While the 2018 defense was paced by a deep group of seniors, the pieces didn’t fit together to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts or perhaps even equal to the same sum. Todd Orlando spent much of the season moving Brandon Jones around to support the run and help Anthony Wheeler in the middle of the field. That meant asking a lot in coverage of P.J. Locke and Kris Boyd, often too much, with only true freshman Caden Sterns left to support them over the top. It also meant the team had few bullets left when Jones was out, like against West Virginia, or when he was needed elsewhere, like against Oklahoma State.
The unit also struggled going back and forth between nickel and dime packages, neither of which could Texas’ problems with lack of multiplicity. To punch above their weight, Big 12 defenses need to be able to easily move numbers around to reinforce players in different parts of the field and be able to do so without giving away who’s going to end up where.
Texas tended to be at their best as a defense in a 3-3-5 set with true B-backer Jeffrey McCulloch on the field, particularly when injuries sapped their quality depth in the secondary. However, in nickel personnel they had six defenders on the field that needed to play in the box to be effective, leaving them only five defenders that could credibly move around. That’s just not enough anymore against higher level spread tactics. So they ended up leaning on their senior cornerback tandem and aimed to out-execute opponents, which usually worked out alright until third down when opponents would target the weak spots with precise play calls.
The 2019 defense won’t have eight seniors with loads of experience defending the Big 12 in Todd Orlando’s schemes, but they may have something better. The big hope for 2019 can be found in a versatile 3-2-6 dime package backed by depth in the secondary that could offer Orlando greater flexibility from week to week in addressing different opponents.
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