Chemistry 101: Do Horns Have Right Formula?

SAN ANTONIO -- Here's how the Texas football team spent its summer vacation: addressing lapses in team chemistry that may have contributed to the two-game tailspin at the end of the 2006 regular season.

The type of "camaraderie and leadership", evident in 2004-05 when the Horns posted an overall 24-1 mark, was not as pronounced during last year's 10-3 campaign, head coach Mack Brown said Wednesday at the annual Big 12 Conference Football Media Days. Avoiding another three-loss season may already be a work-in-progress, Brown believes, as his Horns wrap-up voluntary summer drills.

"The longer I do this, the more I see the point of summer workouts," said Brown, entering his tenth season in Austin. "It's an opportunity for coaches to get out of the way. It's also an opportunity for players to build camaraderie and leadership on the team. Last year, it didn't seem as good to me as it had been. This year, it will be a question mark until we get started."

But there is no question that key members of the current herd of Horns have devoted a significant part this summer to internal affairs. Much of the current leadership has come from underclassmen, particularly sophomore QB Colt McCoy. Yet, it was junior NT Roy Miller who initiated weekly leadership meetings intended to address any-and-all personnel issues that cold detract from Texas achieving its billing as the pre-season Big 12 Conference favorite. Meanwhile, senior DT Frank Okam determined it was time for him to emerge from his soft-spoken shell and establish himself as a demonstrative leader.

"I've never been a vocal leader," Okam told Inside Texas, "and this summer I took it upon myself to be more vocal. I think some of the seniors followed suit and became more vocal, to make this team our team, to make sure we take care of business and try to right the ship and get everything together. The seniors, along with Colt and some of the other underclassmen, had weekly team meetings to address team issues."

There was full participation at seven-on-seven drills, held every Tuesday and Thursday nights, according to McCoy.

"We've had every player on our team out there for seven-on-sevens," McCoy noted. "That just shows the willingness, the want, and the drive that this team has."

Yet, voluntary summer drills -- however beneficial -- do not necessarily address issues that inevitably surface when a large number of diverse individuals attempt to achieve a common goal. The weekly summer meetings were unprecedented during Brown's tenure at Texas, players said. In part, the sessions were intended to mitigate the possibility of off-the-field infractions and ultimately effect the type of team chemistry that will pay dividends when the season begins on September 1.

"There were a lot of things we could have done better (last year)," McCoy acknowledged. "We could have helped certain players. We all come from different backgrounds, from different communities, from different places. We want to come together as a Longhorn family. Coach Brown is so powerful about that. He wants us to be a family. The seniors have really helped the younger guys. I don't think we're going to have any more trouble with anybody. We've come together. We're all on the same page. We're all playing for the same goal."

As to be expected, there was a leadership void in early 2006 when legendary QB Vince Young did not return for his final year. This time last year, players could not look toward any of the Longhorn quarterbacks as their natural leaders since coaches did not know who would earn the starting job until just before home-opener. But what a difference a year makes, according to McCoy.

"Everything is better now than it's ever been since I've been here," said McCoy, a RS-sophomore who has emerged from relative anonymity to the Big 12's Pre-season Offensive Player of the Year selection. "The weekly meetings, the voluntary workouts and everything that goes on during the summer have been great. Everybody's been dedicated. Everybody wants to be successful, and that's what's going to drive us this year."

Evidence of lapses in leadership and chemistry may be found in Texas' failure to play a complete game against a quality opponent in 2006. In addition to three regular-season losses, the Horns had slow starts against Texas Tech, Iowa and Baylor while failing to finish strong in a comeback win at Nebraska. Previously, Brown remarked that the team's collapse following McCoy's stinger suffered at Kansas State was the most disappointing element of an otherwise solid season that teetered on the brink between exceptional and disappointing.

"We didn't finish," McCoy added. "This year, it's either 'earn-the-right' or 'finish' because, down the stretch, you have got to finish your games in order to be where you want to be. We didn't do that. We didn't finish the season strong. It was really frustrating because the two teams in the Big 12 Championship (Oklahoma, Nebraska) were two teams that we beat."

Players expect that the weekly team meetings will go a long way toward effecting the type of team chemistry that was so inconsistent in 2006. The meetings were Roy Miller's brainchild, according to Okam.

"Roy Miller stepped up this summer," Okam continued. "He came up with the idea for the meetings. You have to give him credit for that. He came to me about it, and I told him I thought it would be a good idea. I talked to Colt about it so we could get our quarterback on board. We've just been rolling with it weekly."

August Camp is slated to begin August 5 for the Horns.

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