AUSTIN – Vance Bedford is tryin’ real hard to be the shepherd.
His regular Tuesday night meeting with his players took on the aura of a fire-and-brimstone, tent revival and, with the furious anger of Samuel L. Jackson straight outta Pulp Fiction, he exhorted his backsliders to get back on the straight-and-narrow following Saturday’s iniquitous loss at Iowa State.
It was what my grandmother called a Come-Home-To-Jesus talk.
Bedford provided few details from the altar call (that could have as easily been mistaken for a trip to the wood shed), but his embers were still smoldering Wednesday afternoon.
“When I got through preaching, they all looked real sad and unhappy,” Bedford said. “I don’t care who walks into this (Kansas) game on Saturday night, these guys are going to be ready to roll. I flat-out got on these guys this week about attitude and about who do we think we are. I kept going back to this: VY is not playing at The University of Texas right now. Ricky Williams is not playing at The University of Texas right now. Derrick Johnson is not playing at The University of Texas right now. We have a bunch of young guys who are learning how to play, (and need to) quit thinking that you are DJ or VY. You’re not those guys. That’s not who we are at this time. I told them that to a T. We don’t have big Malcom Brown at the three-technique right now. I let those guys know that. This is who we are. Let’s find a way to get to where we need to go to in order to win ballgames.”
Bedford was just warming up.
“I’m always angry. I get up angry. There’s no question about me being angry. I wake up every morning and I’m angry. I think, ‘Just let me wake up one more day to go yell at these players’. I’m a guy who wears my personality. Who I am, you can see it on me. I don’t hide anything. When things are going well, I’m a high-five guy. When things aren’t going well, my daddy told me to put my foot where the sun don’t shine. All the guys and players around me understand that. They understand the pride that I have in this University because I played here, (and) that’s not where we are right now. It’s not acceptable to be where we are. Quit walking around with that uniform on just being content with that uniform on. I’m very passionate about that. I get very upset about that. Go put your stamp on what it means to be a Longhorn. That means every day in practice, and in every ballgame, you fired-up to represent all the great players and the great teams and the coaches that have come before you. What they did, you had nothing to do with that. Put your stamp on it. I’m very passionate about. I coach that way. Everything I do, I act that way. I’m always that way. And the kids know it. Like I told them, everything rolls downhill: good and bad. If things are going well, that rolls downhill. If things aren’t going well, it rolls downhill. We’re all going to be in it together, and we’re all going to get out of it together.”
Older players, such as SLB Peter Jinkens, CB Duke Thomas and NT Desmond Jackson have the kind of fire-in-the-belly needed to play at a high level, Bedford believes. It’s still a work-in-progress for freshmen just months removed from high school, he added.
Bedford likened his team’s effort against Iowa State to that of a caged hamster on a treadmill.
“That hamster is going around and around, but it’s not going anywhere. It gives you great effort – I take that back – it gives you great activity, but it’s not getting anything done. We sometimes have guys giving us activity, but not understanding why they’re doing it. You look at the top teams in the country, they understand the ‘why’”.
One of the on-going narratives during our time with Bedford has been the progress of backup safeties. The insinuation is that Texas just has to have players more productive than its current pair that have combined for 35 starts. FS Jason Hall is slated for his 16th start, and the sophomore has shown he can bring the wood if he takes the correct pursuit angle and manages to wrap-up. SS Dylan Haines is smart enough to be a coach-on-the-field, but doesn’t have the skill set to consistently take his own advice. (He leads the team with three INTs and is second in PBU but is a red zone liability). A couple of freshmen backups (P.J. Locke III, DeShon Elliot) have finally earned his trust, Bedford said, and expects them to log some more PT.
Bedford’s face lights up at the very mention of freshman MLB Breckyn Hager who is expected to play Saturday for the first time since suffering a leg injury at TCU.
“You should’ve seen the boy at practice yesterday. We had an offensive lineman pull, and I mean (Hager) lit him up. I’m like, ‘Hager’s back. He’s blowing somebody up’. My man is a piece of work…Hager will be on the football field this week. He’s going to be on special teams, and somebody’s going to get hit. I don’t know who’s going to get hit – it might be our kickoff return guy – but somebody’s going to get hit. That’s my bog Hager. I loves me some Hager. I need more of him.”