Texas Longhorns Defensive futility vs. BYU in four clips: Extracting the mental from fundamentals

George Frey

If you want to understand what Greg Robinson really has to contend with, read on. I promise you some head-shaking moments. And a few gallows laughs.

I came across these clips on CoachingSearch.com and it does a nice job of illustrating our futility and shoddiness in teaching and executing the game on defense.  No one escapes unscathed.

Roussel's opening paragraphs set the scene nicely:

Where did it go wrong for Texas on Saturday night in Provo?

Missed tackles were a massive issue.

Watch the highlighted players in each of these four plays, each of which resulted in a touchdown.

It appears to me that there is a lack of toughness, an unwillingness of several Texas defensive players to put their face on the ball carrier, wrap up, and make a tackle.

But it’s absolutely unbelievable that Manny Diaz can dial a Cover 3 (3-deep, 4-underneath) zone coverage with four underneath players with their eyes on the quarterback, yet Hill still tucks and runs for a twenty-yard touchdown. (Diagram #1)

Nods.

Let's dive deeper, because there is no level of the defense - DL, LB, or secondary - that's getting it done. The circled players in Roussel's still shots aren't the only problem.  They are the most obvious failures, but the roots of that failure start at the LOS and carry right on through.  Even when Diaz does make the proper play call.

No one is on the same page on the defensive line.  The safeties have no idea where to put their eyes, or how to take a proper tackling angle, and several of our linebackers verge on comedy with respect to their recognition and basic skill levels.  John Mackovic's defenses usually lacked talent, but Tyson King and Kyle Richardson certainly understood the game.  Our guys are really fundamentally unsound.  And their football IQs are negative integers.  It can be ameliorated, but you can't clean that up overnight.

With respect to BYU's QB, any good athlete running downhill in space is going to make you look like an asshole.  It happens.  That's why it helps to have teammates converging on the ball to help you instead of existing in isolated silos of play.  And to Roussel's point, you have to give yourself up and get their ass to the ground, even if they drag you, truck you, or juke you.  Our LBs and safeties won't/can't do that.

We made BYU look like circa 1996 Nebraska.  Without a single one of their offensive players being good enough to play for those Huskers.  Think about that.  Then ask yourself what 1996 Nebraska might have rushed for on Saturday. 800 yards?

Anyway, let's walk through the carnage.  You'll find it instructive.


Game context: BYU is in our red zone (20 yard line), we're facing a running QB with minimal passing ability, our secondary is significantly better than their WRs.

I'd recommend we rush four, stay in our lanes, keep eyes on the QB at the second level, and force him to either throw an interception, panic scramble for 2 yards (where he takes a big straight on hit - the kind that we let BYU put Ash out of the game with), or he sails the ball into the stands.  Right?

We actually try to execute that correct defensive call.  We fail completely.  It starts on the DL.

The DL cannot get greater depth than the QB in their pass rush.  And they must maintain their rushing lanes. Running past a fast QB is as bad as running to the sideline and grabbing a Gatorade.  The DL must stay in their lanes, use their hands, and constrict the pocket.  Three of our guys do this.  Sort of.  One of them doesn't get the memo.

That's #90, Malcom Brown.

Remember, rush lanes are everything here.  Flushing him is a secondary consideration.  You want him in the pocket.

Where did Hill run?  #90's vacated rush lane. The playside DE Wilson and the other DT have the right idea initially, but they don't use their hands to play off the blocks and they stop moving their feet.  They're spectators.  They're going at practice speed with practice effort.  BYU is moving at game speed with fanatical effort.

That's Strike 1.  But no problem - we have three layers of defense.  And their QB is running right at our unblocked MLB who has had eyes on him the whole time.  Our 250 pound QB spy is about to knock the dog piss out of him. Right?

Steve Edmond, may the Football Gods have mercy on your soul, young man.

He has no assignment on this play other than to mirror the QB.  That's it.  Yet, he actually ends up out of alignment with him.  Again, all he is being asked to do is stand across from Hill and shuffle his feet side to side to reflect Hill's exact movements ten paces in front of him.

Go get your wife or girlfriend. Have her stand in front of you.  Do it.  Right now.

Put her ten paces away.  When she slides right, you do it too.  Good.  Now left.  Good.  Now have her run straight at you.  Are you at an angle?  Is she about to juke you?  No. You are not.  Because you mirrored her.  A mirror!  You did the same thing she did. Congratulations.  You're a linebacker.  Now tackle her.  She needs to know that you're a hunter-gatherer.  Now rip off your shirt and lift an ottoman high above your head.  Tell her to cook you food.

Somehow, Edmond ends up at an angle to Hill despite Hill never moving more than five feet in either direction, further, he is startled that BYU's running QB is, well, running, and he lumbers at Hill's calves with the ferocity of a tree sloth at a pursuit angle that makes Euclid weep.  Make sure you don't bump the official, Steve.

Quandre Diggs has a terrible angle too and he looks like an ass here, but the hay is already in the barn. Would I like Quandre to have recognized more quickly and perhaps done something less futile than trying to tie Hill's shoelaces together?  Yes.  But he's the end result of a series of busts.  His offense is comparatively minor to that of the DL and Edmond.

Want to see Taysom Hill go for 68 yards untouched because we don't understand the run fits on a simple high school option play?  You bet you do.


Let's start with the DL and LBs again.  Cedric Reed crashes hard on the HB dive from an inside alignment.  Okay.  So far, so good.  Edmond is lined up outside as the de facto DE.  He crashes to the HB too, though with an odd angle as if he's also trying to suggest a feathering look.

