Texas Football: Anthony Cook’s progression is astounding

Anthony Cook, Texas Football (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Anthony Cook, Texas Football (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

One of the most improved players this year on either side of the ball for the Texas football program is the former blue-chip recruit and senior defensive back Anthony Cook. In the last few seasons, Cook has floated around to different positions. Nothing really stuck for him on a consistent basis under former head coach Tom Herman and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

But now under new head coach Steve Sarkisian and co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Pete Kwiatkowski, Cook has found his role. Cool is really excelling this fall for the Longhorns, most taking snaps at the STAR position for Kwiatkowski. This looks to be a better fit for him than playing at corner or nickel, like he was the prior two or three seasons.

Cook is essentially the best defensive back statistically through five games this season. And he passes the eye test too. He’s coming through with big plays, especially on third down, when Texas needs him the most to step up.

Texas will really need Cook to step up in a big way for them again this weekend, as the Longhorns take on the Oklahoma Sooners in the annual Red River Rivalry game. There’s not much success in the secondary that Texas can hang their hat on. Cook is one of the lone exceptions to that.

Cook could play a big role for Texas if this team manages to upset Oklahoma in Red River this weekend. And that is all thanks to his perseverance to finally find a role that suits him well in his fourth year playing for Texas.

The improvement that Cook showed this fall is nothing short of astounding. He’s gone from being a defensive back that sometimes took poor angles in pass coverage, and someone who often missed tackles, to being one of the most reliable players on this entire defense.

Improvement shows in the numbers and the eye test this fall for Texas football DB Anthony Cook

Cook went from missing tackles on roughly 1.5 percent of the snaps he took in the previous two seasons, to missing a tackle on around 0.3 percent of snaps he’s taken so far this fall. He also had a missed tackle percentage around 18 in the last two seasons combined. So far this season, he has just one total missed tackle, good for a missed tackle percentage around 4.0.

But that’s not the only area where Cook is way more effective this fall.

Cook has the highest-graded pass rusher for Texas this fall. While he’s only rushed the passer on eight snaps this fall, he’s generated pressure on three occasions. That includes one hurry, one hit, and one sack.

Among the usual starters this season, Cook also has the best tackling grade. We already talked about his improvement in making tackles this year compared to the prior two. But Cook is also stuffing the run more often and getting stops more frequently. Cook has seven stops on the season and two run stuffs. And each of those seven stops came in the last two games.

Last but not least, Cook is very effective in pass coverage assignments this season compared to the last two. He’s more often assigned to covering shorter routes, which usually equates to a receiver coming between the numbers, a running back, or tight end. He’s allowed less than five yards per reception in pass coverage this year.

Cook is also rarely letting opposing receivers get behind him in pass coverage assignments. He’s allowed less than half the number of receiving yards per catch (4.5) this season compared to last (10.3). And for the first time in his career, Cook has more pass breakups (2) than he’s allowed passing touchdowns (0).

Last season, when Cook was targeted in pass coverage, he gave up an NFL QBR north of 120, good for bottom three among defensive backs on the team. This season, he’s giving on an NFL QBR of 68.8 when he’s targeted in pass coverage. That is good for best on the team for players that have at least 100 snaps in pass coverage thus far.

It doesn’t take long to look through Cook’s numbers to see the tremendous levels of improvement he’s made this fall. He’s helping to plug gaps and make big plays for this defense that he was not making in prior years. All of the hard work that Cook put in to make the best out of his new role with his defense, and to transform his body during the offseason, have really paid off so far this season.

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Through five games played this season, Cook has already tied a career-high with 24 combined tackles, has a career-best two tackles for loss, one sack, two pass breakups, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. All of those numbers have either tied or set career bests for Cook.