For most, springtime means bright flowers, warmer weather and the occasional rainy days.
For the Texas football team, spring means hours spent on the field running drills, assimilating with teammates and preparing for autumn. The blood, sweat and tears commence Thursday, the first official day of spring practice.
Head coach Mack Brown said the team has been pounding away in the weight room in preparation for spring practice, arriving at 6 a.m. four days a week and staying until 7:30 p.m.
“Kids were laughing, cutting up, picking at each other,” he said at a press conference following signing day. “If one guy is slacking a little bit, they’re really getting after each other. There’s more accountability out there that you need to pick it up.”
Picking it up is exactly what fans are longing to see. After a mediocre 9-4 season that followed last year’s 8-5 record and 2010’s bleak 5-7 season, the stakes are high for 2013.
And rightly so. Texas has 19 returning starters, the most of any team in the country, in addition to a talented offensive line. While the sheer number of returners could mean little playing time for Texas’ new freshman, Brown made clear the best players will be chosen as starters.
“All of our jobs are always open,” Brown said. “Very honestly, we’re going to play the best players.”
The start of spring practice means the first time several of the new recruits will lace up their cleats and hit the field with their team members. The new Longhorns who have started spring classes include defensive end Jake Raulerson, quarterback Tyrone Swoops, outside linebacker Deoundrei Davis and junior college transfer Geoff Swaim, a tight end.
This year also marks the first offseason with Major Applewhite as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Applewhite, who was thrust into duty just before the Alamo Bowl, now has a bit more time on his hands to lay out an effective offense for the upcoming season.
“We want to be similar to the things we’ve been doing, but we want to do it with no huddle and with the same players,” Brown said of his offensive strategy. “You still want to be physical, and some people aren’t. I think that’s what’s getting them beat. We’re going to keep our physical presence.”
Applewhite returns to practice after an alleged affair with a student during the 2009 Fiesta Bowl week surfaced. Brown said at his press conference that he didn’t consider firing Applewhite after the story came out.
Thursday also marks the first practice for Case McCoy and Jordan Hicks after their suspensions following accusations of sexual assault the day before the Alamo Bowl (no charges were filed). Brown said in a statement that the players would be disciplined for breaking team rules, and they rejoined the team shortly after.
Springtime means work time for quarterback David Ash, who will return a little more seasoned after making strides as last year’s starter. The junior struggled at times, but a fourth-quarter performance during the Alamo Bowl inspired hope that maybe this next year will belong to Ash.
In the midst of the sprints, drills and strength training, Brown said the team is growing in ways other than physically. They’re becoming leaders.
“We’re seeing more leadership than we have the last two years,” Brown said. “I think it’s going to be great next year.”