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Vance Bedford Spring Texas Longhorns Defense Musings: Cut It Loose

Some interesting takes on the 2014 Horns D from our outspoken DC.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

His press conference is well worth the time if you have the time.  Go to the 15:00 mark for Bedford.

My most interesting takeaways from Bedford:

Multiple comments about the tentative nature of the Texas Defense that he inherited.  They're reluctant to cut it loose to make a big play and lack confidence in each other and themselves.

Bedford hammered this point home at two different times during the press conference.  It's clearly something weighing on his mind.

One of the ideas we brought home here during the Diaz debacle was that scheming every player to run mindlessly to point X on defensive wrinkles in service of a larger mastermind play call robbed players - particularly linebackers and safeties - the most decision heavy, instinctive players on a defense - of their initiative and ability to self-diagnose, trust their own eyes, and solve open-ended offensive questions.  Paralysis and passivity ensues.  They can't develop.

I've long argued that the best way to stop a Big 12 offense isn't with a defensive play call.  It's staying simple enough to harness aggression and then coaching the hell out of your players at their position to play its fundamentals flawlessly.  That coheres into a much bigger whole than no offense can exploit.

We've created automatons who settle for safe over playmaking.

Add in the greater Brown culture in which emotion was manufactured instead of genuinely expressed and you have a defense that struggles to work itself into an emotional feeding frenzy.

How will our staff address it?

Simplicity in scheme ("offenses will eventually figure out your wrinkles") to lend aggression and greater trust between teammates and coaches fostered by open dialogue between coaches and players and the mandatory dorm rules so that players get to know and trust each other.

Bedford said it best : "If you play it safe, you miss the bus.  If you play not to lose, you will not win."

Steve Edmond is a good athlete.

This dovetails with the discussion above.  A reporter asked about the UT Linebackers, described them as slow, and mused whether they're a good fit for this conference.  Bedford responded that Steve Edmond is far from slow, could play all three LB positions, and has good natural quickness and coverage ability.  So the guy we saw on his high school tape still existed.  The ponderous and puzzled decision maker we've seen over the last two years taking false steps or reacting mechanically to the ball carrier (watch the BYU game for a brutal film clinic on this point) was a product of scheme, inexperience and poor coaching.

Apparently, we can expect a different Steve Edmond in 2014.  Another fan punching bag, Mykkele Thompson, was also singled out for praise. No position group will benefit more from the new coaching regime than our safeties and linebackers.

The DL could be very good and embodies the culture the defensive coaches want.

Several UT coaches have praised the Defensive Line for their talent and attitude.  While Malcom Brown and Cedric Reed are known quantities, if not obvious stars, the coaches are high on Desmond Jackson's effort at nose tackle, Hassan Ridgeway's potential and the athleticism found in the DE depth chart in Blueitt, Cottrell & Davis.  We don't have ideal depth on the DL, but few teams in college football do.

Learn one, do one, teach one.

This is old school learning and it's still the best thing I know to guarantee practical mastery.

Bedford and his position coaches are all making a point of calling players up to the whiteboard, giving them a play, and having them explain their assignment and how it integrates into the defensive call.  It's a guaranteed way to turn spectators with short attention spans used to being lectured to into active participants in their learning.

We're still having to teach very basic teaching fundamentals...and will be in Fall Camp.

Fundamentals should always be a part of drill, but learning them and practicing them are different.  We're still learning. Bedford has had 14 practices with this group and clearly had to postpone some of the scheme install schedule to re-teach fundamentals: proper steps, angles, tackling and general recognition.  I don't think there's a single Texas fan paying attention to the last four years who is surprised to read that.