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Duane Akina & The DBs

The conventional wisdom on Duane Akina is that he is a damn fine defensive backs coach who has proven to be a horrid defensive coordinator. I don't think the latter is debatable for most sentient beings. The former may be more debatable than most would think at first blush.

I'd contend that a good DB coach performs three major functions: teaches individual skills to players, teaches coverages and concepts as a total unit, & identifies and recruits talent. Interestingly, in reference to Akina, Texas fans only talk about the first part of the equation when the latter two points are as, if not more, vital.

With regards to building individual skills, Akina deserves his accolades. I know this because Aaron Ross baked him a Thorpe Award made of chocolate. His charges like and trust him, he has transformed track and/or pure cover types into physical players resulting in two Thorpe awards, and guys generally show individual progress under his tutelage, irrespective of the idiot schemes we've been putting them in (Mike Griffin).

It gets murky at the unit level. This is the middle ground between individual coaching and coordinator level coaching. Given the results on the field, I seriously question his ability to impart unit concepts to form a cohesive secondary. Specifically basic zone principles or blended zone/man coverages. Unfortunately, these are the necessary prerequisites for defending the spread offenses that are now the norm in the Big 12. Last year's secondary was extremely talented and experienced but horrendous in terms of scheme and an understanding of what was required of them; this year's secondary has sub-par talent with absolutely no understanding of what is required of them. Blaming youth or inexperience isn't an option: we're a relatively old secondary vis a vis college football comparables. Youth as culprit would also suggest that we would improve as the season progresses rather than get markedly worse.

Finally, identifying and recruiting talent. The talent level at different positions can wax and wane each year, but there's probably no position more consistently abundant with talent in Texas than DB. Also, it is legal to leave the state of Texas and recruit if you feel a crop isn't up to standard. Between 2003-2006, Duane Akina recruited pretty poorly at this position: a lot of bad players, a lot of bad attitudes, and not enough numbers. We have eight scholarship DBs on our roster from those four years, most of them average. Four years, four spots on the field, and we have eight guys on the current roster. Mull that over. We should have at least 12 guys from those classes with 2-3 impact players from the sophomore, junior, senior classes. There's no doubt this is on Mack too, but Akina is a coordinator level guy who is charged with this stuff. If he's that neutered, Sally should coach our DBs. Let's take a look:


Brandon Foster (fast, can wear Herve Villechaise's wardrobe, avoids contact, mediocre)
Erick Jackson (perennial underachiever despite thirty seven years in the program)
Tarrell Brown (good player, poor choices off of the field, NFL)
Michael Griffin (good player, declined senior year playing Mickey Mouse schemes, NFL)
Marcus Griffin (walk on, mediocre, Akina grades him above Ronnie Lott)


Drew Kelson (smart, good athlete, enigmatic non-contributor in senior year)
Ryan Palmer (Ewok, scrappy, competitive, should be starting at Tech)
Bobby Tatum (buh bye Bobby)


Ishie Oduegwu (world not yet on fire; not a misprint: we took a grand total of one DB in this class)


James Henry (thug trash, bitches must be kicked)
Robert Joseph (thug trash, we knew it before signing him, we were desperate)
Chykie Brown (good potential)
Deon Beasley (good potential)

Thankfully, 2007 features an elite group of defensive backs of the variety that I can watch one minute of film and know that they're 'ship worthy. They will restore order in 2009, but for four long years, Duane Akina generally did a dogshit job of talent identification. Mack's solution was to promote him.

Let me throw a few of the options available to us in the state of Texas during a couple of those years that I came up with off of the top of my head. You could probably add to the list. None of these guys are out-of-the-blue sleepers and were very well known.


Ashton Youboty - big corner from Klein, All Big 10, NFL 3rd rounder, went pro early

Darien Williams - very solid safety for OU, two year starter

Chris Houston - Austin freaking LBJ. Best cover corner in the SEC at Arkansas. Ran a 4.3 at the NFL combine and benched 225 27 times. NFL 2nd rounder

Dominique Brooks - CU. Quality multi-year starter for Buffs

Marcus Walker - Waco guy. 2nd team All-Big 12 at OU. 2nd year starting

Lendy Holmes - starter at OU, solid player

Aqib Talib Richardson Berkner. KU All-American. Will be a 1st or 2nd round NFL guy

Conclusion: Making a change solely on the MacDuff side of the equation won't address the core problems so long as Mack gives Akina titular control of his secondary schemes. If Duane Akina has his ego bruised being demoted from DC to just defensive backs coach, he should hit the skids, because it won't take much effort to replace him with someone of comparable or greater ability.

I know I'm in a minority position here, so I'm interested in your thoughts...