Preview 2007 - Defense
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2007 Texas Depth Chart
2006 CFN Texas
What you need to know:
Duane Akina goes from co-defensive
coordinator to the head man in charge, and there will be
changes. Last year's defense was all about stopping the run, and
the talented secondary got torched. This year's D will focus on
doing everything, with an eye towards being more aggressive and
generating more pressure. The strength is at tackle and in the
linebacking corps, with NFL caliber talent that should keep the
Longhorns among the nation's leaders against the run. The ends
will be fine, in time, and they'll get to pin their ears back
and go to the quarterback. All the pressure should help out a
secondary in transition, with only one starter returning from a
group that loses Thorpe Award winner Aaron Ross and All-American
Brian Orakpo, 4.5
Interceptions: Marcus Griffin, Ryan Palmer, 1
Star of the defense: Senior DT Frank Okam
Player that has to step up and become a star: CBs Deon
Beasley, Chykie Brown, Brandon Foster and Ryan Palmer
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Roddrick
Best pro prospect: Okam
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Okam, 2)
FS Marcus Griffin, 3) LB Rashad Bobino
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, defensive tackle
Weakness of the defense:
Projected Starters: While the ends might be a bit of a question
mark, the tackles, when combined with junior Roy Miller, will be
among the best in the nation. Senior Derek Lokey and Frank
Okam are strong veterans who don't get pushed around.
With 26 career starts, 37 appearances, and 108 tackles, Okam is the
seasoned vet and the leader on the line. He had a chance to leave early
for the NFL draft, and would've been a top 50 pick, but the 6-5,
320-pounder is back and should be in the hunt for All-America honors.
Not just a rock against the run, he's great at getting into the
The 6-2, 280-pound Lokey is a smart, tough player who came up with 24
tackles on the nose before getting knocked out for the year with a
broken leg. A versatile player over the course of his career, getting a
few carries as a goal line back, he has a great combination of strength
and desire with a non-stop motor. He might not be the team's most
talented lineman, but he makes things happen.
Gone are Tim Crowder and Brian Robison on the ends, and they won't
easily be replaced. It'll take a rotation to fill the void, with juniors
Brian Orakpo and Aaron Lewis the most likely candidates to
start. Orakpo is a great pass rusher, generating 4.5 sacks and 26
tackles in a limited role behind Crowder, he has received a little bit
of all-star acclaim in his career despite the lack of playing time. It's
his job for the taking at the Quick end, but at 6-4 and 248 pounds, he
might have problems holding up full-time against the run.
Lewis has been a part of the rotation since day one, and had a nice year
as a backup and spot starter for Robinson making 21 tackles and three
sacks with 11 quarterback pressures. While not the pass rusher Orakpo
is, he's extremely fast off the ball for his size and is great at
knocking down passes.
Projected Top Reserves: Okam and Lokey form a
great duo, but those two and 6-2, 295-pound junior Roy Miller,
who's a strong run stopper and a nice presence in the backfield making
39 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and six tackles for loss starting six times and
seeing action in every game, make for a brick wall in the middle. He
could step in and start at either spot.
Coming up with a good end rotation on the ends will be vital, meaning
265-pound sophomore Lamarr Houston will have to grow into a role
at the Power defensive end, either as a starter or a backup to Lewis. He
had a nice first year making 14 tackles and a sack as a true freshman.
With an excellent combination of size and quickness, he should grow into
a big-time pass rusher.
The backups at the other end spot are intriguing, to say the least.
Behind Orakpo will be a combination of junior Henry Melton, the
268-pound former running back who thumped his way to 625 yards and 16
touchdowns over the last two years, and redshirt freshman Eddie Jones,
a next-level, 260-pound prospect who just needs a little time and
seasoning. First, Melton has to get out of trouble after being arrested
and charged wit a DWI.
Watch Out For ... Orakpo to become the team's newest
pass rushing star. Great in a reserve role last year, he should explode
out of the shadow of Brian Robison.
Strength: Tackles. Okam, Miller and Lokey might
not get a ton of national press, but these three form the nucleus for
one of the nation's best run defenses.
