The Longhorns don’t play with passion. Senior defensive end Eddie Jones can hook his horns and sing “Texas Fight” after losing to Iowa State and his fellow end Sam Acho can pump his fist after making a tackle, but as a whole, the team does not play with a passion or a purpose.
And head coach Mack Brown knows it. He could feel it in August.
“I worry about this team,” Brown said. “On the first Wednesday scrimmage we had this year, I said that we didn’t see the emotion from players.”
Because the Longhorns have had nine consecutive 10-win seasons, they assumed this year wouldn’t be any different. But things aren’t looking so rosy right now and the players are learning that just because they wear a longhorn on their helmets doesn’t mean wins are guaranteed. This season, entitlement won’t get them anywhere. It’s going to take more dedication and energy than ever before.
As the old saying goes, “You play how you practice,” and junior receiver Malcolm Williams admitted that the energy levels have been lower than usual at practice all year.
“It’s been there at times, but it’s been more sketchy,” Williams said. “Some days it’s there, others it’s not and in the past, it’s always been there. We always found a way to bring it. Even at 6 a.m. practices we found a way.”
The enthusiasm was there in the past because of leadership. Players like Roy Miller, Brian Orakpo and Colt McCoy never would have stood for indifference. In fact, those players were ready to call out their teammates if need be.
Brown recalled the 2008 Fiesta Bowl when Texas was about to play Ohio State. He was worried his team didn’t have an edge in pre-game, but then he heard a lot of commotion coming from the locker room.
“I heard all this ruckus and I turned to [strength and conditioning coach Jeff Madden] and I say, ‘Jeff, something’s happening in there, go see what’s going on. It sounds like a fight,’” Brown said. “So he goes in and walks back out with a smile on his face and he says, ‘Uh, no coach, it’s Roy [Miller]. He’s just getting everyone ready to play.’ He was throwing trash cans and screaming.”
This team may not be the type to throw trash cans, but a few players discussed what they are going to do this week to change the overall attitude.
“Now is the time where it’s not a time to be comfortable,” he said. “Everybody has to get out of their comfort zone whether that’s in their leadership styles or in their style of play. You have to be uncomfortable in order to grow.”
Williams said that he is going to lead by example.
“It’s not just about being vocal anymore, it’s my actions, too,” Williams said. “Every time I step out on the field, I try to go to work and work my hardest.”
Senior receiver John Chiles is going let the rest of the team know they still have a lot to play for.
“We have to keep playing each and every game like we are going to win the national championship,” he said. “We have to keep on playing, keep on going, keep on working hard and gel as a team.”