Missed tackles continue to haunt Longhorns

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Alex Okafor tries to get past an Ole Miss offensive lineman in Texas' last game, a 66-31 win in Oxford. The Longhorns had five sacks and forced three turnovers in the victory but defensive coordinator Manny Diaz estimated that they missed 11 tackles in the game, costing them 120 yards.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

One wouldn’t expect tackling to be a skill that the Texas players struggle with, but the Longhorns are having difficulty stopping their opponents from gaining big yardage in the early goings of this season.

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said the team missed 11 tackles for an extra 120 yards against Ole Miss. Against Wyoming, they whiffed on roughly nine.

“You watch film and you see things that need to be fixed and we have guys on the team that will get that fixed,” sophomore cornerback Quandre Diggs said. “You can believe that.”

Safety Kenny Vaccaro said he didn’t realize how big the problem was until he watched the tape of the Longhorns’ last game. But he said it’s a correctable problem.

Two of the missed tackles against Ole Miss, one by Ryan Roberson and the other by Alex De La Torre, allowed the Rebels’ Jaylen Walton to score on a kickoff return. Though those tackles hurt the Longhorns and allowed a quick score for the Rebels, various mistakes from the defense this season have added up and given yards to offenses that should not be getting them.

“We could have had a lot more tackles for losses,” defensive tackle Desmond Jackson said. “We could have so many picks and we had missed opportunities. We just have to go in there and keep working.”

Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said the team has been doing tackling drills since two-a-days this summer.

The Longhorns analyzed tapes of their games and are focusing on their angles of pursuit.

“I think you have to coach fundamentals every week,” Diaz said. “That’s just what we do.”

Cornerbacks Diggs and Carrington Byndom have missed their share of tackles. Diggs made up for it with his two interceptions against Ole Miss. But these kinds of mistakes aren’t game-changing when facing teams that aren’t a huge challenge.

But when the Longhorns play Oklahoma State on Saturday, these mistakes will be much more costly if not corrected. “We can’t continue to do that with this league, the way that people score,” head coach Mack Brown said. “We just have to keep working on it.”

The coaches have shown players exactly where their mistakes are and, because of the bye week, they’ve had two weeks of practice since their last game. The Longhorns’ practice regiment hasn’t changed and they have continued with their normal tackling drills.

Oklahoma State leads the nation with 686.67 yards per game. Although it had an upset loss to Arizona, quarterback Wes Lunt still threw for 436 yards and four touchdowns. The Cowboys still managed to accumulate 636 total offensive yards in the game. The Longhorns do not need tackling mistakes to help to this high-powered offense score more points.

“We can still be a great defense,” Diggs said. “It’s things that are all correctable. We’re playing some alright opponents.  We’re not playing bad teams. It’s all things that can
be corrected.”

Brown has the team split the season up. Their first three games are considered preseason while the remaining games are the actual season.

The Longhorns should be hoping this new season brings more success when it comes to tackling. They’ll need it over the next three weeks against Oklahoma State, West
Virginia and Oklahoma.