Quandre Diggs makes an interception
The Horn takes an in depth look at the Longhorn's secondary for the upcoming season.
Last year was about reloading the Texas secondary. This season will be about maintaining the stellar play that Texas has already displayed, earning them the name Defensive Back University.
The Longhorns enter the 2012 season, with fewer questions in the secondary than almost any other position.
Texas lost Blake Gideon who started all 52 games of his career the second most in school history behind Colt McCoy. But the 'Horns return their three other starters who combined to intercept eight passes last season en route to leading Texas' defense into being the 11th best in the nation. Texas first allowed a touchdown pass of over 20 yards in the 48-24 loss to Baylor, which was the 12th game of last season.
Byndom quickly rose from being just another cornerback to one of the Big 12's best. After a stellar performance in which he held two time Biletnikoff winner Justin Blackmon to only 74 yards receiving on seven catches, his reputation grew.
He was first team all Big 12 and won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week after returning an interception for a touchdown in the 27-25 win over Texas A&M. By the end of 2012, Byndom could be a name recognized nationally as one of the best at his position.
Diggs won 2011 Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. He was a freshman All-American and tied a Texas freshman record with four interceptions. He was also key on special teams, and returned a punt 81 yards to set up a go ahead field goal against Texas A&M. After a stellar freshman season, Diggs should be even better and help lead the strongest secondary in a pass happy Big 12.
Vaccaro returns to Texas for his Senior season, in search of the Thorpe award and a trip to Miami for the BCS National Championship game. After a solid junior season in which he was first team All Big 12, Vaccaro was projected as a second or third round draft pick in the NFL but opted for one more year in Austin. He should be the star of a loaded secondary and could sneak into the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Bryson Echols the number six rated cornerback by ESPN is expected to compete in the rotation at defensive back. Echols is a bit undersized at 5'10" but makes up for it with his skills to defend on the ball.
Adrian Colbert the number 20 rated safety of his class by ESPN has the size at 6'-1" and speed to excel at the collegiate level. His impact may not be immediate because of elder players such as Vaccaro and Mykkele Thompson, but when his number is called he should contribute.
Orlando "Duke" Thomas was rated as the 26th best athlete by ESPN but will play cornerback at Texas. He enrolled for the Spring 2012 semester and has already gotten reps with the second string defense. Of the incoming freshman defensive backs, Thomas should make the most immediate impact.
Kevin Vaccaro is the little brother of fellow Longhorn Kenny and was rated as the 65th best cornerback in his class. At just 5'-9" he is a good three inches shorter than his brother and many speculate that he only received a scholarship offer so that Kenny would return for his senior season. Because of this, Kevin should play at Texas with a chip on his shoulder, but may not play a meaningful snap due to the depth of the secondary.
What to Expect:
As with most Duane Akina secondaries, this one is chalked full of talent. Adrian Phillips will be a junior, who started several games last season at nickel back. Phillips could be expected to fill Gideon's void and do so very well. As mentioned earlier, Thompson could also be thrust into the starting safety role, and with his athleticism he could dominate the position. Defensive backs Sheroid Evans, LeRoy Scott, and Josh Turner are also expected to compete for playing time in the rotation.
In year two of the Manny Diaz defensive system the secondary should excel even more. As the other positions such as defensive end improve, more bad passes should be thrown the defensive backs way. Combining this with a more experienced secondary at three of the four starting position could lead to one of the top secondaries in the nation rivaling Texas' 2009 secondary led by Earl Thomas. The secondary is looking like it will be the best in the Big 12, top five in the nation and the second strongest phase of The 2012 'Horns, right behind defensive end.