No assistant coach at Texas gets more criticism than the offensive play-caller. But what about the defensive coordinator?
Now entering his third season, Vance Bedford doesn’t mince any words about his unit’s performance last year. Statistically, it was one of the worst defenses in school history and a major reason why the Longhorns went 5-7.
“This is the University of Texas,” Bedford said. “The thing about it is we were terrible last year. There’s no jokes about that. We were.”
For whatever reason, Charlie Strong’s defensive coaching staff hasn’t gotten the same white-hot level of criticism the last two years like the offensive staff has. That will likely change in a make-or-break year for Strong and everybody else within the program.
“I’m old-school. My mom, she believed in whoopings,” linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary said. “I’m never going to ask for a whooping. I’ll say that to you. But we want to be judged all the same. Our bottom line is to get a win, at the end of the day.”
Statistics are like clay; they can be molded however you like. For example, if you’re looking solely at total yards allowed, the statistics say four of the five worst defensive units in school history came in the last four years. But that could be symptomatic of high-flying Big 12 offenses, too.
The 2015 squad allowed 452.6 yards per game, the highest total ever in UT history. That includes allowing 4.51 rushing yards per attempt, the fourth-highest total ever.
“You look at our numbers, and it’s embarrassing,” Strong said. “We have to be a better defensive team than what we are.”
Strong has built his personal brand on defense, but he left no doubt Friday that Bedford’s in charge. “I sit in the defensive meetings and sit in the offensive meetings, but I don’t make the defensive calls,” he said. “You hire coaches, that’s their job.”
It’s a bottom-line business. The only statistic that matters is the won-loss record. On that front, Texas is 11-14 in two years with Bedford at his alma mater’s defensive controls.
“Guys were talking about last year, and I forgot about last year,” Bedford said. “I’m an old DB. You keep thinking about what happened in the past — good or bad — you’re going to stay in the past.”
Bedford said when the ball is in the air, his defensive backs need to make plays or the Horns must get the quarterback to the ground. “Sack, fumble, interceptions, strips — whatever it takes. Those things must happen, Bedford said.
Eight defensive plays against Baylor last season proved to be a microcosm of the entire season.
The Bears lost their quarterback and went to a single-wing formation to open the third quarter. Johnny Jefferson and Terence Williams took direct snaps and ran straight into the heart of the Texas defense. The Longhorns knew what was coming. The fans knew what Baylor was going to do. Everyone watching at home sure did, too. And Texas still couldn’t stop it. Baylor went 69 yards with relative ease and scored.
Asked specifically about that drive on Friday, Strong said his players simply got out of position. But it highlighted a dire need to upgrade the defensive line during the offseason.
“I tell them all the time is all starts with us,” defensive line coach Brick Haley said. “Our defense will go as we go. If we’re good and we’re solid up front, we’ll have a good, solid defense.”
Texas signed six defensive linemen, and Haley indicated Friday all have a chance to play. The linebacker corps is thin, but there is plenty of depth in the secondary.
To his credit, Bedford doesn’t peddle excuses. He’s a truth-teller by trade. Every defensive staff member knows their side of the ball must show improvement.
“We understood the standard wasn’t what it was supposed to be,” Jean-Mary said. “But nobody’s going to put more pressure on us than we put on ourselves.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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