In case you missed it, we've already previewed Texas' coaching staff and offense. Today, we turn our attention to Texas' defense.
As I noted in the coaching staff preview, Charlie Strong is often credited for being the innovator for the 3-3-5 defense that Texas employs. If you're interested in learning about it, check out this excerpt from The Essential Smart Football by Chris Brown which was published on Grantland. The 3-3-5 will have three down lineman, three linebackers, two hybrid safeties, and three defensive backs. In Strong's defense, you'll see a lot of stunts and blitzes, and he generally wants to attack the offense rather than react to it.
Last week, BYU was able to expose one of the weaknesses of the 3-3-5 by rushing 60 times for 248 yards. According to The Barking Carnival, Texas' defensive line was not to blame, but rather the linebackers who were constantly out of position due to misdirection and failed to contain BYU's scrambling quarterback. In the passing game, BYU used short passing, completing 18/28 passes for 181 yards. Texas did manage an interception in the end zone, but BYU otherwise was able to dominate the ball offensively. The fact that BYU's defense forced 8 punts and 4 turnovers aided those statistics, but Texas is not coming into Saturday's game with a lot of momentum on either side of the ball.
Talent wise, Texas has plenty of blue chippers across the board on defense. Starting up front, Texas has two solid NFL prospects at tackle in Jr. Malcom Brown (6'2 320 lbs.) and Sr. Desmond Jackson (6'0 298 lbs.) that should give our interior line a stout challenge. Despite BYU's gaudy rushing stats, Brown had standout game last week, compiling 10 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. Texas' ends aren't as dominant, but Jr. Shiro Davis (6'2 253 lbs.) and Sr. Cedric Reed (6'4 272 lbs.) both have the talent to challenge our tackles. Reed had 10 sacks last year, and Davis is a very active player and should be around the ball a lot. Texas has some solid rotational players in So. Hassan Ridgeway (6'4 307 lbs.), So. Alex Norman (6'4 288 lbs.) So. Caleb Bluiett (6'2 261 lbs.), and So. Bryce Cottrell (6'2 247 lbs.), so depth will not be an issue.
At linebacker, Texas starts seniors Steve Edmond (6'2 258 lbs.), Peter Jinkens (6'1 237 lbs.), and Jr. Jordan Hicks (6'1 234 lbs.). Hicks leads the team with 19 tackles followed by Edmond with 17, but The Barking Carnival really laid the blame on those two for much of BYU's rushing attack, especially in the second half of the game.
In the secondary, Texas has a solid pair of corners in Sr. Quandre Diggs (5'10 195 lbs.) and Jr. Duke Thomas (5'11 178 lbs.). While good in coverage, both got blocked fairly easily by BYU's receivers, which should bode well for our outside screen game. Texas has talent at safety as well with So. Adrian Colbert (6'1 206 lbs.), Sr. Mykkele Thompson (6'2 191 lbs.) So. Dylan Haines (6'1 194 lbs.), and Fr. Jason Hall (6'2 207 lbs.). As a group, Texas has only given up 196 yards, 4.4 yards per attempt, allowing only a 46.7% completion percentage to opponents, and has 5 interceptions. However, most of those numbers are skewed by Texas' first game against North Texas, who managed only 3/17 passing for 15 yards and 4 interceptions. Yes, they completed more passes to Texas' secondary than to their own team. BYU wasn't great through the air, but they didn't really need to be due to the yards they churned on the ground. Regardless, they should prove a good test for Mazzone, especially if the ground game continues to struggle.
That concludes our preview of Texas. Feel free to fire away with additional thoughts and comments.