A vocal segment of the Texas football fan base has been waiting for the day when younger safeties will step forward and dethrone maligned starters Dylan Haines and Jason Hall.
Folks, keep on waiting.
There are no plans to tinker with the back end of the secondary, says defensive backs coach Clay Jennings who, when asked Friday whether Haines and Hall are in danger this preseason of relinquishing their jobs, responded, “I don’t see that.”
With that definitive statement, Jennings cleared up a hot debate on the eve of the season’s first practice, and it can now be assumed to open the year against Notre Dame that Haines, a former walk-on will trot out for his 24th career start, and Hall for his 19th.
Expectedly, this nugget of news didn’t go over well with some fans:
This can't be right. https://t.co/zL8rPNm79p
— JohnFenzy (@longhornfenzy) August 5, 2016
Texas' defense won't reach its ceiling until one of the young safeties can change this. https://t.co/QEBGKHcUt6
— Ryan Bridges (@RyanBridgesCFB) August 5, 2016
To be sure, Jennings is searching for reliable reserves for a deep safety rotation, meaning the advocates of youngsters DeShon Elliott and Brandon Jones and even senior Kevin Vaccaro should see plenty of their guys.
Just not in starting roles. At least initially.
“Dylan Haines and Jason Hall have played a heck of a lot of football, but (the reserves can) come in and make those guys uncomfortable,” Jennings said. “I think the freshmen and a couple of guys who were with us in the spring, those guys have improved, too. The stronger we are from the bottom up, I think we’ll be OK.”
Though the safeties will cross-train at both spots, Elliott is positioned behind Hall at strong safety and Jones, the nation’s top-ranked safety recruit, is pushing Haines at free safety. Vaccaro is somewhere in that mix, as is freshman Chris Brown.
At nickel, P.J. Locke III has a firm lead over John Bonney and Antwuan Davis, who has moved from cornerback.
Interestingly, coaches rarely spend much time discussing Elliott, a four-star headliner in the 2015 class. Set back by a freak injury last year in camp, he got a late start to his freshman season and appeared in seven games with 13 tackles. His best game came against Kansas, when he became just the second true freshman in school history to record two interceptions.
Conversely, Haines gets plenty of praise. If not by fans, then at least by his coaches.
“Dylan Haines has done a tremendous job for us on defense,” defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said.
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