AUSTIN — There has been a lot of change in the five years since senior Antwuan Davis committed to Mack Brown on May 4, 2012. Brown is no longer here, his replacement is no longer here, and many of the players that set an example for him are now playing football on Sundays.
“I can honestly say our older guys, whenever me and Naashon (Hughes) were freshmen, guys like Quandre Diggs, Malcom Brown, Ced Reed, Adrian Phillips, Jordan Hicks of course, they showed us how great defense was supposed to be,” Davis said.
That example of “great defense” was made by those players he mentioned as part of a terrific Top 25 defense in Charlie Strong’s first year in 2014.
Now, he is part of a defense that may not match 2014’s statistical domination, but is still flying around to the ball and giving pause to offensive coordinators around the Big 12. Previously, Davis was on the two-deep but could not beat out junior P.J. Locke for the starting role at nickel. After Locke sustained an injury in the Baylor game, and with Tom Herman calling him “very doubtful” on Monday, Davis has an opportunity to show his former contemporaries what he learned from them
“It’s just keeping a positive mindset throughout the whole season,” Davis said. “We had our ups. We had our downs. We have guys that go down, next guy up. You have to be the next guy. You have to be prepared. You have to be ready. When your number is called, that defense is going be expecting you to do the same thing the starter did.”
The former Bastrop Bear, as one of the elder statesmen on the team, has to deal with the old age jokes a lot. However, they aren’t totally without merit.
“Last game, the guys were teasing me ‘you haven’t had this much mileage in a while,’” Davis said. “I said ‘you’re right.’ After the game, I couldn’t really move. I was sore in places I didn’t even know I was sore at. I embraced it.”
The old man role is nothing new to Texas. Last season, Sheroid Evans played that role while using his sixth year of eligibility. Davis has come to learn that with the experience he brings to the team and the admiration that comes with it, there might be some ribbing.
“I kind of have to accept it,” Davis said. “Sheroid, I feel bad for giving him that hard time last year because now I’m getting it.”
Davis didn’t take too much credit for his role on the team, giving praise to the coaching staff for creating the culture they have in place. He mentioned several times how he and Hughes, two of only a handful of Longhorns who have played on a winning team, have taken on the mantle of getting guys motivated.
“A lot of these young guys, they need somebody to look up to and to help them go forward and show them how to do it the right way,” Davis said. “Of course, this staff has done that. Of course, it’s up to an older guy like me and Naashon who’s been on a winning team our freshman year. That’s the last time we kind of excelled as a program. Just moving forward, we can definitely do better in those aspects right there.”
The senior was part of one good season, but the other three were far below Texas’ standard. With the new staff in place, Davis said the team is coming along the way it needs to be for the future of the program.
“It’s been a rough couple of years but I think that our defense is coming together,” Davis said. “We’re all for each other. We trust each other and it is all finally coming together. We’re going in the right direction.”