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Spring Football: A porous defense should be Texas’ priority

Alamo Bowl wins won't cut it. (Photo: USA TODAY Sports)

First Practice: Feb. 21
Spring Game: Mar. 30

Entering the third year of his program reboot, Mack Brown is still pitching the idea that his team is on the cusp of greatness. He was singing the same song last spring, and while the Longhorns turned in a respectable 9-4 season in 2012, national championship material they were not.

For Texas to make good on Brown's rap and challenge for the Big 12 crown in the fall, the staff have to get to work this spring fixing a leaky defense. Farther down on the list of priorities: Getting more consistency from the aerial attack.

Here's what to watch this spring in Austin:

Stability Factor (1= Chaos; 5= Rock Solid): 3.5

The big changes at UT this offseason have come on the offensive side of the ball. Coordinator Bryan Harsin bailed for Arkansas State, leaving the offense in the hands of Brown's longtime lieutenant Major Applewhite. Brown has tasked his new offensive architect with picking up the pace and installing a no-huddle attack.

Otherwise, personnel stability may be the best thing going for Texas heading into the fall with 19 returning starters.

Manny Diaz

Under the Microscope: Manny Diaz

Following a sterling effort in his first year as coordinator, Diaz's defense took an enormous step back in his second season. The D regressed significantly in some of the most fundamental elements of the game. Most importantly, the Longhorns couldn't tackle to save Bevo's life.

Diaz needs to get the cart back behind the horse, so a spring heavy on the basics may be in order. Either way, Diaz needs to ensure that the D makes huge strides between now and Easter.

Johnathan Gray

Locked and Loaded: Running Backs

Applewhite bequeathed an embarrassment of riches to new running backs coach Larry Porter. UT's tailback trio of Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron would each see time in any backfield rotation in the country. Texas might stand to benefit from a more consistent rotation, but that's nitpicking.

Jockeying for Position: Linebacker (all of them)

Going into the season, no one would have imagined that the defense would miss guys like Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho as much as Texas did last year. The linebacking corps was a mess from start to finish. It primarily showed up in the run D, where the Longhorns allowed 4.62 yards per carry, 86th in the country.

Diaz really needs some of his highly recruited studs like Tevin Jackson and Peter Jinkens to prove this spring that he can count on them come fall.

Name to Know: Jalen Overstreet

There's no question right now that David Ash is UT's starting quarterback. Short of injury, nothing will change that when the Longhorns kick off this fall.

Even so, Brown has shown a propensity for rotating quarterbacks for the last two years. If Ash stumbles like he did at times in 2012, he could find himself sitting for spells. Case McCoy's ship has likely sailed, which leaves Overstreet. More of a running threat than Ash, Overstreet could even be used for package plays.

Spring will be a success if…: The defense cleans up its technique.

It's really that simple. Texas was an abomination on defense last fall, and it all started with the basics. Whether Diaz put too much on his players' plates or he let them get sloppy, nothing will get better if the 'Horns can't execute in the fundamentals of tackling, shedding blocks, recognition and the rest.

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