What went wrong for Texas football CB D’Shawn Jamison in 2021?

One of the biggest declines we saw from any Texas football player on the defensive side of the ball last season came from senior cornerback D’Shawn Jamison. After looking like one of the real versatile weapons on the rise in the Big 12 during the 2019 and 2020 seasons, Jamison came crashing back down to Earth last fall.

Jamison was the lowest-graded defensive back among the regular starters for Texas last season. He also gave up the most yards in pass coverage assignments (448) and touchdowns (four) during the 2021 campaign.

For the first time in his career to date, we saw Jamison struggle mightily covering the deep ball, dealing with zone coverage assignments, and just flat-out miss reads that we’re used to seeing him make in pursuit of the ball carrier.

But what caused these issues for Jamison after having some All-Big 12 caliber seasons with the Longhorns in the first two years of his collegiate career?

The first issue we really saw for Jamison last season saw him get beat deep more often than ever before. Jamison got beat on three passes last season that resulted in plays of at least 30 yards. And three of those four deep balls he got beat on resulted in touchdowns.

In the prior two seasons combined, Jamison gave up only one deep ball that went for at least 30 yards and a touchdown.

Jamison seemingly had trouble getting a read on deep coverage assignments last season. But that’s not really something he struggled with in the past.

So, why did Jamison have so much trouble seemingly locking down in pass coverage assignments deep?

There are two factors that really impacted Jamison as it pertains to getting beat deep last season. And only one of these factors was really something that Jamison could control.

First off, every single one of the 30+ yard passes that beat Jamison for touchdowns last season saw the opposing quarterback have a clean pocket for at least 3.5-to-four seconds to get the pass off. That is way too much time for a quarterback to have a clean pocket to pick apart this defense.

It also didn’t help that Jamison was out on an island in each of the four longest passes he gave up last season in coverage assignments.

Combine the lack of pass rush with the fact that the safeties were either slow to help over the top (i.e. Brenden Schooler when Jamison got beat deep against Texas Tech), and it adds up that Jamison was having more difficulties defending the deep pass.

Another issue that came about for Jamison last season was that he just wasn’t making plays as often as we’re used to. Jamison was one of the more frequent playmakers that showed up week in and week out for the Longhorns in 2019 and 2020.

In fact, Jamison led the team in pass breakups in 2020 (seven) and led the team in interceptions (three) and total turnovers forced (five) in 2019. Jamison was an electrifying player that was one of the real spark plugs for this defense in those two campaigns.

Take into account the fact that Jamison had three punt/kick returns for touchdowns from 2018-2020, and you can see why he was such an electrifying and versatile playmaker for the Longhorns early in his career.

Texas football CB D’Shawn Jamison looking to bounce-back in 2022

Yet, Jamison saw his playmaking take a hit last fall. For the first time in his career last season, Jamison went without a single special teams touchdown. He also managed just one pass breakup and one interception.

Last season was also the first time that Jamison had more touchdowns allowed in pass coverage assignments than he had interceptions and pass breakups combined.

Add this all up, and you get a situation where Jamison was somewhat of a liability for this defense. Jamison was just getting beat much more often than he was making plays for the first time in his career.

The major factor that I could find in terms of why this was happening last season is the fact that Jamison was often getting picked on in man coverage without much help. Jamison also wasn’t in a spot where he could be as aggressive as he was the prior two seasons.

As Jamison was still learning the playbook and defensive philosophies under Pete Kwiatkowski last season, opposing offenses were taking advantage of his lapses in one-on-one man coverage. He was also exploited more in zone coverage than ever before.

Texas also battled some injuries in the secondary last season which meant Jamison was forced to take on many different coverage assignments than originally anticipated. There were times when Jamison was taking on some star receivers as the every-down primary corner, or when he was assigned to possession receivers on the outside. Those aren’t the assignments he’s used to.

That made the adjustment to this new defensive scheme even more challenging for Jamison.

For the first time in his career, Jamison was the lowest graded Texas defensive back in man coverage schemes and was in the bottom two among defensive backs in zone coverage grade.

