Saturday isn’t the only time to watch Texas defensive backs in action. They also shine on Sundays.
The Longhorns have 47 players on NFL rosters, the most of any program in the nation. And 10 of those players are defensive backs, all tutored by secondary coach Duane Akina. There’s a reason Texas is known as “DBU.”
Akina has another boatload of pro prospects at his disposal this season, even after three were selected in last April’s NFL Draft.
Sophomore cornerbacks Adrian Phillips, Carrington Byndom and freshman Quandre Diggs have filled the void left by Aaron Williams, Chykie Brown and Curtis Brown. And this trio will join their DBU brethren in the NFL sooner rather than later.
“We’ve got some playmakers back there,” Akina said. “We guessed right on them.”
Byndom and Phillips played primarily on special teams in 2010 but understood their time would arrive this season. And they’ve taken advantage of every moment, combining for three interceptions in four games.
“I had to come in and do a good job of taking the role from the guys who left last year,” Byndom said. “Knowing I was going to enter this season as a starter after splitting reps last year made me step it up.”
Of course, it helps to have ten NFL players to learn from, including Diggs’ older brother and San Diego Charger, Quentin Jammer.
“Those guys were great mentors to me,” Byndom said. “They taught me a lot, all the little details, things that people had helped them with.”
This week, the Longhorns secondary will face its toughest challenge yet against Oklahoma’s high-powered offense. Indirectly, they’ll go against the Sooners defensive backs, a unit that refers to itself as “The Sharks.” So what does the Texas bunch call itself?
“We just go by the fact that DBs are the moneymakers; we make the money,” Phillips said. “It’s DBU, we have to keep the tradition alive.”
Texas has two players who chose the “Moneymakers” over the “Sharks.” Freshman Josh Turner and sophomore Demarco Cobbs were the No. 1 recruits in Oklahoma the last two years, but both committed to UT over OU. And for good reason.
“Josh was well aware of our secondary tradition here, and that was very appealing to him,” Akina said. “Josh really knew a lot about us, knew about Aaron Ross and Michael Huff and had followed us closely.”
While Cobbs has since transitioned to linebacker, he was instrumental in prying Turner from the Sooner state.
“Demarco had a real positive experience here,” Akina said. “Our players are the ones that recruit for us.”
Ross and Huff were teammates on the 2005 National Championship team, and both were first-round picks. When Akina scans the practice field these days, he sees several players who will earn NFL paychecks in the near future. That’s why he stresses versatility when evaluating recruits, noting that pro teams value prospects that can play multiple positions.
“That’s what we’re constantly looking for,” he said.
Phillips epitomizes all that Akina covets. He’s already started at corner, split time at safety and excelled as a nickel back — all this from a first-year starter.
This group is young but poised. No corner has started more than four games in his career, but they all play the part of a wily veteran.
“Even though we’re young, we don’t worry about age at all,” Phillips said. “If you can play, you can play, and that’s all that matters with Coach Akina.”
This group can certainly play — on Sundays.
Printed on October 6, 2011 as: NFL prospects roam secondary