Texas Will Simplify Defense for Bowl Game

Will simplifying help Texas stuff the Sun Devils?

Texas' defensive breakdowns have surfaced rumors of possible coaching changes, but how does Mack Brown intend to shore-up his defensive lapses as Texas prepares for Arizona State's potent passing attack? For starters, Brown intends to simplify the defense heading into the December 27 Holiday Bowl.

"We probably tried to do too much, given the injuries, and we gave up too many big plays," Brown said. "There were a lot of good plays during that stretch where we won five games. There were too many mistakes. After going back and studying it, we felt like one of the problems was we had done too much and that takes away some of the aggressiveness. They're thinking too much. We are simplifying on the defensive side."

Texas was generally solid against the run in 2007, finishing the regular season ranked No. 10 nationally after yielding 99.3 ypg. Yet, Texas A&M ran for 171 yards and held the ball for 40 minutes.

"That's almost unheard of," DT Frank Okam said this week. "That really hurt us. Our defense was on the field a lot."

Yet, overall, it was an historically inept pass defense yielding 275.5 ypg (NCAA No. 109) that pulled the entire unit toward mediocrity. Naturally, Co-Defensive Coordinator/DB coach Duane Akina took most of the heat. One year removed from producing consecutive Thorpe Award winners, the 2007 season marked the first time Akina has called the plays at Texas.

But a couple Texas players aggressively defended Akina this week.

Said NT Derek Lokey: "Any time there was a mistake on defense, it was not the call. It was the execution of the players. Coach Akina is making the calls and putting guys in the right spots, so that comes under us. I don't know a lot about coaching. I've never been a coach. If you go back and look at it, if guys execute what coaches are calling, then we'd get the play stopped."

Said Okam: "It comes down to a matter of execution. I would say that part of the criticism against Coach Akina is unfair. When it comes down to my humble opinion, it's all about the execution of the players. We've got the players here. We just have to go out and do it. Sometimes we do it, sometimes we don't. We had the same plays called during the first three quarters against Oklahoma State as we did the last quarter (that saw Texas rally from a 21-point deficit)."

To some extent, doesn't that come back to coaching?

"If we don't play consistently well as a team, then that's our fault as coaches," Brown acknowledged. "Coaches are accountable to make sure players play to the best of their ability every week."

Okam believes it is still ultimately up to players to maximize their potential.

"Players have to be self-motivated," he said. "If you want to do well, you will. No one can make you do anything. It's on you to push yourself to do the best you can."

The team conducted its last practice in Austin of 2007 with a 6:00 a.m. workout Wednesday. The team will be off Thursday and Friday and will reconvene in San Diego on December 22.

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