September 23, 2010

MUSCHAMP 101: Inside the mind of UT's defensive coordinator

Back by popular demand, it's MUSCHAMP 101 as we go inside the mind of Will Muschamp UT's defensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting. Put on your neck roll ....

1. Mack Brown says the Texas defense has questions to answer about stopping the run this week.

"It's a total different animal as far as what we're seeing in terms of the run game with UCLA averaging more than 200 yards per game," Muschamp said.

"The worst thing you can do is kick back and see where you are. You have to press forward, and that's what we've emphasized to our players. It just takes one week to go from being a good guy to being a bad guy.

"We (had) our most physical practice on Tuesday with our football team."

2. UCLA will represent the first of three teams - Oklahoma and Nebraska are the others - who will be looking to run it right at the Longhorns.

"UCLA is averaging more than 200 yards per game," Muschamp said. "Stanford has two really good inside players and some guys who play blocks well.

"Scheme-wise they are really tied well together. They were effective in running the game. That's going to be critical for us in seeing a little different animal as far as offensively the previous three weeks.

"We need to get our pad level right, strike up front and play blocks. Those are the things that will be critical to have success on Saturday."

Muschamp said it's step-up time for his young defensive tackles like Tyrell Higgins, Calvin Howell and Ashton Dorsey.

"They're all going to play," Muschamp said. "We're kind of a matchup defense. We're going to try to put our best 11 on the field versus what they do. So these guys need step forward. It's going to be a big week for them."

3. UCLA features a ton of misdirection in their run game.

"He (UCLA OC Norm Chow) has gone 90 percent pistol with the running back behind the quarterback to get more downhill. Lot of misdirection, power game and gap schemes.

"So we'll face it all as far as what they've got and the boots off all of those as well as a lot of changing formations, motions and shifts. Eye control will be key for us.

"We have to have our eyes in the right spots. Don't let the window dressing take your eyes to the wrong place. That's why teams do that. So as long as we hone in those things, we'll feel good about where we are."

UCLA visited Nevada this summer and adopted the Wolfpack's offense.

"We knew they visited Nevada in the off-season, but this is Nevada's full deal," Muschamp said. "We didn't really know going into the season how much the offense would change.

"So we've taken UCLA's three games, and I've talked to people who have had to defend Nevada to get a little flavor adjustment-wise what they are."

4. UCLA beat Houston 31-13 last week as RB Johnathan Franklin ran 26 times for 158 yards and three touchdowns.

But Muschamp said UCLA QB Kevin Prince, who was 15 of 38 passing (39.5 percent) with three interceptions and one touchdown in losses to Kansas State and Stanford, was more efficient against Houston (9 of 17 passing for 99 yards and one interception.

"They were effective running the ball in the first three games, but I think they were more efficient at the quarterback spot last week," Muschamp said.

"All the running creates one-on-ones down the field. With those one-on-ones in the vertical game you can really change the field position, which they did. They'll take shots down the field."

5. UCLA starts five seniors on the offensive line.

"They get good push and movement in the combos and doubles. You turn on the tape and they are covering hashmark to hashmark.

"This is a pretty drastic change from last year, when they were more of a West Coast passing game. There's some blocking schemes that are the same, but as far as the motions and shifts and everything, it's a pretty drastic change from what they've been doing.

"I think they've bought into this is what they are now. And I think the quarterback was more efficient against Houston than he'd been."

6. Eddie Jones already has four sacks this season, including two in last week's 24-14 win at Lubbock.

"He's worked awful hard," Muschamp said. "I don't know how many surgeries there's been, but there's been a bunch. He just perservered through it. He went through his first spring since he's been here this past spring.

"We challenged him on physical toughness and the leadership issues. He's really answered the call to this point. Excited about his play-making ability.

"He's got natural pass rush ability, and now he's sticking his face in there and liking the run a little bit. Those are the things we're pleased with."

7. Blake Gideon has gotten a lot of attention for his big hits (and flags) the last two weeks. Will Muschamp says there's a good reason for that.

