Even though it was a second straight week against a sub-par OL, the Longhorn D added to the body of evidence that it can play credible - and often outstanding - run defense from its three down lineman Dime package.
Texas’ effort against Baylor highlighted various Dime role players rolling hard and doing their part, with John Bonney’s versatility earning the spotlight. His ability to play a credible deep half allows DeShon Elliott to keep Kraken heads from a short-depth Robber alignment behind the box. Bonney also does some box work himself, frequently aligning in a stand-up B-Backer look and doing a credible job holding the edge to allow the cleanup crew to arrive. P.J. Locke was doing some of his most physical edge force work of the season before going down to an ankle injury, but Antwaun Davis did a nice job pinch-hitting and reminded everyone of his superfreak (if regrettably straight-line) athletic profile.
But while support from depth and the edges keeps this package credible against the run, it’s the five (or sometimes four) guys in the box who bring it to life. Guys like Poona Ford, Malcolm Roach and Breckyn Hager are adept at knifing between blockers to effectively tie up two guys, and Charles Omenihu is showing equal facility with penetration and his stack-and-shed game. Every Longhorn DL is capable of terrific lateral movement, ensuring that they’re able to string out runs to the phalanx of fast dudes behind them while also closing down potential cutback lanes through sheer effort.
Orlando’s trademark slants can be just as disruptive with three dudes as with four, and the Longhorn linebackers are becoming very adept at scraping off the slant action in front of them to make highlight hits. And both Malik and Gary Johnson continue to read their keys, beat climbing blockers to the spot and lay the wood upon arrival.
A more robust TCU O-line combined with some potential misdirection from Kenny Hill will test this package’s ability to stay on the field. But if they can absorb some ground-game body blows without turning Darius Anderson and Kyle Hicks loose for long gainers and mix in some negative plays, things will get fun. Because...
...the Longhorn pass defense may be as good as any unit in the country when they’re able to outnumber opposing air attacks.
Fundamental soundness, length and physicality outside allows Texas to bounce between multiple coverage looks, erase boundary receivers with single coverage and prevent easy candy on in-breaking routes and quick game action.
The addition of Breckyn Hager has drastically increased this unit’s ability to get pressure with a three-man rush as he dodges, ducks, dips, dives and dodges his way past overmatched offensive tackles. Once a QB is forced off his spot and starts scrambling with seven well-schooled dudes back in coverage, he tends to be easy prey for Malik or Gary Johnson to run down from a midfield spy spot. And as Orlando has started to smell blood in the water, he’s gotten even more aggressive with overload blitzes since he’s got a surfeit of fast guys on the field to cover his backside. Malik got to come off the edge to bag a pair of sacks, and everyone from Gary Johnson to John Bonney to Antwaun Davis has gotten to crash the backfield. Sometimes they get free runs, sometimes they just free up guys like Poona and Roach to beat single blocks, but the net result has been a valuable uptick in pressure on opposing passers.
Trill Hill proved vulnerable to both dubious throws and strip sacks against Iowa State’s 38 Cloud looks last Saturday. But there’s clouds, and then there’s clouds...
and if Orlando can put Hill in third down often enough, he may have enough strange things in store to steal a victory for the Longhorns in Fort Worth.