I'm in Lake Tahoe hiking, so forgive the abbreviated version, but I wanted to hit on a few points from Saturday's game about the defense. The Mean Green offense, though weak, can't hide the obvious improvements we've made across the board at every level and in every unit. This is a SOUND defense. And that would have shown up against air. We're so much better coached and so much more tactically sound that it's not even comparable.
- North Texas was held to 94 yards on 60 plays. No single play exceeded 10 yards. Four interceptions. One defensive score. I've never seen that in a college football game. Whatever their quality, you expect to bust a coverage and mess up a run fit at least 2-3 times in a season opener and allow a 20 yard pop here and there. Just didn't happen. The UNT OL was legit - our DL is that good.
- Our DL is obviously the strength of the team. I can rave about Shiro Davis dropping from weak side DE to create the tip interception or Cedric Reed completely destroying the running game from the backside and shoving a North Texas Tight End so hard that he knocked down the lead fullback like tenpins (Reed led all Longhorns in tackles). Or I can talk about Malcom Brown's insane ball get off when he's lined up at 3 tech - can't block that - can only withstand it. Or how Desmond Jackson held up well against 670 pounds of double team. The level of improvement from previous non-factors like Alex Norman and Paul Boyette was shocking. Our second team DL would be a pretty solid college DL. And they're actually a better pure pass rushing unit than our starters.
- Hassan Ridgeway is a ridiculous monster. 307 pound men should not move like that. 5 solo tackles and 2 sacks in about 30 snaps. Oh dear. Resign yourself to the idea that Malcom Brown is going pro. But he'll be capably replaced.
- Our linebackers are completely different human beings. Edmond worked beautifully with flow, showing no sign of his characteristic overruns or paralyzed feet in cement moments and he seems faster, quicker and more confident at 258 pounds than he has ever before. Jean-Mary has these cats playing fast.
- Hicks is the best LB on the field. Jinkens is vastly improved - he operates with purpose now and his extra 20 pounds of mass has revealed a physical streak that had not previously existed. Demarco Cobbs isn't just going to flash in practice anymore - a sack and a clean pick six show what he'll be doing this year - I expect heavy use against spread teams.
- Adrian Colbert got the start at S and showed well though Haines and Hall both got run. Colbert played well (he certainly looks the part) and I had him with about 50% of the total snaps taken. This battle will be decided by the Baylor and OU games.
- Mykkele Thompson is now officially Michael Huffish. He's physical and playing at a different speed and with a different confidence level than at any point in his career. It's startling. Schematic certainty and three layers of DB coaching will bring out the best in a guy.
- This is the best Quandre we've seen to date. Amazing how much better he is when allowed to watch a QB and react instead of chase 6-3, 215 pound receivers.
- BTW, it's an absolute pleasure to watch us play zone now. Even our man coverage incorporates much better eye discipline when our corner knows they have a safety backing them up. If you don't have a man, watch the QB and react like a football player. We have so many eyes on the QB and we pass off WRs better than senior secondaries did under Akina. While I appreciate Akina's legacy, we upgraded.
- There was a 3rd and 16 where it really hit home. Our two linebackers were lined up 10 yards off of the LOS. Our DBs were walked off. Four rushing. The message: throw the ball for 7, we'll make the tackle, punt. No eight man front with 3 DL dropping and 2 DBs blitzing. UNT runs a draw, which should go, and the entire back 7 reacts like shot out of a cannon. Diggs nails the RB for no gain. Defense, ladies and gentlemen.
Next test: how do we fare against the spread and excellent mobile QBs? I'm eager to find out.