And the third problematic trend that came about for Jamison last season was the yards after catch he allowed. Jamison was worst among Longhorns players last season, allowing a whopping 181 yards after the catch. The next worst Longhorns DB last season in terms of yards after the catch allowed was senior Anthony Cook with just over 140.

This issue is relevant to the other two in a few respects. First and foremost, Jamison was obviously going to give up more yards after the catch when he was getting beat deep more often in coverage than ever before.

Also, Jamison was on an island in man coverage more often than ever before. This is not the type of coverage scheme he was used to last season, and this adjustment definitely took its toll on his production in defending the pass.

It looked like Jamison was just misreading plays and not being as aggressive and timely in pass coverage last season compared to the prior two campaigns. That should change a bit with Jamison getting another year in Kwiatkowski’s defensive system, though.

All in all, there were multiple factors that played a role in the dip in Jamison’s production last season. But the commonalities can be traced back to a few root causes. And the main three root causes here were his slow transition into a new defensive scheme, lack of strong safety play in pass coverage, lack of generation of a pass rush, and poor reads in one-on-one coverage.

Some of these problems should start to fade away naturally this coming season as Jamison has another year to get adjusted to Kwiatkowski’s system. Coach K is Jamison’s third defensive coordinator in the last four years.

But this will be the first time since 2019 that Jamison has played under the same defensive coordinator for two seasons in a row.

Moreover, as Jamison gets more comfortable in this defensive scheme (more specifically in pass coverage assignments) he should be able to more naturally time routes, allowing him to effectively make more plays on the ball.

Lastly, if Kwiatkowski and the Longhorns get improved safety play in pass coverage this fall along with being able to generate a more effective pass rush, we should see Jamison benefit as a byproduct. Improved safety play would allow Jamison to get more help over the top, hence getting beat less often on deep balls.

And if the Texas pass rush is actually able to get effective pressure on opposing quarterbacks this fall,

However, in terms of how Kwiatkowski and the Longhorns can actually adjust schematically to help Jamison improve this fall, I would think minimizing his exposure against more physical and agile wideouts on the outside would benefit him. Jamison also tends to thrive in zone coverage more than one-on-one man coverage.

Texas was able to bring in a more effective corner against some of the more physical and elusive wideouts on the outside in redshirt sophomore Ryan Watts, by way of the transfer portal earlier this offseason. Kwiatkowski should give more of the looks as an outside corner to Watts, especially in situations where Jamison is getting burned on deep and intermediate routes.

With Watts assuming some of the more crucial matchups on the outside in pass coverage, Jamison can work more out of the slot or as a second corner with help from a safety or linebacker if needed. In those situations, Jamison will be allowed to be more aggressive in timing routes and making plays on the ball.

Jamison is definitely a more capable and proven playmaker than Watts, thus it would make more sense to devote resources to help him make plays on the ball.

Jamison probably isn’t going to be the primary cornerback this coming season, and that’s alright. That’s not the place where Jamison is going to thrive, and it’s not where Texas needs him the most. Texas needs him to be a true playmaker that can change the momentum of a game in the blink of an eye. That was something this defense sorely needed oftentimes last season.

I do personally believe that Jamison is due for a bounce-back season this fall. He was put in a very difficult situation last season between adjusting to another new defensive philosophy while dealing with a lack of help from the pass rush and the safeties, causing some of the issues he was facing last season to get magnified oftentimes.

Assuming this defense does improve around Jamison, there are some early indicators that he’ll have a really solid redshirt senior campaign this fall. Jamison made a huge impression on the coaching staff with his improved play as spring camp moved along in the last couple of months.

Jamison was also making plays left and right in spring ball, picking off the quarterbacks in full-contact drills and scrimmages.

Jamison and the Longhorns finished up the 2021 season with a disappointing record of 5-7 (3-6 Big 12), missing out on bowl season for the first time since 2016. Texas is set to open up the 2022 regular season at home on Sep. 3 against Louisiana-Monroe.