ExpectationsSimply put, if you want these Longhorns to tell you how good they're going to be, or how many games they're going to win, you're not going to be happy. Because they see getting better as part of a process, and one without a numerical goal attached.
"We're trying to build a brick-by-brick thing," said Mike Davis, sophomore receiver. "Everybody's been competing hard, working hard."
Sophomore linebacker Jordan Hicks gave a similar answer when he was asked how good the defense was going to be.
"We're a confident defense who is ready to prove what we can do," Hicks said. "We can't be a team that talks. We just have to go prove it.
"We need to prove who we are, and I think everybody feels the same way," Hicks said.
Sophomore end Jackson Jeffcoat talked about working to become that great defense.
"It would be the first step," Jeffcoat said. "We're trying to take the first step."
Apparently that step doesn't include worrying about the depth chart.
"That's for the coaches, with the depth charts and all that," Jeffcoat said. "We're not really worried about that. We're just coming to play."
At the same time, Davis serves as an example for what happens when you don't bring your all with the new staff. At one point in training camp the receiver, who is expected to be one of the Longhorns' primary offensive stars, was bumped from the first team.
"I really wasn't surprised. I expected it, really," Davis said of the demotion. "I had a lot of stuff going on that I was just trying to weed out, but it was kind of tough. I was kind of not doing my job real well. But I picked it up and I got it back."
Davis is listed as the starter at receiver against Rice. But he cautioned against getting too comfortable.
"I think everybody on the roster is battling for a spot still," Davis said. "Everybody sees Sept. 3 and I don't think everything is said and done right now because at any time, somebody can be moved to the second team or third team."
Hicks smiled when he was asked about Longhorn defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and defending the zone read. The option play, one of the most dangerous plays in college football, was touted coming into Mississippi State's Gator Bowl matchup against Michigan and explosive zone read quarterback Denard Robinson.
But Diaz frustrated the Wolverines into rushing for just 88 yards, and the Wolverines were just 2-15 on third-and-fourth-down conversions. Not surprisingly then, the Bulldogs won 52-14.
"Coach Diaz knows what he's doing," Hicks said.
The Longhorns will face the zone read in their season-opening game against Rice.
"They're a fast team," Hicks said. "They like to run the ball, get it in (running back Sam) McGuffie's hands and play off of that."
Jeffcoat said that Rice was "explosive."
"They have a great offense," Jeffcoat said.
But at the same time, Rice represents a chance for the Longhorns to erase of the sour taste of the 2010 season. Last year, the Longhorns won in a closer-than-it-should-have-been game, one that displayed what Texas coach Mack Brown called a lack of enthusiasm. In short, it set the stage for a bowl-less season.
"It's been way too long," Hicks said. "We've had that 5-7 hung over our heads for too long now. So we're all just ready to get out there and play."