Ash more comfortable. A lot has been made over the last year about sophomore quarterback David Ash, his personality, and how that impacts his leadership ability. He said this fall that leading is leading his team into the endzone, which he's been doing, and it seems like that is helping him feel more comfortable interacting with his teammates.
Senior tight end DJ Grant on Ash and the changes with him:
David has impressed me a whole lot. He is coming along real well. He is growing up out there. I can see it. His leadership is coming in. He is talking more. He is more verbal. He is more comfortable with us, and we even joke around. I can just see that back there he feels more comfortable. I always tell myself that if we protect David like we need to, he will do his job and get it done.
Like a lot of things, it seems like there is a positive feedback loop going on with Ash -- he has some success, which aids his confidence, which makes him more comfortable, which helps him achieve more success.
Now he just has to sustain it against better teams, though there don't seem to be any front-to-back top-20 defenses in the Big 12 this season.
The Tanks confirms emphasis on fundamentals. There was a long discussion in the comment section of the post today about the Texas defense, the issues it is having, and what can be done to fix them. On Wednesday, sophomore defensive tackle Tank Jackson confirmed that the Longhorns are going back to the basics this week:
We're working the tackling circuit. We work on our tackling, the right fits, how to take better angles. That's what we've been working on.
Jackson also revealed how and when he picked up his nickname:
Yes, my mom gave me that name when I was three years old. I used to just run around at full speed, and she just started calling me "Tank" and the name just stuck when I started playing football.
With his squatty build and leverage, it's not hard to see how Jackson kept the nickname.
Monroe running like he's got something to lose. Entering the season, pushed by freshman Daje Johnson, senior speed back DJ Monroe was faced with a choice -- go gently into the dark night or fight for carries.
A more physical mentality has aided him:
I am the smallest person in the RB [running backs] room. I got a little bit stronger. A lot of guys see me as a shifty person. They say, "He is going to try and juke so we'll go down and hit his ankles." Now I just lower my shoulder.
Actually, it started back during the summer, according to the Angleton product:
I wasn't strong enough to do it [earlier], but now with [strength and conditioning head coach] Bennie [Wylie] when we worked out during the summer we hit it hard every day - right at noon for the hottest part of the day. We would go outside and run and then come in and hit the weights. The best time to do it to get stronger and faster is when your body is broken down and tired. This summer was a real big summer for me and the RB's and the rest of the team. We all just came in focused and wanted to get stronger and faster. We wanted to let everyone know that we weren't intimidated by an 8-5 season. We are going to come back stronger.
Dropping another "word" is probably pushing the boundaries of supposed commentary, right? Well, whatever -- word.
Actually, here's some commentary -- the increased physicality of Monroe is showing on the field, as well as his new-found strength. He's already scored more touchdowns this season with three than he did in his entire career entering his final season on the 40 Acres. The touchdowns have been coming in the redzone as well, where Texas struggled in 2010 and 2011, so the scores have had even greater value in the big picture of things than just six points in games the Longhorns were expected to dominate.
The only carry he had against Ole Miss went for a touchdown, but Monroe has showed some maturity as well, something the whole team has managed, in his opinion:
No one is being selfish right now, and I think that is what [Head] Coach [Mack] Brown loves about the team. This is not a selfish team, and we do not have any conflicts. It is not about me, but about the team and how we are developing right now. It is not about me and how many carries I get, but if there is a "W" on the board at the end of the day.
The depth at running back is such that any malcontents on the team could quickly destroy chemistry, especially in that room. So far, it hasn't happened, and based on all the reports coming out of the program, it doesn't seem likely.
And that's a far cry from the 2010 squad.
Bennie Wylie bringing it. Strength and conditioning coach Bennie Wylie has already left his mark on the program in less than two years on the job. Senior running back Jeremy Hills said it's because Wylie legitimately cares, and brings an intensity that rubs off on the team:
Every single day. Every single day. We come in Sunday after the game, you'd think we lost. It's every single day with Bennie.
That's one thing you can appreciate about him. You know it's genuine. He's not faking. If you're faking, sooner or later you're going to break. With him, it's every single day, the same thing. That's one thing we appreciate about him and we're starting to get that same attitude. That's the attitude we need if we're going to win them all and that's what we're here to do is win them all.
The attitude of winning every game has been missing for a period of time that most of y'all who have gotten to this point in this post could probably guess. After all, that 5-7 season happened that almost can't be mentioned now without seeming like a dirty word. Maybe it should just be declared a dirty word and banned? Done and done?