AUSTIN, Texas - Mack Brown admits he did a poor job of handling his emotions following Texas' loss to Alabama in the 2009 national championship game. It might or might not be a coincidence that since that loss, the Longhorns have gone 13-12 the last two seasons.
But after remaking the coaching staff before last season, a Longhorns team lacking experience at quarterback managed an 8-5 record. Brown likes what he sees.
"This thing is headed back in the right direction," Brown said during UT's media days and the Austin stop on the Big 12 Skywriters Tour.
Brown wants Texas to have the best kicking game in the country. He thinks the defense can be dominant and set the tone for the team. The offense should continue to evolve in its second season under co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin.
"It's got to get better than what it was," Brown said of the Texas passing offense that was eighth in the Big 12 last season. "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."
The biggest topic of conversation involves who will be the starting quarterback. Sophomore David Ash started and played the entire Holiday Bowl, a 21-10 victory. Junior Case McCoy, who had shared the position with Ash in 2011, says he is motivated after not playing in the bowl game.
Both quarterbacks are bigger and stronger than last season. Brown declined to name a starter after spring practice. He preferred to allow both Ash and McCoy to interact and lead the team during off-season workouts. Brown referenced the 2006 season where the speculation centered on Jevan Snead beating out Colt McCoy to become the starter. McCoy, though, won over his teammates and earned the starting job he held for four seasons.
It's not a quarterback controversy. Brown wants two quarterbacks who are capable of running the offense. It's more of a quarterback competition or a search.
"They will make the decision for us," Brown said. "We would like to have the Colt [McCoy] and Vince [Young] performances. "I don't want to act like we are not trying to play well at quarterback, that's not what I'm saying. But I would like to take some pressure off that position and if he has a bad day then we just don't lose the game.
"I think we'll see David and Case so much better than they were when they left spring practice. And we should have a better group of players on offense than we did last year. I'm not panicked over when it (naming a starter) is done."
Last season, senior Justin Tucker handled the kicking and the punting. With his eligibility exhausted, Texas needed to find a reliable kicker and a punter. Spring practice produced little confidence in either position.
The punting duties, though, could be handled by senior Alex King, who played in 24 games at Duke. He graduated from Duke, transferred to Texas and will be immediately eligible as he works toward a master's degree.
The kicking job might go to Anthony Fera, who handled the kicking and the punting at Penn State last season. Because of NCAA sanctions levied on Penn State, players there had the option of transferring and being immediately eligible.
Fera is from the Houston area and wanted to attend school closer to home. He had promised Joe Paterno, the late coach, that he would graduate from Penn State. Fera will complete his course work in order to fulfill that promise and then will continue his education at UT.
"[Fera] reached out to us and had some circumstances beyond football. We thought we could help him and thought he could help Texas," Brown said.
We're Talkin' About
A number of college teams have added different color schemes and combinations to their uniforms. Texas? As long as Mack Brown is the coach, the Longhorns will wear burnt orange tops at home, white tops on the road.
"Our players are constantly asking, 'Are we ever going to change our uniform or are we ever going to do anything different?'" Brown said. "And what we tell them is, we are not. We'll have burnt orange and white. ... We are who we are, and that uniform has been like it is for many, many years."
Brown, though, has compromised when it comes to what the Longhorns wear in practice. With the players' input, offensive players are wearing orange tops with white sleeves and black numbering, and defensive players had white tops with black sleeves and orange numbering. Quarterbacks are wearing black jerseys with orange trim on the sleeves.
* Mack Brown: "We are so far ahead of even where we were at the Holiday Bowl because we know so much about each other. Last year at our coaches' retreat, our new coaches wanted to know how we handled pre-game warm ups, where we stayed the night before a game. This year we had all that out of the way."
* Case McCoy on his battle to be the starting quarterback: "You came to the University of Texas to compete. Nothing is handed to you here."
* David Ash on what Texas needs from its quarterback: "If it's a game manager, OK. If it's a touchdown-thrower, OK. If it's a ball-hander-offer, that's OK too. I just want to be a winner."