Hill has the ball.  No one has Hill.  That's bad.  We busted the the first two levels of defense.  BYU did nothing.

Now we get to the Riskies.  Some people call them Safeties, but at 2013 Texas, they're Riskies.

Run with that meme.

Adrian Phillips takes an angle that's very, very special.  He's cheating to the inside.  Our third Longhorn player committed to the HB dive.  That wasn't his assignment.  He doesn't even know where his eyes should be.  But he's drifting nonetheless. Just like Edmond was in the previous clip.  This is a mortal offense on defense.  Mirror the ball. And pursue inside-out and give yourself a generous angle.  It's not hard.  He has no chance to make the tackle when Hill sprints around the short corner unmolested.  Like our LBs, Phillips is chasing phantoms with zero understanding of space.

Diggs is down in the slot in man coverage and he's blameless.

Don't worry.  We still have yet another level of defense.

Mykkele Thompson sprints in to save the day and turn this schematic disaster into a mere 18 yard gain.  Well, maybe not.  He takes an awful angle.  Clearly, Longhorn defenders have zero idea of what full speed football looks like. Like Diggs and Edmond in the previous clip, Thompson dives for an ankle, and yet another Texas defender, unaware that most athletes lift their feet when moving forward (the technical term is "running"), means that he grasps a big handful of air.

TD, BYU.

Wanna see an upright-running rugby player who runs a 4.7 40 sprint into the end zone on a short side power run from the ten yard line despite being outnumbered at the point of attack?  OK!


Game context: BYU is killing us running very basic option, they're goal to go on our 10, they're lined up in a 3 WR set, and they're about to run an off tackle power play for a score against an 8 man front. If you know football, there are some facts in that sentence that shouldn't go together.

A lollipop for anyone who noticed that we have twelve defenders on the field, too.

Why are Jackson Jeffcoat and Kendall Thompson both firing up the short side of the field to get penetration when BYU is having so much success running in our vacated spaces? Right now, we need to be getting flat, getting eyes on the ball, controlling the blocker in front of us, and whipping that ass.  Instead, we're stunting and run blitzing with the linebacker/DE.  Good grief.

The DL lays down for the power and Jeffcoat and Thompson run themselves right out of the play.  How do I know our interior DL laid down?  Well, they LAID DOWN.  See all that white on the ground?  And Steve Edmond got doubled backside.  Our DL allowed blockers to cross their faces.  In goal line, no less.  This is a mortal sin.  Bo Davis, take a bow.

BUT WE STILL HAVE BYU OUTNUMBERED PLAYSIDE.  Despite our crap call, we'll still get the stop.  Our playside Safety Josh Turner is staring right at Lasike as he runs towards him, and he's completely unblocked.  And Lasike has a sideline on his left and no cutback inside.  Turner is initially paralyzed, then decides to run straight at Lasike despite Lasike's shoulders being pointed at an angle.  He attacks his legs with a diving tackle and gets stiff armed. He looked afraid - straight up.  No other way to couch it.  Lasike strides around him. It's like whiffing in an Oklahoma drill.  It's almost impossible to do.  The Texas Riskies strike again.

Our corner still has a chance to shove him out at the 2 or 3 yard line.  Too bad he got pancaked.

TD, BYU.  Take a bow, Akina.

Bonus tip: if you ever have to fight a current Longhorn defender, simply run in place as you square off and when he dives for your shoes, he will miss you entirely and knock himself unconscious on the curb.  If that fails, move in diagonals. He'll be unable to corral you, and will eventually exhaust himself.  It's like running from a Rook on a chess board.

Who wants to see a defensive coordinator call an all out gimmick blitz on 3rd and 10 designed for immobile QBs against a QB who runs a 4.4 and is averaging 15 yards per carry on us?  LET'S DO THIS.


Game context: BYU leads 27-14, but it's 3rd and 10 on our 26 yard line.  We get a stop here and the worst BYU can do is get 3 points. Taysom Hill already has around 200 yards rushing - all on simple option, scrambles, and called draws on 3rd and long. Naturally, Manny Diaz decides to bring 7 men in an all-out blitz.

Wow.  OK.  Not my preferred call.  If BYU throws a simple three step drop fade route, they score a TD.  But you know what?  It would have worked out if we'd simply run a straightforward blitz in which every man accounts for a gap. We'd probably have tackled Hill for -3.

BYU laughs and runs a simple QB lead draw.  Directly into the open gap off tackle.  Why is there an open gap off tackle if we're blitzing seven, you just asked?  We should have all gaps covered, right?

Because Diaz has Shiro Davis take an outside rush so that Quandre Diggs can't be blocked blitzing from Hill's blindside.  Or Shiro lost his mind and decided to do it himself.  But I doubt that.  Rewind it and watch.  Look at the bottom of the screen.  What a brilliant call if we were facing Ryan Leaf! But we're not facing a pocket QB with limited intelligence.  We're facing a pure runner who has been victimizing us all night.  And God help me, their lead back doesn't even block the right dude.  It doesn't matter.  We block ourselves.

But our Riskies are back there, lurking.  Threatening the shoelaces of our opponents and taking angles that defy science. Mykkele Thompson isn't physical enough to stop the play in its tracks and Adrian Phillips comes sprinting from the backside to polish Hill's shoes.  Nice effort, at least.

TD, BYU.  Take a bow, Mack Brown.

I think I've had enough.

Our problems on defense are deep.  They are myriad.  And they're much deeper than just the DC job.

Thoughts?

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