pounds, he can move. In high school, he was the fourth fastest sprinter in Texas and should be in the hunt all season long for the staring job on the left side to replace Cedric Griffin.
- SS Matt Melton, Sr. - 16 tackles
Melton will get every shot at replacing Michael Huff at strong safety. He's a big hitter who can fly, but he hasn't been able to do much in the defensive backfield yet with all the talent in front of him over the last few years. He'll continue to be a key special teamer.
- FS Erick Jackson, Jr. - 12 tackles, 1 broken up pass
Jackson spent most of last year as a reserve at left cornerback and on special teams. He has speed to burn and great size at 6-2 and 185 pounds. Now he'll bring his overall athleticism to free safety to battle Marcus Griffin for the job.

Special Teams
Greg Johnson will be the whole kicking game for now, but the field goal side of things could change if he struggles at all. He'll likely be an All-Big 12 punter. The return game was one of the best in America averaging a whopping 26.95 yards per kickoff return and 15.6 yards per punt return. Aaron Ross will be the prime punt returner, while Quan Cosby and Selvin Young will likely see most of the action on kickoff returns after the loss of Ramonce Taylor.
The key to the unit: Greg Johnson has to be a solid field goal kicker and has to tune his big leg for the short to midrange kicks.
Special Teams Rating: 9

Projected Starters
- PK/P Greg Johnson, Sr. - 2 punts, 84 yds, 1 inside the 20
The left-footed Johnson will get the first crack at all the kicking duties with his strength coming as a punter. He has an NFL leg averaging 43.3 yards per punt in his freshman season at Vanderbilt before transferring. David Pino wasn't the greatest kicker around, but he came through with plenty of big kicks. Johnson has a nice leg and has to prove he can be consistent.

Related Stories
Texas Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 31, 2006
Texas Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 31, 2006
Texas Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 31, 2006

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