Notes from the Austin Longhorn Club – Duane Akina

The Austin Longhorn Club had their pre-Red River Rivalry lunch today. The speaker was originally scheduled to be Major Applewhite, but he had filled in earlier in the year for Manny Diaz. As a result, Duane Akina spoke today.

As usual, opening statements were made by Bill Little. Remember, this should be considered a paraphrasing, not a direct quotation. The talk will be on the Longhorn Network at some point if you’d like to see the real thing.

Here’s what Bill had to say:

The Texas-Oklahoma series goes in streaks. Always has, always will. The streak ends when the other team gets too tired of it.

Givens: The game creates heroes. A game which creates memories. It is a kaledoscope of tastes, sights and sounds.

It doesn’t matter what the coaches, players or fans think, because it’s a game about passion.

And no one on the Texas staff reflects passion more than Duane Akina.

Coach Akina’s opening statement was along these lines:

If you ever have a self esteem problem, just have Bill introduce you to a crowd.

About last week’s game: It was a wonderful challenge for us, a tough challenge.

The build up to the game, the atmosphere was wonderful.

To overcome a homefield advantage like that, to overcome the adversity we faced, really showed the heart of our team. That feeling of exhaustion and elation at the end reminded me of 2005 at Ohio State.

To deal with the new targeting rules, we coach going after the belt of the ball carriers. If you go after the chest, you can easily slid up into the head, and we don’t want to teach our guys to go for the knees.

Oklahoma is one of the great games in college football. With Mack and Stoops, this game has returned to being a national game. There’s just something different about this game and this opponent. We’re excited about getting on the plane and heading up there.

Coach then opened up the floor to questions. As always, if I mangled something in my notes badly, please let me know in the comments.

On defense, there’s such an emphasis on turnovers and stripping the ball. There also seem to be a lot of missed tackles. How do you coach to go after the ball, but also make the tackle?
We coach that you don’t go after the ball unless it’s being held loosely. We teach that you have to swarm the ball. The first player to the ball has to know where his leverages are. A DB has leverage towards the middle of the field. The mike has leverage outside. Bounce the ball that direction.

The first guy wraps up, then the second or third guy might try to strip the ball.

Run defense has not been a strength of this team. What are the causes of that, and what changes have you made?
The BYU game was the worst on this. Since then, we’ve began to gang up the front on the ball better.

We will take an aggressive approach to the game, but individuals need to win their battles. We’re working hard on rush lanes. We don’t want to let the QB off the hook on third down.

Last year, Vacarro never came off the field. Why do you keep pulling Diggs off the field for 4-3 sets?
Quandre went through surgery late in the summer. Conditioning is an issue, but he’s still averaging 70-80 snaps a game. As his conditioning improves, he’ll play more.

We work to rotate everyone in and out of the game. Have to keep players fresh.

With hurry up offense and special teams, some players are in for more than 100 snaps a game. You have to worry about players getting tired late in the game.

Last year, when Vaccaro was in on every defensive play, including nickel, he wasn’t playing special teams.

What advice to you give your players with regards to reading the local sports page?
Many of them are probably like me and just don’t read them.

There’s time when I thought I was doing a good job coaching, but you look at the tape, and you were more lucky than good. You have to trust the tape, not the numbers.

I’m more critical of myself than what anyone else says. I’m not that worried about what someone posts online with a fake name. (Editor’s Note: Nice shot! Wonder who he could be talking about? 😉 )

An NFL announcer who used to play defense in the NFL says that hurry up offense wore him out after 4 or 5 plays. How do you handle that?

Hurry up is changing things. Our conference went to an additional ref to handle it.

If the offense doesn’t substitute, they can play as soon as the ball is placed. A well coached team is running the ball back to the umpire at the line of scrimmage, rather than waiting for the refs to get it there.

Defenses have to get into that mind set. If the offense substitutes, you have to let the defense have time to naturally get on the field.

If you’re hurt as a defensive player, stay down. There’s no benefit to hobbling off the field on your own. You’re going to have to come out of the game anyways.

Talking about your linebackers, with the rearrangement of players, can you talk about their responsibilities?
Greg Robinson has done a good job with them. Manny Diaz is a good friend of mine, and a great coach, but I’ve known Coach Robinson since 1988. He’s very detail oriented and very fundamental.

He’s done a good job cleaning up some keys. You’ll see more improvement over time.

Can you give us a status about how your young guys are improving?
I’m really proud of our young players, and very sad for Sheroid. Iowa State was his best game.

It starts with AP and Carrington. They’re both having great years.

Mykkele is in line with the standards we’ve set. (Editor’s Note: I assume he means the standards of DBU.)

Antwuan Davis has some skills you can’t coach. I can’t teach someone to run like that. Some guys run a 4.3, but play a 4.8. He’s not one of these.

Colbert will be a great player. He’s a track guy like Huff.

I found Couch Akina’s answers to be refreshingly straight forward. Maybe we threw him some softer pitches than went to some of the others, but he didn’t seem to dodge any of them, except perhaps the one about linebacker responsibilities.

I fear DBU may be coming to an end, and Duane Akina will be missed.

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