- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Greg Robinson can spend hours in the film room and at a dry erase board planning and scheming for opponents. That’s the easy part, the job he’s been doing for more than 30 years.
But getting to know his own kids takes time. Entering week three as Texas’ new defensive coordinator, Robinson is glad that familiarity is finally coming along.
“I don’t call them by their numbers anymore,” Robinson said with a chuckle. “Starting to call them by their names.”
Robinson arrived in Austin on a Sunday night two weeks ago with the daunting task of fixing up Texas’ defense with only three days of practice at his disposal amid the embarrassing 40-21 loss at BYU that cost Manny Diaz his job.
He’s been hard at work ever since, doing everything he can to prepare for Texas’ opponents and find solutions for the flaws he inherited. Nobody expected perfection in his first week on the job, but Mack Brown needed to see progress by week 2, when Big 12 play began. And time heals all wounds, right?
The time Robinson gets this week is invaluable. A bye weekend means no opponent, which means plenty more time to focus on his personnel and implementing his ideas. It means, finally, he can slow down.
“Having a bye this week is really, really helpful,” Robinson said.
He hasn’t installed everything he has planned, but an extra 10 days could do wonders for him and his players. Getting Iowa State on a Thursday night next week also means extra prep time for Oklahoma.
As Diaz learned the hard way, this is a results-driven business. No matter the challenges Robinson faced in taking over on less-than-short notice, he has to coax better play out of his Longhorns defenders. If Texas’ performance against Kansas State is any indication, he might have this defense back on the right track.
We could go over all the numbers that say Texas’ defense got better from week 1 under Robinson to week 2, but most of them aren’t going to tell the story. Frankly, Ole Miss’ offense is better than the one K-State brought to Austin. A few numbers are promising, though.
Ole Miss averaged 6.04 yards per rush. K-State, which ran only four fewer plays than the Rebels, was held to 3.03. Texas stopped twice as many Kansas State rushes at or behind the line of scrimmage than it did against Ole Miss.
An interesting measure of a bend-don’t-break defense is how often an opponent scored after getting its initial first down on a drive. Ole Miss scored on 75 percent of those occasions. K-State? 33 percent.
Some of that is scheme and preparation, and a lot of it is motivation. Texas was staring down the possibility of starting the season 1-3. That scenario was unacceptable to its seniors.
“We control our effort,” defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. “That’s the thing. They can’t coach effort. We have to go and play hard, executed everything. That’s what we did. We made sure we executed the plays they put it.”
In the moments after the BYU loss, the leaders of Texas’ defense offered their unconditional support to Diaz and said he was still the right man for the job. They didn’t know much about Robinson when he arrived, but they’re buying in to what he brings to the table as their new leader.
“He made the promise that he was going to give us all he had, and that’s what he did,” defensive tackle Chris Whaley said. “We make the promise that we’ll give him all we have, so it was a great second week.”
Brown said he’s proud of how Robinson has collaborated with the rest of Texas’ defensive coaching staff. He has an especially strong connection with Duane Akina, the veteran secondary coach whom he’d worked closely with back in 2004.
“They’ve done such an amazing job,” Brown said. “They argue, they fight, but they did in ‘04. Then they come up with good stuff.”
They’re just getting started. Senior safety Adrian Phillips – or No. 17, as Robinson probably called him -- said he’s looking forward to finding out just what kind of coach Robinson really is over this next week.
The defensive coordinator can appreciate that. He too is starting to get a better sense of what he’s working with.
“Just being in the room with these guys, I’d be shocked if they didn’t just keep doing what they’re doing,” Robinson said. “And that’s getting better.”
4dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
5dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney