Derek Williams Jr. is Texas’ only good safety
Texas’ safeties were picked apart in the win over Houston on Oct. 21. Three of the four Longhorns’ safeties that took the most reps against Houston were responsible for allowing over 160 receiving yards and two touchdowns in pass coverage.
The entire secondary had a day to forget against Smith and the Cougars this weekend. Texas allowed 32 completions on 46 attempts for 378 passing yards, three touchdowns, and one interception.
I think the struggles for the Texas pass defense can largely be attributed to the various injuries they’re dealing with right now. Sophomore cornerback Terrance Brooks, senior safety Jalen Catalon, redshirt junior cornerback Gavin Holmes, Barron, and redshirt junior cornerback Ryan Watts all either suffered or are dealing with lingering injuries coming out of the Houston game.
Five key starters/rotational DBs were hampered in this game by injuries.
But the trio of safeties, including senior Jerrin Thompson, junior Michael Taaffe, and senior Kitan Crawford, were consistently exploited in pass coverage by the Cougars in this game. For the first time this season, the Longhorns had three safeties that all allowed at least three catches for 45 receiving yards.
The only good safety in pass coverage for the Longhorns this weekend was true freshman Derek Williams Jr. The former elite recruit out of New Iberia (LA) Westgate High School made a few nice plays for Texas in coverage and contesting space against Houston.
Williams had a nice pass breakup that forced third-and-long, where he dove to knock down the ball on a pass from Smith to wide receiver Joseph Manjack IV. He also had two defensive stops in this game, one on a money down for the Cougars.
It’s clear at this point of the season that Williams is the only safety Texas has healthy, with the skills and athleticism to hold his own in space and in pass coverage consistently.
Every team Texas has faced in Big 12 play has targeted the safeties as the group to exploit on this Longhorns defense. That is likely to remain the case until the Longhorns can either get healthier in the secondary or figure something out with the safety rotation down the stretch.