Practice has begun. The season opener is on the horizon. Football is back.
To preview Texas’ season, we’re continuing to spend part of August by asking 20 burning questions in 20 days.
Today’s question, which will be handled by columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden and beat writer Brian Davis:
No. 10: Will Texas’ secondary be better, worse or just as good as 2013?
In 2013, Texas ranked 85th in the country in total defense, allowing 407 yards a game and 25.8 points. In passing defense, the Longhorns were 66th — two spots behind No. 64 Kansas, five behind No. 61 Iowa State and six behind No. 60 Kansas State. Texas gave up 2,914 passing yards on the year, or an average of 224.2 a game, gave up 13 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.
Safety Adrian Phillips was second on the team in tackles, while Mykkele Thompson was sixth. Quandre Diggs had 58 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 10 pass breakups, 10 passes defended — but no interceptions. Carrington Byndom, at the other cornerback spot, had 56 tackles, 1 sack, 7 pass breakups, 7 passes defended — but no interceptions. The third corner, Duke Thomas, led the team with three picks.
This year, Phillips and Byndom are gone.
So, how will this year’s secondary compare to last year’s?
“I’m guessing much worse. The Longhorns lost two valuable hands in cornerback Carrington Byndom and safety Adrian Phillips and return safety Mykkele Thompson, who had a horrible 2013 as one of the worst tacklers ever. Thompson showed much improvement since last season, and Duane Akina used to rave about cornerback Duke Thomas’ athleticism. But safety is a huge question mark, maybe the biggest on the team, and 6-0, 179-pound Josh Turner may not have the size that Charlie Strong wants out of the position.”
“I expect the secondary to be better than it was in 2013. Front seven stars Chris Whaley, Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed made things easier on the back end last year because constant pressure took a lot of heat off the corners and safeties in coverage. Moving forward, I expect to see a big improvement from cornerback Quandre Diggs, who played hurt in the second half of the season, and safety Mykkele Thompson, who often looked back there. Strong’s physical approach will help Reed’s motor while tackle Malcom Brown is ready to be a star alongside Tank Jackson. That should create a push up front, which will help full-time starters Duke Thomas and Adrian Colbert adjust to their roles on the back end. I can see Texas being a top-2 defense in the Big 12.”
“Unless the Longhorns signed the next Darrelle Revis, I’m afraid there won’t be any material improvement in the secondary. Texas’ pass defense was fifth in the Big 12 last season, allowing 224.2 yards per game. Duke Thomas had a team-high three interceptions. The pass defense allowed 16 plays of 30 yards or more. That’s at least one per game. Thomas, Diggs, Thompson, Dylan Haines and the rest of the secondary as a group needs to make big steps forward this year. In the pass-happy Big 12, expect to see the Longhorns in a nickel formation most of the time, so that puts extra pressure on the back end. Think Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.”
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