"More than anything I think he's gotten stronger," Muschamp said. "Those multi-sport guys in high school don't get the full year of lifting until they get to college. And then he had the surgery on the shoulder last year and kind of missed four and a half months of lifting.

"But his body is stronger. He's better in tackling. He's got more force in terms of the collisions and things. He's taken the next step. He's always been a good athlete and good space player, but his overall strength has improved tremendously."

Muschamp talked about the art of the big hit and how some players seem to have more than others. He used S Christian Scott as an example. Muschamp said Scott has had a solid three games.

"I think most of those guys just have it," Muschamp said. "You use that term in press coverage, and when they touch you, you see the other guy move.

"Most of the guys who are heavy handed are very explosive in a short area, meaning 6- to 8-inch explosion area. Christian can roll his hips. And those guys are hard to find."

8. Muschamp said Gideon is also motivated by his desire to be a coach one day.

"I think Blake wants to be a coach, and I think his knowledge of what we do and how we administer it is critical for us and him as a player but also to his future because he's told me wants to be a coach," Muschamp said.

"He asks a lot of the right questions from a player's standpoint, but he wants to understand why even more so for the future because I think that's something he wants to do.

"He was very mature as a freshman. He came in mid-year and had a good spring. He had a phenomenal spring game in front of 40,000 people.

"Duane Akina and I said, 'That's kind of impressive for a guy who should be going to the prom to go out in front of that many people and play at a high, high level.' And he continued that through the summer and into fall camp.

"But there's no question he's off the charts in terms of knowledge about how and why we do things."

9. Dravannti Johnson showed up in a big way against Texas Tech last week, causing a fourth-down stop and Curtis Brown's interception.

"We had a nice pass-rush game on, and he came clean with nice execution on his part and forced a tough throw (on Brown's interception)," Muschamp said.

"So that was two critical plays in the game. So real pleased with his progress. He's done a nice job in three games this year. His role will change a little bit Saturday. We'll play a little more regular personnel with what they do. Been real pleased with where he is."

10. Jackson Jeffcoat has one and a half sacks this season and is showing up all over the place as a playmaker.

"He's a very talented young man," Muschamp said. "I think the first thing that jumps out at you is the maturity. He's very driven off the field. He works hard in the weight room. He works hard in the classroom.

"Generally, guys who take care of things off the field, take care of things on the field. They carry over. Him being a freshman, I've always said it's not about ability in terms of playing as a freshman.

"It's about maturity. He's very talented. He's very mature in his approach. Our older players see that maturity. They see his talent level, and they respect that.

"And he's got play-making ability. He's got natural pass-rush skills. He can move his hands and his feet at the same time, which is hard for a lot of guys. But again, a lot of credit to his mother. She's obviously taught him well."

BONUS NUGGET: Muschamp said the defense had a lot of fun in the film room with Curtis Brown bonking on his 74-yard interception return against Tech.

"We showed it and I stopped it when he intercepted it and asked him, 'Do you want me to keep it going?'" Muschamp said. "He said, 'We might as well. I'm going to hear about it anyways.'

"He was locked up on the sideline (after the play). I was glad it was just cramps. That's something we've got to get more fluids and pickle juice or whatever we have to do there."

Muschamp was happy with only three missed tackles against Texas Tech.

"Against good skill people, three missed tackles is really good. It's critical especially with the teams who rely on the bubble screens. You don't want yards after contact, and I think we had 33 yards. Eighteen or 19 of that came on a bubble late on our sideline."

BONUS NUGGET NO. 2: Muschamp was asked about the 22-play TD drive by the Texas offense that spanned 9:25 from the third quarter to the fourth quarter.

"It's awesome. It's great," Muschamp said. "This is a team game, and things that often get overlooked in the stat sheet are a 22-play drive.

"When a good offense with good, experienced skill people and an experienced quarterback are not on the field it's a good thing.

"It's a team game. As a defense, we talked about the next drive. Several times. They get tired of talking about it after a while, so we go at it again. Make sure they know.

When asked what he would have done as the DC facing an offense in the midst of a 22-play drive, Muschamp had a classic:

"Eventually you just gotta bring all you got. You're either going to hit them or their going to score. You're not going to be that patient on my side."


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