Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Getting Back to the Winning Formula

Unable to defeat Oklahoma, win a Big XII title, or make a BCS bowl, Texas demanded that coach Mack Brown make some changes with his staff. Someone had to answer for the underachieving offense and the defense that gave up over 21 points a game and 153 yards a game on the ground. Ultimately Brown sacrificed Carl Reese who resurrected a terrible defense during his six seasons at Texas. But in 2003, that defense had slipped and Texas had underperformed and Reese was the sacrifical lamb.

This lead to a new era for Mack Brown. Some would call it the Vince Young era. And while VY is the biggest reason for Texas' new found ability to win the Big XII and make BCS bowl games, the defense also was a large part of the equation. The defense's resurgence was in large part due to the hirings of Greg Robinson and Gene Chizik. In Robinson's only season on the Forty Acres his defense gave up under 18 points a game and managed to improve the run defense at over 40 yards a game. The improvement continued under Chizik whose defense never gave up over 305 yards a game and averaged under 18.5 points per game given up.

Mack Brown had employed a new strategy bringing in top coordinators who brought with them top defensive strategies. It kept Texas' defense always near the top of the country and always challenging opposing offenses. It also became a position that was a stepping stone for head coaching jobs as Robinson headed to Syracuse and Chizik parlayed his success into the Iowa State job. This allowed Mack Brown of continuing to attract the top defensive minds to the University of Texas.

Unfortunately, instead of replacing Chizik with a top coordinator in 2007, Brown settled on his co-defensive coordinator in 2005 and 2006 Duane Akina and promoting Larry Mac Duff from within. While Akina was an important part of the 05 & 06 defenses, everyone knew that is was Chizik's defense. The mistake proved to be costly as the 2007 defense was one of the worst that Mack Brown has ever had. 25 points surrendered a game and over 370 yards of offense given up a game, and a disappointing 10-3 season for the Longhorns that never looked prepared.

The results were obvious and Larry Mac Duff took the fall. Akina was demoted back to his old spot as co-defensive coordinator and in charge of the secondary, and Mack Brown once again went cherry picking at his favorite orchard, Auburn University. Will Muschamp became Texas' new defensive coordinator and will try and return Texas' defense to the top of the heap. Muschamp is one of the top up and coming coordinators in the country and will be a hot commodity every season he is Texas' defensive coordinator.

Let's hope Mack Brown learns the lesson here. That hiring top assistants from outside the program is the way to keep your team near the top. While Akina could end up being a good defensive coordinator somewhere, why let him get his feel for the job at Texas when you could hire someone that is already proven as one of the best from another school. Yes, it means Texas will continue to lose defensive coordinators to head coaching jobs, but is that necessarily a bad thing? It gets fresh blood in consistently that is trying to prove itself and prepare to become a head coach. It also gives the defense a different look to Big XII offenses every few seasons, which is always a good thing.

It would be nice if that was the case with the offense, but that's another story for another day. Either way, it appears Mack Brown has learned the error of his ways, and is going back to his winning formula. If the University of Texas is a premier school, and a premier place to coach, then why wouldn't you use that to your advantage by recruiting top coaches to go along with top players.

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