By John Byczek
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Quandre Diggs and the Texas Longhorns are proving that teams play the way they practice. And it's been nothing but hard work that has defined the Longhorns' start to the 2012 season.
UT is 3-0, and Diggs recorded a team-high two interceptions as the Longhorns defeated Ole Miss, 66-31, in the third week of the season.
Texas had five sacks and two interceptions before halftime against the Rebels. Diggs would say that the Longhorns started working on those statistics before the season even started.
"We wanted to be ferocious on the field," Diggs said. "We wanted to be the guys that offenses looked at on film and went, 'Those guys are flying. Those guys love the game. Those guys will hit you right in the mouth.' That's the defense that we wanted to be and that's something we take pride in."
Diggs has three interceptions this season to lead the Longhorns.
There is a certain aura at The University of Texas during the summer that is dissimilar to that of all other seasons. Campus is calm, but the Austin sun is inescapable, rising early and setting late for days that seem to stretch as far as the horizon.
But amidst that sleepy haze, Mack Brown's Longhorns are hard at work. They know that success in the fall won't come unless there is hard work in the summer.
As the saying goes, "Defense wins championships." Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz arrived on campus during the summer of 2011 hoping to get Texas' defense to championship caliber. Upon his arrival, Diaz laid out his master plan. His defense was going to be one that constantly attacked - one that made the opposing quarterback's life difficult.
Diaz helped the Longhorns become the No. 1 defense in the Big 12 Conference and 11th in the national ranks during the 2011 season.
And the Longhorns have continued that path in 2012. UT held New Mexico scoreless in a 45-0 victory on Sept. 8, marking the Longhorns' first shutout since October 2011. UT's opponents are averaging just 16 points per game and the Longhorns have scored six defensive touchdowns.
"As a defense, we learned to take each day like it's our last," said junior defensive back Carrington Byndom. "Each day that you're not working, somebody else is outworking you. We learned to continuously work and improve our skills."
The Longhorn defense took that lesson to heart and showed tremendous improvement throughout Diaz' first year at Texas. During the last five weeks of the 2011 season, UT's defense allowed just 15.8 points per game while opponents averaged only 1.9 yards per rush.
Overall, the Longhorn defense gave up 95.7 rushing yards per game, making them the only defense in the Big 12 to allow less than 100 rushing yards per game.
At the beginning of the summer, the defense began chasing these goals once again.
The Longhorns planned on raising the bar of expectations and rising above it.
Summer workouts began at 8 a.m. under the crisp morning sun. Mondays included "heavy" training, with bench press, squats and heavy conditioning. Tuesdays were speed days, and on Wednesdays, players picked their own workouts. Thursday's training included resistant conditioning exercises. Fridays were the one day that the entire team got together and did team drills.
"The workouts were pretty tough, but we have to continue to grind everyday," Diggs said. "We've got to continue to grow and get better each and every week."
Diaz knows the potential the defense has too, but in order to reach their full potential, he asks them to do one thing: "Buy in." He asks them to buy in to coaching, philosophy and defensive scheme.
"We have guys buying into the system, and we have guys that don't want to be individuals, they want to be a part of a strongly bonded defensive unit," Diggs said. "It's a lot easier to buy in to a system when you've been in the system. Most of us have been in the system for a year and half now so we know Coach Diaz, we trust him, and we believe that he'll make the right calls at the right time. As long as you've got trust in the 11 guys on the field and the one guy on the sideline you will be successful each and every game."
TCU and West Virginia were added to talent in the Big 12 Conference during the offseason, but the Longhorns welcome these new challengers.
The summer months proved to be a time of brotherhood between all of the players at Texas. Around the Moncrief Complex there are banners portraying "Family" and during the summer, the Longhorns become just that.
"I definitely think we bonded as a team tremendously over this offseason," Byndom said. "For example, the way we would have fun as a team after the workouts. We may be doing a defensive back drill and linemen would jump in. Soon enough the whole team is doing that one exercise. There is a clear unity and a connection between all of the teammates."