By Joseph Beyda
On Monday afternoon, Stanford football officially announced that veteran Texas defensive backs coach Duane Akina had been hired for the same position on the Farm.
After spending the first two-week session of spring practice with nobody at the position, the Cardinal’s secondary will now benefit from a 35-year coaching veteran who has developed 28 NFL defensive backs and three Thorpe Award winners.
Although Lance Anderson took over for the departed Derek Mason, now the head coach at Vanderbilt, as Stanford’s defensive coordinator, Akina will replace Mason’s expertise in the secondary. Mason originally came to the Farm in 2010 as a defensive backs coach.
Akina’s hire was first reported on Sunday afternoon by 247sports.com’s Bobby Burton. After coaching the Longhorns for 13 years under Mack Brown, who retired at the end of last season, Akina was not included in the new staff being built by incoming Texas head coach Charlie Strong. Brown Tweeted his support on Sunday night.
— Mack Brown (@UT_MackBrown) March 10, 2014
After Akina was let go, rumors first emerged in mid-February that he was on Stanford’s shortlist, and 247sports.com reported on Feb. 24 that he had been offered the position.
The eventual hire couldn’t come a moment too soon for a Cardinal secondary that is undergoing anticipated — if not entirely expected — turnover this season. Besides Mason, Stanford will have to replace star free safety Ed Reynolds, who declared for the NFL Draft in January. Although Reynolds was one of the nation’s top safety prospects, his statistical production took a slight downturn last year after a breakout 2012 campaign, so some hoped that he would return for a fifth and final season to bolster his draft stock.
Stanford also lost two key defensive backs whose eligibility had run out: fifth-year senior nickelback Usua Amanam, the defensive MVP of the 2013 Rose Bowl, and senior safety Devon Carrington, Reynolds’ primary backup.
The Cardinal does return three of its starters in the secondary from last season: rising senior strong safety Jordan Richards, rising senior corner Wayne Lyons and rising junior corner Alex Carter. But the unit’s lack of proven depth recently prompted the addition of two offensive players, receiver Kodi Whitfield and quarterback Dallas Lloyd, to the position group. Akina will be tasked with developing those players quickly if Stanford is to maintain its success in the secondary, a hallmark of the Mason era and a historical outlier for a Cardinal program that has typically dominated up front.
Contact Joseph Beyda at jbeyda ‘at’ stanford.edu.