Most of the spring and summer talk surrounding the Texas Longhorn defense is how the ‘Horns were going to replace Roy Miller and Aaron Lewis on the interior of the line. With only Lamarr Houston returning inside within any significant playing time, it is an area of concern for the defense. After today’s first practice, Coach Muschamp addressed the tackle position.
The Texas Longhorn defense lost quite a bit of productivity on the defensive line after Brian Orakpo, Henry Melton, Roy Miller, and Aaron Lewis all exhausted their eligility. Three of the four are playing for healthy paychecks now on Sundays. While there seems to be answers on the outside, on the interior, the questions linger. Defensive Coordinator Will Muschamp addressed those questions this morning after the team’s first workout with coaches since the spring.
“We really have five in the rotation with Kheeston (Randall), Ben (Alexander), Lamarr (Houston), Tyrell Higgins, really six, Calvin Howell, and Derek Johnson. Six is plenty to play with and we will adapt and adjust within what we do and work within our scheme to get the best eleven on the field,” Coach Muschamp said on Sunday.
No matter who those eleven are, young or old, Will Muschamp’s expectations are the same.
“At the University of Texas our expectation is to be outstanding,” Muschamp emphasized.
Since only Lamarr Houston returns with any college starts to his credit (he has 19), the reality remains that the Texas Longhorns will line up some young players at the position, including true freshman Calvin Howell and Derek Johnson. Muschamp realizes the difficulty in playing the position as a true freshman.
“It’s tough. I always feel like playing as a freshman is harder by position when you get closer to the ball, because it happens faster. The bodies are bigger. When you are on the perimeter at wide out or corner, a lot of times your athleticism can take over. The ball is in the air a little longer. You have a chance to react and let your athleticism take over,” Muschamp said.
But Muschamp is convinced that it can be done successfully. Last year, Beaumont Kelly freshman tackle Kheeston Randall played at a high level in his limited opportunities.
“We’re going to do it (play freshman at DT). Kheeston did it last year and played pretty well. We’re going to play the best players and if it means it’s a freshman, we’re going to do it,” said Muschamp.
Houston does provide an anchor for whatever young player lines up next to him due to his experience and leadership.
“We’re expecting a big year out of him (Houston) and he is expecting one out of himself,” Muschamp said. “In order for us to get some success, we feel like we need to get some dominant play inside.”
To help ease the transition, the defense requires reactions over mental adjustments.
“We never asked our guys up front to do a whole lot. I want them to play hard. I don’t want to put a lot on them mentally. I want them to play fast. When you are that close to the ball, it is a huge reaction game. You’ve got to be reacting, not thinking.”
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