AUSTIN, Texas -- Duane Akina is annoying.
He's a flat-out pest. He's up in the players' faces. He wants to know all their business. He tries to bait them. He does anything and everything to push buttons.
And he is good at what he does.
"You have to challenge them sometimes, and maybe even they will snap and get upset at you," the Texas defensive backs coach said. "Somehow you have to find that hot button."
The biggest button Akina pushes is the one that gets the Clark Kent-like Carrington Byndom to play like Superman.
"You wonder, but somehow I can find a way," he said.
Akina has done it so many times, it wouldn't be wise to bet against him when it comes to Byndom.
The soft-spoken but big-hitting cornerback has been the standout of the Texas secondary through seven games. The sophomore has 10 pass breakups, 11 deflections, four tackles for loss, a pick, 31 tackles and a forced fumble. Not that Byndom has mentioned those stats.
"He is a quiet guy," linebacker Keenan Robinson said. "After he deflects a 30-yard pass or a deep ball, he'll swat it down and not make any signals or gesture to the crowd. He just lines up and plays the next play."
"To me, the only way -- when you when you are sitting there, 12 inches apart, nose-to-nose with Justin Blackmon in press man coverage -- the only way that you can be in that situation, other than just being flat-out crazy, is have that feeling that I am prepared for this moment," defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. "And the reason I'm prepared is because I've worked a certain way in practice. It has been actually a great lesson for our entire defense and our entire football team just to see this is the path to success. It's not relying on past accolades or promises. There is something tangible I can rely on."
So the age-old idiom of "practice makes perfect" holds true in Byndom's case. But the long-held belief that to be a cornerback there must be flash and sizzle -- a little bit of "prime time" shall we say -- well, that has been put to the test by Byndom.
"I just let my play do the talking."
"You can talk a big game, but you still have to play a big game."
"As long as you're playing, your play doesn't require any talking."
Now, given these statements, it's hard to miss the influence of Deion Sanders on Byndom.
"I was a Deion fan from a young age," Byndom said.
Clearly the neon burned out before Byndom hit the field. Or maybe it was turned off.
"My parents were always ones that taught me not to get the big head and stay humble," he said. "It's not necessary."
And Diaz appreciates Byndom's humility.
"He's not brash and boisterous," Diaz said. "But at the same time, I would say he exudes a quiet confidence about him which is fine because sometimes the boisterous, it is like a boxer that smiles. [The smile] gives him something to hide behind."
There is no hiding what Byndom has been able to accomplish. The Texas secondary, depleted as it is, is ninth in pass efficiency defense. That's while having played two of the top four pass offenses in the country in Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
It was against Oklahoma State that Byndom's value was most evident. Blackmon averages more than 11 receptions per game and 104 yards per game in the Cowboys' potent passing game. He had seven catches for 74 yards against Byndom. The Cowboys, who have averaged more than three passing touchdowns, only had one against Texas.
"He's been a pleasant surprise," Akina said. "I knew he was going to be a good player, but he's really ahead of schedule, much more physical."
Now Akina, who compares Byndom's personality to that of Michael Huff, has to keep pushing Byndom, just as he did Huff.
"I can remember driving home one day just saying, 'I can't believe I made Michael Huff do that today.' " Akina said. "That's what we're paid to do, get them through barriers. And Carrington has done that and it's really improved his game. He's now one of the best corners in this conference, and his goal is to become national."
Maybe then Byndom will bring a little Prime Time to the field. Or quite possibly a high step or two.
"I am waiting to bring it out yet," he said. "I don't think I can afford the 15-yarder. We will wait on that a couple of years."
Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation
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