AUSTIN, Texas - Mack Brown is energized and enthusiastic as he approaches his 15th season as Texas' coach. He is convinced that the Longhorns have reversed course and erased the problems that led to two disappointing seasons.
Since reaching the national championship game in the 2009 season, UT has struggled to 5-7 and 8-5 records. The hope and promise of 2012 started with last season as a rebuilt coaching staff featuring young-gun coordinators Bryan Harsin (offense) and Manny Diaz (defense) started working with a young and talented roster.
"This thing is headed back in the right direction. We took a little dip, everything is positive and everything is moving forward, and I've never been more excited about the challenge," Brown said.
"Now we understand what we're doing," said Harsin, the co-offensive coordinator along with former Texas quarterback Major Applewhite. "We understand the details. We understand how each of us operates. And what the expectations of each positions are."
There are expectations that UT's quarterback will be more productive. However, there is still uncertainty as to who that quarterback will be. Sophomore David Ash and junior Case McCoy shared the job last season, with inconsistent results. Brown left the competition open throughout the summer. Ash is expected to start the season opener against Wyoming but Harsin said that both quarterbacks will play.
"I think the worst thing you can do is make it too early and make the wrong decision," Brown said of the quarterback decision. "I'm ready for the offense to step back up. I'm a little tired of us not being as good on offense as we need to be. We ought to score more points, and they know that.
"We've got to figure out the passing game. I think we get a clear picture of who we are in the running game. We never reached the point where we knew exactly what we wanted to be in the passing game."
Texas wants a dominant running game so don't expect the quarterback - whoever he is - to fling it 60 times or throw it for 400 yards. Sophomores Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron showed flashes last season but were sidetracked by injuries. Freshman Jonathan Gray is one of the most decorated running backs to attend UT.
"We've got a great team around us," Ash said. "Whenever all you have to do is delegate who gets the ball and they do the rest, that makes it a lot of fun."
The offensive line returns three starters and is working on developing a mean streak. Offensive line coach Stacy Searels, who came to UT from Georgia, is in his second season working with the unit. Brown hired him specifically to develop more of a Southeastern Conference approach to run blocking.
The defense is nasty. While the unit lost four senior starters and has just two seniors in the two-deep, the Longhorns could be better than last season's unit that finished 11th in the country in total defense.
"We can be as good as any defense in the country," Texas senior safety Kenny Vaccaro said. "I was on special teams as a freshman when we played for the national championship, and I know how good we can be. All swagger is is just confidence."
Coach: Mack Brown, 15th season.
2011: 8-5 overall, 4-5 in Big 12. .
Bowl: Defeated California, 21-10, in Holiday Bowl.
Returning starters: 9 on offense, 7 on defense.
Key players: Sophomore QB David Ash, junior QB Case McCoy, sophomore WR Jaxon Shipley, junior WR Mike Davis, sophomore RB Malcolm Brown, freshman RB James Gray, Sophomore C Dominic Espinosa, junior OL Mason Walters, senior DE Alex Okafor, junior DE Jackson Jeffcoat, senior S Kenny Vaccaro.
Information, please: Senior wide receiver Marquise Goodwin rejoined the team soon after practice started. He competed in the long jump in the Summer Olympics in London but failed to reach the final round. He has twice won the NCAA long jump championship. ... Don't confuse Malcolm Brown with Malcom Brown. The former - who spells his first name with an extra "l" - is a sophomore running back who led the team with 707 yards rushing last season. The latter is a freshman who might develop into the Longhorns' next dominant defensive lineman.
Numbers to note: Texas has lost a total of 12 games and 11 Big 12 games over the last two seasons. In the previous eight seasons, the Longhorns lost 14 games and 10 games in the Conference.
|Sept. 8||New Mexico|
|Sept. 15||at Mississippi|
|Sept. 29||at Oklahoma State*|
|Oct. 6||West Virginia*|
|Oct. 13||Oklahoma* (at Dallas)|
|Oct. 27||at Kansas*|
|Nov. 3||at Texas Tech*|
|Nov. 10||Iowa State*|
|Dec. 1||at Kansas State*|