Texas Football: The 'Cowboy' Package and What Could Have Been
It took on almost a sci-fi tone coming into the 2019 season.
The Longhorns' defensive coaching staff had been in the lab, creating a new monstrosity that was going to terrorize quarterbacks on Texas' schedule and make third-and-long situations almost impossible.
Flush with talent in his defensive backfield, former Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando had been experimenting with putting eight DBs on the field at the same time.
Safties Caden Sterns, Chris Brown, DeMarvion Overshown, B.J. Foster and Josh Thompson were all going to get on the field together.
"I just like the fact that we have a lot of speed on the field," Orlando said. "That's No. 1. If we make a mistake, we can cover it up. And then we have a whole bunch of guys that at the end of the day are really good playmakers, and that's what's unique about it."
The unpredictability of the formation was creating matchup nightmares for the Texas offense in team scrimmages in the early summer and quarterback Sam Ehlinger had plenty to say about going up against it.
“It's really tough from the quarterback position because you've got guys that are normally playing free safety or nickel or strong safety and you're trying to base your protections and your matchups off of where they're at on the field,” Ehlinger said after a summer practice. "
Adding to the sci-fi mystique, Ehlinger said it was like "Star Wars out there" with all the speed on the field.
Fast forward to the end of the season and the Cowboy package sin a distant memory and most of the Texas defensive staff that came up with it are scattered to the wind after a massive purge of assistant coaches.
Texas finished the year No. 127 against the pass, just four spots from dead least among FBS teams.
So what happened?
In a simple word, injuries. The Longhorns were never able to get healthy in the defensive backfield in 2019 with Sterns, Foster, Overshown, Brown, Jalen Green, Brandon Jones and Thompson all missing games due to injuries.
The Longhorns went from the problem of trying to find a way to get all of their secondary talent on the field to trying to field a starting secondary made up entirely of scholarship players.
The new coaching staff helmed by Chris Ash seems far more focused on building a disruptive defensive line with four down linemen to create organic pressure on the quarterback in passing situations. It's a shift in focus and philosophy that likely leaves the Cowboy Package as a relic in the past, likely to be forgotten by most Longhorn fans.
Adios, Cowboy. Maybe we'll see you somewhere down the dusty trail.