First, a reminder of who we're dealing with here:
I mentioned this morning that I'm more excited about this team and season than I anticipated being as recently as the beginning of the summer. It was then that I pitched you my narrative for 2008, arguing that Texas' stars seemed to be aligning for a title run next year.
I still think that's true for all the same reasons, and yet as I sit here 11 days from kickoff, I'm more than just feeling good about this year as a building block for the '09 run; I've steadily come around to the idea that Texas is going to be real good, real fast this year, as well.
I've been a guest on a dozen radio shows the past month, which has given me the opportunity to talk through the expectations game with various program hosts, each of whom inevitably asks about Texas' perception as the third or fourth team in the Big 12 this season. Interestingly, whereas I've felt compelled to stick by my argument that the top prize(s) aren't in the cards for Texas this year, I've more and more found myself arguing that it would be a mistake to underestimate this year's squad.
And the name I keep coming back to is Will Muschamp. Overstating his impact may be hard to do (though we're all trying).
As I wrote in TThe Eyes of Texas 2008:
The Muschamp factor. Fans and pundits have a tendency to overstate the ‘genius’ of football coaches, and those who expect a cure-all scheming miracle from Will Muschamp are probably setting themselves up for disappointment. Even so, there’s a strong case to be made that Will Muschamp’s arrival may particularly benefit
in ways beyond what might normally be expected from such a coaching change. As Mack Brown has gone about addressing the fundamental weaknesses Texas has struggled with the past two seasons, it may be that he couldn’t have found a better coach to supplement the effort than Will Muschamp. Texas
The Longhorns’ new coordinator is fiery, intense, and the kind of motivator who challenges his pupils to aim for better than their best. For a team and program trying to start a new chapter and establish an identity, a coach like Muschamp should be incalculably helpful. For
, where standards have at times slipped into what is comfortable, it can only help to have a coach whose core philosophy is in large part an effort to avoid settling for good enough. For Muschamp, the team that works harder, with more intensity and drive, is going to win. That’s the attitude he used as a walk on player to become a starting safety and team captain at Texas , and it’s the attitude he insists his players adopt, as well. Georgia
It’s in this way that the Muschamp hire may do more for
than the act of bringing aboard of a good new coach normally might. His presence helps forward the momentum created after the A&M loss, while his fierce competitiveness ensures that his charges will be every bit as hungry to compete, improve, and win as their coach. Texas
Are you with me? It's a subtle point, nuanced enough that I think I underappreciated what it might mean for Texas in 2008 when I started writing this summer that expectations needed to be tempered. As fall workouts have gotten underway, updates on the team resume, and Muschamp (and his players) have spent some time talking about what's happening on that side of the ball, I'm reminded again why I wrote what I wrote in the preview to begin with: There is an impact Muschamp will have on this football team (not defense, team) that makes his hire especially relevant in evaluating Texas' ceiling in 2008.
Momentum, momentum, momentum. Texas enters the final 10 days of practice barreling downhill with the positive momentum that started two days after the A&M loss, really picked up steam with the coaching hires, and now seems poised to furiously attack the season opener with a chip-on-the-shoulder, prove-'em'-all-wrong attitude that's been sorely lacking in Austin the past two years.
The excitement stems not so much from any idea that the 2008 Longhorns will be the first team to launch into a season this way, it's that they've got just the man on the sidelines to make sure there's no letting up. Building momentum isn't a championship skill; sustaining it is.
I'm officially excited.