Weakness: Backup end. In time, there will be good
production from the reserves, but it might take a little while before
Jones, Melton and Houston all start to shine.
Outlook: It's not all doom and gloom after losing
16 sacks and 96 tackles from Robison and Crowder. The tackles will make
up for any problems on the outside early on, and eventually, there will
be an excellent rotation of active defenders at the end. The line will
hardly be a weakness.
Projected Starters: The linebacking corps is loaded with all
three starters returning and a host of talented players waiting in the
wings. The leading returning tackler is junior Rashad Babino in
the middle. While he's an undersized 5-11 and 228 pounds, he's a good
hitter who has 26 career starts on both the outside and the middle,
making 127 tackles and 20 tackles for loss. He plays much bigger than
his size and has sideline-to-sideline range.
Back on the strongside will be senior Robert Killebrew, a
longtime veteran with 22 starts who had the tough task of filling in for
Derrick Johnson two years ago, and has come though fine with 122 career
tackles. He regressed a bit, having to play in more of a rotation last
year, making just 40 tackles with no sacks and four tackles for loss
coming off a dominant sophomore season. A good pass rusher, he has the
speed to also play on the weakside if needed.
Starting on the weakside will be 6-3, 230-pound senior Scott Derry,
who's coming off a good, unheralded 70-tackle season with nine tackles
for loss after missing all of 2005 with an ankle injury. While not great
in pass coverage, he's not a liability, and he's more physical than most
Projected Top Reserves: On the rise is sophomore
Sergio Kindle, a tremendous talent who stepped in as a true
freshman and made 21 tackles after missing the first few games with an
ankle injury and was never quite right all year. He's 6-4, 239 pounds,
and has sprinter's speed. At Woodrow Wilson High in Dallas, he ran for
5,632 yards and 86 touchdowns and made 411 tackles. He'll push hard for
the starting job on the strongside.
Combining with Derry on the weakside is 6-2, 230-pound sophomore
Roddrick Muckelroy, who started off with ten tackles, a sack and
three tackles for loss in three games before suffering a ruptured tendon
in his finger. He'll be the X factor in the corps with the potential to
be an all-star, both in the conference and on a national scale, before
his career is over. He's big, tremendously fast, and extremely talented.
While Kindle and Muckelroy might end up starting, 6-3, 236-pound
sophomore Jared Norton is strictly a backup in the middle behind
Bobino. He brings more size to the inside and showed he could handle
himself well as a true freshman with 15 tackles. Mostly a special teamer,
he'll play a bigger role on defense.
Watch Out For ... Kindle and Muckelroy to take over
starting spots sooner than later. Killebrew has been around for so long
that he'll be hard to knock out, and Derry is a rock-solid defender, but
the backups are more talented.
Strength: Talent. Taking Norton out of the
equation, for now, the other five linebackers form a deep, experienced,
fast group full of NFL prospects. The secondary had the million dollar
talent last year, now it's the linebacking corps.
Weakness: Pass defense. Last year's group only had
to focus on the run and did nothing to help out the passing game. Now
it'll have to be aggressive, stop the run, and do more to stop
Outlook: The receiving corps might be the strength
of the offense, but the linebackers are the strength of the team. The
possible second teamers, whoever they might become, will all get big
looks in NFL camps and could start almost anywhere else in the Big 12.
This group will dominate at times in the more aggressive defensive
system. an the coaching staff find the right rotation? Sure, it's
complaining about the Porsche for not having enough cup holders, but it
could be a problem to develop the right chemistry considering all the
star defenders need time.
Projected Starters: Three top starters, Aaron Ross, Michael
Griffin and Tarell Brown are gone leaving mile-wide holes in talent. The
one returning starter is senior Marcus Griffin, who finished
second on the team with 90 tackles with an interception and three broken
up passes. While he's not the talent his brother Michael is, he's a good
hitter who should do even more against the pass after moving from strong
safety to free safety.
Stepping in at strong safety will most likely be 6-2, 200-pound senior
Erick Jackson, but he'll have to fight for the job. A career
reserve with 23 tackles, he doesn't have much in the way of upside, at
least compared to the other options for the job, but he's been around
long enough to know what he's doing and has some of the best speed in
the secondary. He could also move to free safety if needed.
