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Berry Tramel

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Big 12 football: Greg Robinson's last good defense? 2004 Texas

by Berry Tramel Modified: September 10, 2013 at 10:35 am •  Published: September 10, 2013

Greg Robinson is the new Texas defensive coordinator. He’s also the old Texas defensive coordinator.

Robinson coordinated the 2004 UT defense before getting the head coaching job at Syracuse. That gig and subsequent jobs did not go well for Robinson.

Robinson spent four years at Syracuse and went 10-37. His Big East record was 3-25.

Then Robinson became defensive coordinator at Michigan for Rich Rodriguez and endured two disastrous seasons. The Wolverines ranked 82nd nationally in total defense in 2009, then ranked 110th in 2010. Rodriguez and staff were fired in January 2011.

But there was a time when Robinson was known for good defense. And 2004 certainly counts.

The 2004 Longhorns, a talented bunch with the likes of Derrick Johnson, Aaron Ross and Michael Griffin, allowed 212.7 passing yards per game and 107.4 rushing yards per game.

Texas allowed just 12 points to OU (though OU won 12-0), 20 to Arkansas, 21 to a vintage Texas Tech team and 13 to Texas A&M.

Now, that defense wasn’t totally shutdown — OSU tallied 35 on Texas and Michigan 37, in the latter in the Rose Bowl.

But clearly, Robinson ushered in a new era of defense at Texas, that later was continued by Gene Chizik and Will Muschamp.

What can he do with this beleaguered Texas defense in 2013? Who knows?

This is quite a reach for Mack Brown. I’ve seen coordinators canned in the middle of a season, but rarely is the new coordinator from outside the staff.

Robinson was in Los Angeles, working as an analyst for The Longhorn Network, commuting to Austin for meetings, August camp and home games. Now he’s in charge of the Texas defense and has to put in a game plan for Ole Miss while also learning terminology and maybe a few of his players’ names.

“He’ll have three practices between now and Saturday to try to get us in a better spot,” Brown said Monday. “It’s a tough deal for him.”

It’s a tough deal for everyone. Manny Diaz clearly was a disaster as defensive coordinator. Brown had seen enough after Texas’ 40-21 loss to Brigham Young on Saturday. BYU rushed for 550 yards. How amazing is that number? In 1971, the vaunted OU wishbone, just out of the gate and not yet susceptible to defenses that had figured out how to combat the Sooners’ speed, ran wild on Texas in a 48-27 victory. Those Sooners rushed for 435 yards against Texas.

So Diaz wasn’t getting it done. However, it’s never cool to fire a coach – head, coordinator, assistant – in mid-season. That’s a message to your players that commitment isn’t necessary, that you don’t have to buy in to what you’ve been taught and told.

Diaz was on shaky ground to start the season. When Robinson was announced on July 17 as a Longhorn Network analyst, Robinson had this quote included in the press release: “In Manny [Diaz's] case, I don’t want it in any way for him to feel like he has someone looking over his shoulder at all. That’s not what I’m there for. I don’t want to in any way inhibit him or any of the coaches. Mack and I talked about that, and that was important to me.”

Good luck with that. In the 15 games since the start of the 2012, the Longhorns rank 111th in run defense, 101st in yards per rush and 85th in yards per play allowed. Brown had someone in the bullpen and made a change.

It’s a panic move. Of course, some would say Diaz’s defensive strategy was a series of panic moves – unsound alignments and blitzes.

“Greg brings a wealth of knowledge. He’s a true veteran,” Brown said. “He’s a guy that has three Rose Bowl rings and a Super Bowl ring, so he’s been there before. He handles pressure well, he makes great adjustments. When he was here before, we tackled very well, we chased the ball and we were very sound fundamentally. He’s a guy kids love to play for.”
But first, the Longhorns had to meet Robinson.

Robinson’s gridiron success has not been recent. He was d-coordinator for the Jets in 1994 and the Broncos 1995-00, during which he won two Super Bowls as part of Mike Shanahan’s staff.

Robinson, 62, started out as an assistant at Pacific in 1975-76, then was at Cal State-Fullerton (1977-79), North Carolina State (1980-81, Monte Kiffin was the head coach), UCLA 1982-89 and finally the Jets (1990-94). After Denver, Robinson was the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator for three years (2001-03) before Brown brought him to Texas.

 

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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