Familiarity will help Horns' defense in 2012

AUSTIN, Texas — Manny Diaz refuses to take a step back.

It's just not in his makeup. The Texas defensive coordinator is a full-steam, batten-the-hatches, get-out-of-the-way coach. Luckily for those around him — coaches and players — Diaz has a defense ready to do just that. Because Texas was forced into playing so many young players on defense that meant there were very few redshirts. That, in turn, means Diaz was more hands on with the younger players because they were not littered throughout the scout team.

“That is the exciting part,” Diaz said. “When we get to the spring, now you are not teaching the ‘what.’ Last year, we had to teach the ‘what.’

“There are three things you teach, the ‘what,’ the ‘how’ and the ‘why.’ Great players get to the third of those and they understand why you do something. The younger guys kind of have the ‘what’ down. Once they get the ‘what,’ you can teach them the ‘how.’ That will still go on this spring, but for sure we are passed the ‘what do I do?’”

What Texas should be able to do in the spring is quickly identify those players who understand Diaz's defensive scheme and work with those players to pull the defense together. If those players are linebackers Steve Edmond and Demarco Cobbs, that is all the better for Texas. Diaz's defense requires that the linebackers not only be highly skilled but very cerebral football players.

Jordan Hicks fits that mold. So there is not a worry with him. Edmonds played a considerable amount as a true freshman even with seniors Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho at the linebacker spot. But whether or not Edmonds is ready to be thrust into the spotlight and handle the mentally taxing requirements of linebacker has yet to be seen.

Cobbs has a huge upside physically, but because he was injured and did not play much, it was hard to discern whether or not he is ready to be at the nerve center of the defense.

It appears as if Diaz might have some of those same questions himself. But the coach is optimistic that the defense is in a position to grow by leaps and bounds in year two.

“They say now, ‘I know what to do but how do I do it, Coach? I understand how to do it, now why do we do this instead of that or why do we do this on first down and this on second down?’” Diaz said.

“We will be ahead of ourselves without a doubt, ahead of where we were a spring ago. Another thing that is great is, in the spots where guys are leaving is we have competition. The best coaches have competition. I can sit there and all I do is keep score. I can let them battle it out, let them fight and let them determine playing time, not us.”