The starting corner jobs are up for grabs, but senior Brandon Foster
appears to have taken hold of the spot on the left side after
waiting in the wings for the last few years. A speedy reserve, he made
31 tackles over the last two seasons, but he's made his biggest impact
on special teams.
On the other side will likely be sophomore Deon Beasley, who got
a start against Baylor and finished the year with seven tackles. While
he's not all that big at 5-10 and 170 pounds, he's strong for his size,
tremendously fast, and has a world of upside. Now he has to prove he can
be consistent in coverage.
Projected Top Reserves: Neck-and-neck with Beasley
for the starting right corner job is redshirt freshman Chykie Brown,
who at 6-1 and 180 pounds is a bigger option for the job. A smart, tough
athlete with tremendous potential, all he needs is a little time and
seasoning. He has the skills, but he'll give up a few big plays before
he figures out what he's doing.
Pushing for the other corner job will be junior Ryan Palmer. A
career reserve with 24 career tackles and an interception, he's been a
top special teamer along with his minimal time in the secondary. He's a
big bigger than Foster at 5-10 and 190 pounds, and he can fly.
In high school, he
was the fourth fastest sprinter in Texas.
There's a battle for the strong safety job with sophomores Robert
Joseph and Ishie Oduegwu pushing Jackson. Odeuegwu made seven
tackles as a reserve, and if given time, will be a hitting machine.
Joseph, who made 14 stops last year, brings even more pop as a
blow-him-up type of defender.
The most interesting prospect is free safety Drew Kelson, a
former linebacker who made 54 tackles over the last two years and now
will push Griffin for time. He seems to have found a home after playing
in the secondary, at running back, and at weakside linebacker. Being
physical isn't an issue, and he has the speed. He just needs more
Watch Out For ... a drastic improvement in the
numbers. Last year's defense was all about stopping the run, and now the
D will focus more on being balanced. There might be a talent drop-off
from last year's secondary, but the overall stats will be better.
Strength: Speed. A lot of mistakes will be erased
by sheer athleticism. Few receiving corps in the country have the wheels
to blow by this group.
Weakness: Experience. Last year might not have
been great, but you don't get better by losing Aaron Ross, Michael
Griffin, and Tarell Brown. It'll be a work in progress to find the right
mix of talents.
Outlook: The secondary would be a concern if last
year's group wasn't so bad. It might have been full of NFL talent, but
it stunk. It gave up way too many big plays, only helped the D pick off
13 passes, and got picked apart by just about anyone who could throw the
forward pass. Yes, the scheme didn't help the situation, but a secondary
with Thorpe Award winner and a top draft pick shouldn't need too much
help. This year's secondary will struggle with its consistency, but
it'll be helped out with more pressure generated from the front seven
and more assistance from the linebackers.
Projected Starters: Losing punter Greg Johnson and his 40.8-yard
average and 22 kicks inside the 20 is a big blow. It'll be between
sophomore Trevor Gerland and junior Justin Moore for the
job. Gerland is a sprinter who happens to be a decent punting prospect.
He doesn't have a huge leg, but he has a little bit of experience
averaging 39.2 yards per kick and putting three of his six punts inside
the 20. Junior Ryan Bailey will most likely take over the
full-time placekicking duties after hitting all six of his chances
including a 43-yarder against Iowa. He took over the job halfway through
last season and should be steady inside the 40.
Watch Out For ... the overall kicking game to be just
fine. Johnson will be missed as a punter, but Gerland will pin teams
deep time and again. Bailey showed at the end of last year what he could
Strength: Return game. Quan Cosby is a major
weapon averaging 25.7 yards per kickoff return and 32 yards on his two
punt returns. The Longhorns were 19th in the nation in punt returns and
17th in kickoff returns, and should be close to that good again.
Weakness: Big legs. Gerland and Bailey might be
consistent and accurate, but can they air it out? They haven't been
tested yet on deep kicks.
Outlook: The coverage units and returners will be
among the best in the country. As long as Gerland and Bailey are
above-average, the special teams will be a strength.