With 18 days left until KICKOFF, 'The Forty' is back in business and going to run down the top 19 questions for the upcoming year.
18: How will the Texas Secondary Perform?
I guess the good news is that the pass defense can't really get worse in 2007. In 2006, the defense was ranked 99th of 119 teams in total pass defense. They gave up an average of 236 passing yards per game. What made that performance all the more baffling was that the secondary contained 3 NFL draft picks (Michael Griffin, Aaron Ross and Terrell Brown) including Thorpe winner Ross. Of course one of the problems turned out to be defensive scheme. Former D-Coordinator Gene Chizik's "sellout to stop the run" philosophy made Texas susceptible to the deep pass (or the dreaded half-back pass).
But that was last year. This year Texas comes into the season with only 1 returning starter in the secondary (Sr., Marcus Griffin). Joining him will be Soph. Deon Beasley and Seniors Drew Kelson and Brandon Foster. Griffin has been a consistent, quality tackler and cover corner while Foster has been spotty at best. There were times last year that Foster just looked completely out of place on the field. Kelson has been shuffled between linebacker and the secondary for most of his career and looks to finish as Texas' starting safety.
The backups in the secondary are equally as unproven. Junior Ryan Palmer will back up Foster at corner while Freshmen Chykie Brown, Ben Wells and Curtis Brown look to see action early and often. They are both uber-talented and have infinitely more upside than Palmer or Foster. Palmer and Foster may not hold the starting gigs very long into the year. Soph. Ishie Oduegwu and Senior Erick Jackson will back up at safety. Texas lost a contributing safety in Robert Joseph in some (cough, cough) off the field issues earlier in the summer.
The Texas secondary has talent, but much of that is young and unproven. If the freshman can mature quickly, the returning players Foster and Palmer can look to see reduced playing time as the year goes on. Look for the secondary to benefit from a new defensive scheme, implemented by co-coordinators Larry McDuff and Duane Akina. This group will still be a weak point for the defense, but not to the disastrous level of the 2006 corps.