Offseason Aimed At Producing Tougher, Leaner Horns

With all the athletic facility improvements that have gone on at the Forty Acres these past couple of years, there is an upgrade in the Texas football off-season strength and conditioning program that is now relatively undetected but one that head coach <B>Mack Brown</B> wants to be quite conspicuous once the 2003 season begins August 30.

"We continue to upgrade the off-season program for toughness," Brown said of the effort that continues until spring drills begin on February 24.

The theme of this year’s off-season program is ‘Finish’, which has to do with players going "at full speed and in great shape."

The approach is also indicative of the head coach who actually looks and sounds tougher these days knowing that, at Texas, you really are expected to win every game. Brown also knows that a coach’s attitude trickles down and dictates the level of play.

"If someone’s not participating well in the off-season, if they’re not finishing like they should, if they are not in great shape, they’re not going to start. Period. Regardless of who they are," Brown said emphatically.

Part of the program includes developing leaner muscle mass and eliminating body fat. Brown also addressed the perception that there are too many fat boys on the team.

"There’s been some talk about our team being too fat," Brown said. "There are probably six guys that are a little heavy, so we are not a fat team. We’re working to get their body fat down. Size isn’t as important as body fat."

Brown would not reveal names of the half-dozen hefties but added "you probably know who they are."

It’s no secret to anyone following UT football that freshman DT Larry Dibbles (listed at 6-4, 280) did not arrive in playing shape, while freshman DT Rodrique Wright (6-5, 320) was ready to rock n’ roll when his heralded class reported last fall. Dibbles played in four games last season, while Wright played in all 13, started in seven of them and was named ’Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year.’

Brown mentioned that Dibbles is responding quite well to the extra attention, adding that those needing to shed a few are on special diets, put in an extra 30 minutes of conditioning, and are checked daily.

Another key aspect of the off-season program addresses Brown’s concern that, last season, Texas apparently led the NCAA in one rather inauspicious category: injuries to starters.

"I think we were number one in the country last year in injuries at starting positions," Brown said. "We had more starters miss games, I believe, than anybody else in college football

In more than one instance, back-ups were sidelined as well. The tight end position was particularly beset with injuries (Bo Scaife, Chad Stevens, Brock Edwards). Then again, so was split end (Roy Williams, Sloan Thomas). Then again, so was the offensive line (Beau Baker, Jonathan Scott, Tillman Holloway) while RB Cedric Benson played hurt most of the season, reporting turf toe and a broken rib. Back-up wide receiver Kyle Shanahan missed most of September.

Defensively, DE Kalen Thornton was never at full strength and the defensive front was devastated (DTs Marcus Tubbs and Wright) by the time Texas traveled to Texas Tech to face the top passer in Big 12 history (Kliff Kingsbury). The secondary also played without Nathan Vasher and Kendal Briles on more than one occasion.

Brown wants to get a handle on the injury situation before the season begins, August 30.

"Obviously that’s something we’re looking into to try to figure out why," he said.

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