'Wright' Stuff: DT Sees Best Days In Front Of Him

Offensive linemen have generally presented little problem for DT <B>Rodrique Wright</B>, the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the year in 2002. That is, until it became the sophomore&#146;s recent responsibility to rouse OL <B>Justin Blalock</B> for early morning voluntary workouts. Sometimes it&#146;s easier to move a 6-4, 330-pound OT off the line of scrimmage than it is to get his mass out of bed. It was a dirty job, and Wright had to do it.

He inherited the dubious task of Blalock’s personal wakeup call because they are neighbors. Frankly, most folks are on their way to work by the time Wright began sounding the alarm at the crack of 8:30. Still, it may have been the toughest challenge an OL will present to Wright all season.

"Was it hard to get him up? Yeah!" Wright admits. "There were some times when I had to call his phone three times to get him up."

But it is indicative of the heightened sense of camaraderie (and unfinished business) that seems to genuinely exist on this team. In year’s past, it was more likely that players conditioned themselves either as individuals or just with their respective units. This time, it was a team effort.

"We all had a good turn-out this summer with the running and the lifting," Wright said. "We all got after it. We pretty much ran together. We pushed each other the whole summer. Last year as a freshman, I worked out by myself. This year we worked out together and did a lot of speed work and endurance."

The 6-5 Wright was not one who needed to bulk up but rather report in top playing shape. Listed at 315-pounds, Wright now tips the scales at a svelte 307 following his off-season regimen. The result:

"I’m a little faster this year," he said.

While there isn’t a preponderance of proven depth along the defensive front, the combination of Wright and senior Marcus Tubbs gives Texas it’s best one-two punch at the DT spot since the days of Casey Hampton and Shaun Rogers. Wright, who started nine games as a true freshman, often sought Tubbs' counsel. These days, the youngster who registered 13 TFLs (second-best on team) has a firm enough grasp on things (including ball carriers) that his sessions with Tubbs are fewer and far between.

"I still go to him for some of the things I do wrong," Wright said. "When I’m not doing something right, I go to him to see how he does it. I’ll try it out and see how it works."

It begs the question: just how much "wrong" can Wright do? After all, he was also a first-team Freshman All-American (The Sporting News, Football Writers Association of America) during his inaugural campaign.

"Just little things, like my steps," Wright said. "Just coming off of the ball, using my hands more."

Wright also wants to hone his skills at "reading on the move" and to "get more physical." He said this would break his habit of "playing with finesse."

Last season, Wright finessed his way to 15 QB pressures and 4.5 sacks. His breakout game was in Texas’ 17-14 win at Kansas State, where he tallied nine tackles (including one sack and four TFL) and forced a fumble. Two weeks later, he registered a career-high 11 tackles in Texas’ win at Nebraska.

With the notoriety comes heightened expectations and rancorous opponents.

"People are going to be looking out for me now," Wright acknowledges. "I’m not an unknown freshman any more. So I have to step it up so I’ll be ready for this year."

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