Last season, after a disappointing loss to Texas A&M, Longhorn head coach Mack Brown famously declared that all positions on the team were ‘open’. On Tuesday, Texas begins its bowl preparations and according to a team source the 6 a.m. practices are back, the open position battles are back and the attitude that Texas took heading into the 2007 Holiday Bowl is most certainly back.
It wasn’t a one-time deal. This is how Texas will prepare for bowl games.
Last season the Longhorns dramatically changed their bowl preparations. The depth charts were cleared and all positions were declared ‘open’. Practices began at 6 a.m. Players would go through NOS (Not Our Standard) up-down drills for mistakes made in practice. Every starter was reminded that they would have to earn their place.
But these changes were not just made in response to the loss at Texas A&M or for the attitude of the that team in particular. The results were so successful — it looked like a different team taking the field against Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl — that this is now standard procedure for bowl preparation.
At 5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, the Longhorns will be in the locker room, gearing up for practice. According to a team source, though Brown has not made a public declaration like he did last season, the players know that preparation for the Fiesta Bowl is being treated like a whole new season and that the high standard for practices will remain.
But that shouldn’t be a problem for the players. According to the source, there isn’t a noticeable, lingering disappointment after they were denied a national championship shot by the BCS system.
“Heading into the season nobody expected to be in the position we’re in at all. I’ve actually been overwhelmingly surprised by the number of guys who have taken the approach that ‘We didn’t take care of Tech on the field and so we didn’t control our own destiny like we should have,’” said the source.
The new style of bowl preparation was instituted in 2007 after the 38-30 loss at Kyle Field to close out the regular season. It was the Longhorns’ second loss in a row to the Aggies after being heavily favored each time.
The team was in need of a serious attitude adjustment. After the regular season had ended, then-junior DE Brian Orakpo explained that there was a chemistry issue that was negatively affecting the team.
“The big thing I noticed was the older guys not relating to the younger guys,” Orakpo told Inside Texas. “When it came time to play, we just couldn’t mesh.”
Orakpo committed himself to making sure that 2008 would be different (and, as we’ve seen, it most certainly has been). The coaches made some changes as well. The practice schedule was changed, NOS drills were instituted and Brown made his declaration. Orakpo said it exactly what the team needed.
“Humans can tend to get complacent with themselves,” Orakpo told IT at the time. “When coach says something like that, that’s when everybody has their ears wide open. You, obviously, don’t want to lose your spot or your position on the team. That makes guys work even harder and not get so loose and relaxed and think everything’s just going to come to them.”
Texas went on to beat Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl, 52-34. But it didn’t stop there. The focus on accountability remained and was heightened by the hiring of defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and running backs coach Major Applewhite, who injected a great deal of enery in the program. The new attitude that Texas carried into the 2008 season helped lead to an 11-1 year.
On January 5th, 2009, we’ll find out if that new attitude will be just as successful for this bowl season, when the Texas Longhorns take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.
If last year is any indication, the Horns should be ready.