The Texas Longhorns and "DBU" are one and the same, a program that takes in elite defensive back talent and manufacturing NFL-caliber prospects.
Quentin Jammer, Michael Huff, Michael Griffin, Earl Thomas, Aaron Williams and Kenny Vaccaro are just a handful of former players who have passed through the ranks at Texas before joining a pristine group of Longhorn alum in the NFL.
Defensive backs coach Duane Akina has again assembled a strong defensive backfield for this season, and the Longhorns are anxiously awaiting the emergence of new DBU ambassadors.
The secondary always seems to be a reliable strength for the Longhorns, but the 2012 season was harsh on the back-end as well.
As we continue the position breakdowns for the 2013 Longhorns, we move into the defensive backfield where they will feature a heavy mixture of quality veterans and promising youths.
Quality at Corner
The obvious standouts at cornerback are senior Carrington Byndom and junior Quandre Diggs, both of whom should be eager to turn in a stronger year in 2013 after lackluster 2012 campaigns. Improved play from linebacker could help that.
Diggs could very well share the brunt of his work between the nickelback and safety, opening space for the emerging Sheroid Evans at cornerback opposite Byndom. The junior Evans has put in a solid spring that apparently has the defensive coaches comfortable in moving Diggs away from the outside.
With three quality performers seemingly settled in, now comes the issue of depth.
Junior Leroy Scott, sophomore Duke Thomas and redshirt freshman Bryson Echols are virtually in the same boat, but all come with separating circumstances.
Scott has come on this spring but has been out-dueled by Evans to snag a starting job. Thomas, meanwhile, has taken a large number of reps at wide receiver due to personnel issues, a move that could end up being permanent if the situation unfolds accordingly. Echols remains the caboose but has every bit of talent as the next guy. Time will tell for this DeSoto, Texas product.
Improvement at the Back
Losing Vaccaro is a damaging departure for a multitude of reasons. The 'Horns lose a bona fide playmaker at safety and nickel, a violent, physical presence and a straight-up athlete in center field. But as it is a necessary evil, Texas will have to work with what it has on its roster.
Adrian Phillips looks poised for a comeback campaign after a mostly forgettable 2012 season where missed tackles were a commonality. Spring reports have had Phillips on the rise, and his improved play at safety could help alleviate some concerns about Vaccaro's departure.
While some pegged Diggs to own the safety position vacated by Vaccaro, Mykkele Thompson has begun forming his own reputation as a playmaker in the back.
The leash may be a little short on the junior Thompson if he does not keep a standard. But with Josh Turner, who grabbed two interceptions last season, sitting right behind Thompson, Texas has to feel comfortable getting production from either of them.
Thompson recorded 59 tackles, a pass break-up, a fumble recovery and two blocked kicks last season, while Turner posted 49 tackles, two interceptions, a sack and two pass break-ups. The writing is on the wall for these two, but who will turn in the better 2013 season?
Sophomore Kevin Vaccaro, Kenny's younger brother, along with redshirt freshman Adrian Colbert situate the back-end of the safety position. Neither has seen significant time, but coach Akina has made little fuss about playing his young players. Vaccaro has the bloodline and Colbert has the athletic make-up, but how long until either makes a presence?
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, the Longhorns lose an All-Big 12 performer in Vaccaro, but the ranks are still loaded with solid talent. Many have pointed to the underwhelming play at linebacker as the root cause to the secondary's misplays last season, but the fact of the matter is that Texas always has great players in its defensive backfield. They have to show up.
Texas will be relying on a number of full-time starters for the first time. Thompson and Evans will be under the spotlight as the most unproven playmakers, but it could very well spell the beginning of something great for both of them.
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