Aug. 8, 2009
By: Thomas Dick, Texas Media Relations
With fall camp kicking off on Saturday with move-in and meetings, and the first day of practice starting bright and early Sunday morning, the Longhorns are embracing a fresh start and looking forward to good things for 2009.
While every year a team returns about 80 percent of its players, every year is a new team with a new identity and a new chemistry. Fall camp plays an important role in developing the growth of the team.
“This is an important time to get our chemistry right as a team,” senior WR Jordan Shipley said. “Obviously, we’ve got to learn our playbook and our pass routes and blocking schemes and defensive schemes and get our conditioning in, but it is just for building the chemistry and the camaraderie.”
Shipley is one of the crafty veterans willing to offer advice to the eager youngsters who might think fall camp is all about what happens on the field.
“For the new guys, it’s more of picking up on things in the meeting room,” senior LB Roddrick Muckelroy said. “That’s where you can make the biggest leaps. They all know how to be athletes, but they need to know how to take their athleticism and put it into our defense and our offense. You take care of learning where you need to be and what your responsibilities are on every play, and everything else will take care of itself.”
While fall camp is important for assimilating the incoming freshmen into the program, it is of equal importance that last year’s juniors become this year’s senior leaders and last year’s freshmen and sophomores continue their improvement.
“If the juniors becoming seniors step up into the leadership roles, the freshmen getting acclimated will take care of itself,” senior C Chris Hall said. “If you have good senior leaders, they can take the freshmen aside and show them how to do things the Texas way.”
All of those changes leave previous teams in the past as the 2009 squad builds its own unique identity.
“We’re our own team,” senior OT Adam Ulatoski said. “We’re a new team. You can’t compare a team who hasn’t played a game yet to teams of the past few years.”
The Longhorns are focused on their fresh start taking place with just that – one game – Sept. 5 against Louisiana-Monroe.
“You can’t do anything else until you win your first game,” senior LB Sergio Kindle said. “So all of our focus now is on our first game against Louisiana-Monroe.”
The team put in a lot of hard work in the off-season to make the best of the fresh start. Head coach Mack Brown and players emphasize the maximum effort that was put in during the spring practices and summer workouts and how that carries over to camp.
“We pretty much got right back into it,” Muckelroy said. “Like a week-and-a-half after the Ohio State game, we were back on it. We were starting over for a brand new team and we started getting the identity of the 2009 team. We’ve all been working hard. We need that all to continue over into fall camp.”
While fans and pontificators might draw a straight line between the end of 2008 season and the beginning of the 2009 season with modifications made for players lost and newcomers gained, the Longhorns knew that effort put into spring practices, summer workouts and fall camp can greatly change which direction that line goes.
“We’ve seen a lot of people grow physically – a lot of people getting stronger and a lot of people getting faster,” Ulatoski said. “We’ve also seen a lot of maturing from some of the guys. They know when they need to take things more seriously. We were also fortunate to have more freshmen come in earlier and take part in spring practice, so that helps in the process.”
“The off-season and the spring ball helps build the foundation for camp,” McCoy said. “And camp builds the foundation for the season. So if you don’t make the best out of your opportunities to improve in the off-season and in spring ball, you really don’t give yourself the best opportunity to win games. You don’t just win games on Saturdays.”
The improvement during the off-season occurred not only on the field, but also in the weight room and the film rooms.
“Coach (Jeff) Madden does an awesome job,” McCoy said. “He’s one of the best strength and conditioning coaches in the country. A week after our last game last year, he had us all back in the weight room. He did a great job preparing us. All the things he had us doing in the spring and summer did great, not only making us stronger and faster, but helping us gel as a team.”
“I’m excited for fall camp because I noticed towards the end of spring practices that guys weren’t having to think as much,” Muckelroy said. “They were paying attention in the meetings and learning what they needed to do. Things were becoming natural to them and they were just going out and playing. I really can’t wait to see that continue into two-a-days.”
So with all the work put in during the off-season and a band of veterans to acclimate the newcomers, the Longhorns are looking forward to their fresh start that begins Sunday with an especially fresh 4:30 a.m. wake-up call as the 2009 team begins to take shape.