At practice last week, Mack Brown saw things with his defense that left him a bit unsettled.
“Some of practice on defense wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be,” the Texas coach said Monday, not specifying what bothered him. “But I didn’t think we would see what we saw.”
What Brown and the nation saw Saturday night was staggering.
Who could have foreseen a 40-21 beatdown by BYU? Or surrendering a school-record 550 rushing yards? Or allowing a quarterback coming off season-ending knee surgery as a freshman in 2012 to dissect the Longhorns for 259 rushing yards? Or giving up 679 total yards?
Or Manny Diaz being Texas’ former defensive coordinator by Sunday afternoon?
Yeah, that all happened.
Consequently, former co-defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, a scouting analyst for UT since July, flew from Los Angeles to Austin on Sunday in his new role as coordinator. He arrived just in time to get to evening walk-through practice, then met with secondary coach Duane Akina until 1 a.m.
Robinson’s agenda about 12 hours later Monday did not include meeting with the media — the usual game-week appointment for Texas coordinators.
“He’s got a lot on his plate,” Brown said. “He’ll have three practices between now and Saturday to try and get us in a better spot. It’s a tough deal for him.”
Indeed, Robinson’s initial task is basically to somehow get the Longhorns through the old frying pan/fire transition.
Texas, after getting pulverized in Provo, gets a Mississippi team that ranks 31st nationally in total offense, averaging 510.5 yards per game, and has several dangerous weapons. BYU, coming off its record performance against Texas, ranks 26th.
Nobody can say for sure how much Robinson can accomplish in a tight time frame. Brown described the 61-year-old as bringing “a wealth of knowledge” to the Longhorns.
“He makes great adjustments. When he was here before (2004), we tackled very well,” Brown said. “We chased the ball and were very sound fundamentally. Greg, to me, is one of the great teachers out there.”
Robinson’s salary jumps from $62,500 as a scout to $250,000 as coordinator. Diaz will continue to be paid the balance of his base salary of $650,000 and will remain under contract to UT for the rest of the fiscal year, reassigned to a position not yet determined.
Whether the coordinator change will signal a different look to the defense also remains unknown. Brown has said he has had no problem with the schemes under Diaz.
The decision to play the majority of the BYU game in the nickel baffled some, since the Cougars are primarily a running team with an anemic passing attack. Brown said Texas played five defensive backs to keep more speed on the field to, theoretically, counter BYU’s option game.
“The schemes have been good,” Brown said. “We’ve been very, very inconsistent in executing those schemes.”
So how can Robinson improve execution?
“You just go back and demand it,” Brown said. “That’s something that Greg is very good at. He will be sound, and he will be very simple. He will make sure every stone is uncovered to make sure everything is fundamentally sound at all times.”
Players were informed of the coaching change at a team meeting Sunday. Linebacker Jordan Hicks said he was shocked.
“If we would have performed better, if we would have executed (Diaz’s) scheme better, we wouldn’t be in this position. He wouldn’t be in this position,” said Hicks, who had a career-high 16 tackles. “We could have played better.”
Despite the shock of the BYU disaster and Brown’s first in-season coaching dismissal in his 30-year career as a head coach, Longhorns players believe a successful season remains in their reach.
“Nothing is slipping away,” defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. “We’re 1-1. We still can go 11-1. Our goals are still there. Ultimately we want to win the Big 12.”
Added safety Adrian Phillips, when he was asked if he had a message for the disgruntled Texas fan base: “The main thing is, if you’re with us, be with us. Every team goes through rough times.”
Phillips, though, said the defensive players feel responsible for Diaz’s dismissal.
“We didn’t want to see a great guy like coach Diaz go,” Phillips said. “To know you’re part of the reason for that, it kind of leaves a chip on your shoulder, and you want to get things set right, just for him. You wish things would have come out a whole lot differently.”
TEXAS VS. 25-OLE MISS
7 p.m. Saturday, LHN, 1300, 98.1
Anything Texas football-related on your mind? Join Longhorns beat writers Randy Riggs, Mark Rosner and Dave Behr for their weekly live chat at 11 a.m. Tuesday, at statesman.com/bevobeat.
What we learned Monday:
- David Ash is day to day. He’s nursing head and shoulder injuries.
- If Ash can’t play, Case McCoy will start against Ole Miss and Tyrone Swoopes would be the backup.
- Daje Johnson will miss Saturday’s game with an ankle injury.
- Manny Diaz’s new duties within the athletic department will be sorted out between Diaz and athletic director DeLoss Dodds.
- There were no major depth chart shakeups after the BYU loss, besides Kendall Sanders moving into the starting lineup because of Johnson’s injury.
- Next week’s Texas-Kansas State game will start at 7 p.m. and will be televised by ABC.