Texas head coach Tom Herman has preached all offseason that everything about this year’s Texas team is different.
From the personnel to the attitude, this year’s Longhorns are a different breed, Herman said.
“This is a different team,” Herman said in a news conference Thursday. “We can learn lessons from previous teams, but we’re not going to dwell on anything from the previous year, good or bad. We’re going to take a few lessons here, good and bad and apply them, but this is a completely different team. This team has responded to everything that we’ve asked them to.”
Herman’s comments fall in line with the narrative fans have heard since the spring — this is a different program than it was last year. But on Saturday, the Longhorns will have the chance to finally prove themselves.
“We know how hard we’ve worked,” sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger said Tuesday during a player availability. “We know the work that we’ve put in this offseason, since January, since the bowl game. We’ve had a championship-winning mentality since that day and to ‘prove us right’ is to prove all of our hard work and all of the things that we’ve talked about and all of the mistakes that we’ve cleaned up in a year. ‘Prove us right.’ And we have to show that on Saturdays.”
The phrase “Prove us right,” which has been the team’s motto throughout the summer, is to prove to themselves what they already believe. But they certainly have room to prove a lot of other people wrong, too.
Texas’ 7–6 season was obviously a disappointment, especially after the team’s high expectations heading into the season. That’s not something they’re going to let define their program going forward.
Ehlinger has been working as the starting quarterback since the beginning of fall camp. The defense has returned multiple leaders on defense in senior defensive end Breckyn Hager and senior cornerback Kris Boyd, among others. And perhaps most importantly, the team will retain the same offensive system for the first time in five seasons, according to Herman.
Ehlinger, Hager and senior tight end Andrew Beck have all mentioned they’ve been watching film of last year’s meltdown against Maryland in preparation for the long-awaited rematch.
“I saw us beat ourselves,” Hager said. “I saw a different team. I don’t even recognize the team out there. I know it’s frustrating for all of us just to watch that film for personnel sake to see the returning guys. When you watch them score in DKR it hurts, but the great thing about it is we have this week for more preparation before Saturday and we are all excited about that.”
Plenty of excitement has been apparent in the demeanor of players and coaches this summer in media availabilities and practices, but after giving up 51 points at home in the previous meeting, it might be normal to have pre-game jitters.
While many coaches might shy away from allowing their players to feel such an emotion before a huge test, Herman believes a level of worry exhibited by the team is healthy.
“Nervousness means you care,” Herman said. “It means it matters to you, and you want to perform well for the guys on your team and in your family. Nervousness is an energy. It’s an excitement and if channeled properly, you can use that to your advantage. When you’re not prepared, that’s when you feel pressure. That’s when you feel scared.”