October 18, 2012

Texas looking to clean up mistakes against Baylor

--- Baylor has been able to light up the scoreboard in most games this year, but TCU was able to put the clamps on what had been an explosive Bears offense. The Horned Frogs limited Baylor to 21 points and picked off QB Nick Florence four times.

Duane Akina said TCU did most of its damage by pressuring Florence and forcing him to go through his progressions with good coverage. The Horned Frogs got into the backfield by mixing blitzes and by rushing four defensive linemen.

"They did a nice job by disrupting him, got some pressure. I thought the initial coverage was good, so that got him to his second look and made him hold the ball," Akina said. "Those guys up front did really a nice job, and I thought their DBs made some great plays."

Texas will try to copy that recipe this week. So far, the first two practices of the week for the Longhorns have been described by the coaches as being very good. Akina said it's easy to stay focused when your pride is hurt the way Texas' was on Saturday.

"I think the practices have been really good. We are all very prideful, and we got after it. For the most part, the secondary has practiced at a tempo that is very on par with how we've always practiced. They have been very spirited," Akina said. "Everybody has been buzzing around. Like everybody, we are very competitive and want to get to the next game and get this taste out of our mouth."

--- When Major Applewhite took his seat, the first question out of the box was on punter Alex King.

"I have to tell you. I did not expect that to be the first question this week," Applewhite joked.

From there, Applewhite did give some pretty good insights into a player who has been among the most consistent on the UT roster. It turns out, King isn't your run-of-the-mill punter - he's extremely athletic and ultra-competitive.

"He was a quarterback in high school, went to Duke, tried out for the basketball team and actually had an opportunity to make the team but there was going to be a little bit of a delay so he decided to go ahead and try out for football," Applewhite said. "He wasn't a punter. He punted a little bit but wasn't really fine-tuned like some of these guys that go to all these camps and stuff. He is a self-made man. He has taught himself.

"He has been to coaches around the country, trying to develop his craft, and he is competitive. He is absolutely competitive, and I love that about him. It is good to have him around some of the younger guys and pass down that attitude."

--- Against both OU and Wet Virginia, Texas struggled to run the ball between the tackles. Applewhite there are a number of factors that led to the Longhorns rushing for just 74 yards last week (3.2 ypa). Texas fell behind, forcing the team to throw it more, but when the Longhorns did try to pound the ball early, Oklahoma was up to the task. On some plays, Applewhite said, it was a back making a wrong read. Sometimes it may have been a missed block, a wrong alignment called in the huddle.

The challenge this week has been on each individual position group focusing on fixing its own problems and not worrying about the big picture.

"The main problem is like we talk about. 'Let's not fix the blame, let's fix the problem.' That is what we have been focusing on this week, everybody hold their group accountable," Applewhite said. "Don't worry about the big picture, that's not what you were hired for, so just worry about your position and try to get those guys better."

--- There have been a lot of questions on motivation and attitude this week. Applewhite was pretty blunt when asked who is responsible for motivating the team, be it coaches or players.

"I think the onus lies on everybody to motivate themselves. I always tease, inspirational quotes are made for the uninspired. You can to google and find as many of them as you want. That's not it," Applewhite said. "You have to have some self-motivation, something inside you, some heart and some courage inside yourself. If somebody has to pull something off the internet to get you excited to play football for Texas then you are the wrong person."

--- There's been no official word on running back Malcolm Brown's availability for this week (early in the week, one team source described him as doubtful). Applewhite said the time on the sidelines has been difficult for Brown, a quiet competitor who would love nothing more than to be on the field helping Texas in the past two game, both losses.

"It's hard for him. He is not a loud guy, but I can tell. Still waters run deep," Applewhite said. "He is a quiet guy. He internalizes most of it, but I know he wants to be out there and this is irritating him."

--- Baylor QB Nick Florence leads the nation in total offense. He's second, behind Geno Smith, in pass efficiency. He's third nationally with 375 yards passing per game. His most incredible numbers may be his yards per attempt (10.65) and yards per completion (16.73) - both lead the nation by a wide margin (for comparison, Geno Smith is at 8.77 and 11.65, respectively).

Akina credits Florence for making terrific throws, but it's Baylor's offensive schemes that really stand out.

"I think he is a product of the system, a guy who has been in the system and doing the same thing over and over. He reminds me of some of those Texas Tech quarterbacks that have generated great numbers," Akina said. "They do a handful of things, they do it very well and there is a system there.

"They are well-coached and the receivers and him have good timing. They have seen a little bit of everything - they have seen all-out man, they have seen drop eight and combination coverages. So they are well-tested, and they do a very good job with it all."

--- Longhorn fans are probably tired of hearing this, but tackling has again been a point of emphasis this week. Akina said for the secondary, making sure tackles is more important than on any other level of the defense - if the DBs miss a tackle, it often times turns into a touchdown, as Texas is well aware.

"Our world is different than others. Somebody can be in the wrong A gap and it can be plus-5 (yards). Somebody could drop to the wrong hook and it could be plus-14 (yards). We can't have a mistake back there," Akina said. "It's a tough job, but we have got to get them on the ground.

"Where we were second best in the country last year at giving up big plays, we're not nearly as good this year. We have to continue to work at that. It starts with me and getting those guys, keep finding drills to help them."

Akina was asked why things are so different this year.

"The guys that were back there last year, that was a lot of football," he said. "Blake was a four-year starter. Christian was a five-year player. That's a lot of football. Some of it comes with growing pains. And the facts are, like we tell everybody, there are no experiences. It's who's next, this is what we have to do and we have to get it done. And I'm good with that."

--- Safety Mykkele Thompson turned in a strong performance against West Virginia, good enough to move him into the starting line-up against Oklahoma. Of course, he took a big step back last week in his first increased action. Akina said there's improvements to be made for Thompson, but he sees a bright future for his sophomore safety.

"In some ways you can say he is out there a year ahead of himself. With Nolan (Brewster) being medically out and losing him, he would have been a fifth year senior this year, so that probably kicked him into the action a little bit early," Akina said. "I'm really proud of how he is competing. He is a beautiful athlete, and I think with time if we stay patient and stay with it, I think he will end up having a brilliant career here."

It would be understandable if Thompson lost some confidence after last week's performance (really, you could say that about the entire team). Akina expects Thompson to bounce back, just as his other young DBs have done during his time in Austin.

"I think like any young, conscientious player, he is hurt. But he understands that at this level there are a lot of good players out there. You are going to go through some growing pains when you play in the secondary, especially with one that is as aggressive as ours. We put some guys on islands back there.

"We can go through it with Aaron Ross and some of those great ones that had some struggles early in their careers and did fine by the time they left here. I see Mykkele much in that same stride. He understands that there are things that he has got to work on. He is very coachable and that is still the key. You can press him hard, and he wants to be a good player."

--- Akina was asked if any new leaders have stepped up this week, but he said senior Kenny Vaccaro continues to se the best example for the players in the secondary.

"Kenny is a guy that stands out. He is not one that is talking all the time, but he leads by example and he leads by toughness. He leads by what real leaders are," Akina said. "He is a guy that is very physical and takes great pride in being really physical. Having a game like that hurts him. I think we have addressed that as a team, as a unit and we have all collectively, starting with the coaching staff, need to do a better job and everyone else feels the same way.

"What we have asked him to do against (Tavon) Austin and (Kenny) Stills - he has had some really difficult job descriptions the last couple of weeks. We have put a lot of pressure on him, and he likes that. It keeps him on the edge. It keeps him excited for the next challenge, and he has another good one this week."



 

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