An energizing introduction
Jan. 25, 2011
Mary Kusek, Texas Media Relations
As the University of Texas football players came together for the first team meeting of the new year in the auditorium at the Moncrief Athletics Complex, the excitement in the air was palpable.
This week, the Longhorns embarked on the journey of establishing a new identity as the team looks toward the 2011 season. The majority of returning players were meeting their new coaches for the first time and with fresh faces on both sides of the ball, the coaching staff seemed just as eager to get a look at their new charges. Both groups could not contain their enthusiasm about getting back on the field and returning to work.
“It’s a change, and when change comes, it brings new excitement and it brings new energy,” said linebacker Emmanuel Acho, a returning starter. “It brings a new kind of passion because you have to learn a new system and with that comes a challenge and with a challenge comes motivation.”
“We’re very energized,” said running back Fozzy Whittaker. “It actually puts everyone on the same slate. Nobody knows anything, and we’re all starting fresh. It provides a new beginning for us.”
Spurring this enthusiasm is the prospect of incorporating fresh elements on both offense and defense that have demonstrated great success in recent past.
New defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Manny Diaz begins his tenure at Texas after serving in a similar role at Mississippi State for one season. Mississippi State ranked 71st nationally in scoring defense in 2009 and jumped to 22nd in 2010 under Diaz.
“Coach Diaz is very intelligent, and he really has a passion for what he is doing,” said Acho. “He’s bringing new schemes and concepts to the game, which I am really excited to see blossom here in the Texas system.”
On the offensive side, co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bryan Harsin joins running backs coach and new co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite. Harsin spent 10 seasons as a member of the Boise State coaching staff prior to joining Texas. The promise of integrating features of a team that went 61-5 over five seasons with Harsin as the offensive coordinator has created a buzz among the returning offensive players.
“Talking to Coach Harsin, I’m very excited about what he brings to the table,” said quarterback Garrett Gilbert. “It’s exciting to know that the stuff that we’re going to be doing is part of what has won so many games the past four or five years at Boise.”
“I think Coach Harsin is going to hold everybody accountable,” added Whittaker. “He’s very innovative. He’s going to get us to watch film a lot more and to be in the right place at the right time. We just have to live up to what he has to offer to us.”
Accountability is a common theme among many veteran Texas players who are aiming high in 2011.
“It is kind of like everything is now on my shoulders and on the other seniors’ shoulders,” said Acho. “We’re going to be held accountable for how the season goes.”
“It’s something that we’ve all taken personally,” Gilbert said. “[Last season] is something that we have to use as motivation. We’re held to a higher standard here, and I think everyone in this building knows that and knows that we have to get back to work starting this week.”
For Texas, a renewed sense of purpose toward fulfilling the expectations the players have set for themselves going forward reflects a focus on building the team’s identity day-by-day.
New strength and conditioning head coach for football Bennie Wylie imparted a “brick-by-brick” attitude during his impassioned introduction to the players. This sentiment resonated with Whittaker, who knows the work undertaken leading up to the 2011 season will be important for their success.
“We laid those first bricks and that is what creates our foundation," Whittaker said, "and we are looking to uphold that foundation through next year.”