Wright Up the Middle: September 1
Rod Wright is a preseason All-American and earned second-team All-American (The Sporting News) honors in 2004 and has earned a spot on the Bednarik Award (nation's top defensive player), Lombardi Award (nation's top lineman), Nagurski Trophy (nation's top defensive) and Outland Trophy (nation's top interior lineman) watch lists in 2005. A three-year starter, Wright has posted 181 tackles, 13 sacks, 28 tackles for loss (TFL), 52 quarterback pressures and forced five fumbles in 37 career games (32 starts). He had 36 tackles for the Longhorns last season, 18 solo and three for loss, along with seven QB pressures and a sack. Through his diary, Wright Up the Middle, Rod will provide his view of Texas football.
Hey Longhorn fans,
The first game of 2005 is finally here. A lot of people have asked me about senior year and last opener and all of that. Personally, I just want to go in there and have fun. I don't want to have any thoughts that this is my last opener or any of those senior thoughts. If I start thinking like that, I could get a little sad, so I'm really just going in excited to get after someone else because of the way we've been going against each other for so long now. We're really excited to be in the house again with all of our fans screaming, so it's going to be fun.
Before I say anything about football, especially since we're about to play a team from Louisiana, we want everybody who has been affected by the hurricane to know that we're thinking about them and praying for them. We know football might not be the first thing Louisiana-Lafayette is thinking about right now, so we want them to know that they're in our thoughts, and we hope the game will at least give them a distraction from what they and their friends and family have been through. I know everybody in Texas will do what they can to help.
As far as on the field, I've been watching Louisiana-Lafayette all summer, so I think I really know their offense. They have a really good quarterback who can scramble and throw the ball. We're going to have to get after them up front. They have some big guys who have been there. I think they have four out of five starters coming back, so it's going to be a good test for our defense early.
As far as our defense, going back to spring, as a whole, we've gotten a lot better. It's night and day. It's unbelievable how much we've improved from just spring until now. Up front, as a D-line, I think we're playing a lot more physical. We've been coming off the ball, getting penetration and the pass rush has gotten a lot better. The linebackers have a few surprises, and we have a lot of guys who are going to rotate at the outside backers, like Drew Kelson, Rashad Bobino, Eric Hall, Eric Foreman, Robert Killebrew, those guys are going to lock down the outside. Then inside, of course, there's Aaron Harris, who I think is going to have an awesome year. For the defensive backs, we pretty much have everybody returning there. I think we're very sound and the best thing about it is we're all veterans. I don't think there's one person on the defense that doesn't know what they're doing and hasn't been in a game situation before.
Coach Chizik has been consistent for us. He's blunt when he says things, tells you how he feels and talks to you like a man. I really appreciate that. He's a very exciting coach to play for and he's a motivator. I call him `Drill Sergeant' because he looks so serious a lot, but that's what you need. The defense is very simple - keep them out of the end zone. They might move the ball on us a little bit, but if they can't get in the end zone, they can't win.
As a goal for the opener, you always want to get a shutout, but they're going to try to establish the running game, as any team would. We need to shut that down. Then after that, they're going to pass it. The quarterback is really good out of shotgun. We could flush him out, but he's really good with his feet. I think that's where the time we've spent against our offense will help us, because we see Vince Young every day. I think we'll do well if we do what we need to do.
I'm glad to get back to playing games. One thing you get excited for besides the games themselves is the pasta bar at the team hotel. It's pretty much my favorite meal now. Then secondly, just to hanging out with the guys, seeing the movie, and because it's a late game, you can hang out in the hotel some and not worry about getting up quite as early, because it's not a morning game, so I'm really looking forward to all of that.
The unity on this team is a continuation from last year. It's not something we had to rebuild, it's just something that year around, it grows, but more than any year I've been here, it seems like there was no break in it from last year to now. It's been constant with us being together, doing things together, and hanging out on and off the field.
I'm looking forward to having fun. That's my main focus. As a defensive tackle and a leader on this team, my goal on Saturday is to play every snap to the end and not worry about anything else. I just want to play as hard as I can and I think everything will take care of itself.