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Pre-Spring Football Notes, Part 1: Dealing With The Discipline Problems

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I wasn't expecting any of the big news from the Mack Brown-Will Muschamp press conference that some kept teasing, but that doesn't mean there isn't interesting information to discuss. Chip Brown summarized the big points in a nice tidy article for us, which we'll go through in a series of posts. (By the way, the DMN's college blog has come a long way to become a daily stopping point.)

Texas coach Mack Brown on Friday introduced new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and former running backs coach Ken Rucker as the new director of high school relations and player development.

Brown said he has instituted a curfew for his team.

I... well how 'bout that? Starting last June with the first arrest of Robert Joseph and ending with the disastrous loss to Texas A&M, we spent a disturbing amount of time at this site grousing about all the things Mack Brown wasn't doing right. From off-field arrests to non-meritocratic playing time, frustration with Texas football was as marked as it's been during the Mack Brown era.

As related to the discipline problems, we discussed at length the need for Brown to take some truly substantive steps towards rectifying the issues. And now he has. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Rucker's position was created in large measure to address the concerns about player discipline:

"What we felt was we wanted to take an aggressive approach to our problems we had over the summer," [said Brown]...

"It's very important. They have needs just like your own children do," said Rucker, who has coached for 28 years, including the past three with the Longhorns. "To have an extra set of eyes and someone to be there for them 24/7 is something that's very important to us."

Rucker, who successfully battled prostate cancer this season, also will deal with high school coaches, summer camps and recruits' unofficial visits. One of his main duties will be maintaining the team's new curfew.

At the beginning of last season, Brown stated a curfew wouldn't be a viable option to keep his team in check. He changed his mind after the November loss to Texas A&M and enforced a midnight curfew leading up to the Holiday Bowl victory over Arizona State.

Brown liked the results and decided to continue the curfew throughout the year.

I remember the disappointment many of us shared when Mack was dismissive of curfew (and many other bona fide) suggestions, instead opting to retreat defensively into a protective shell, blame the media for singling out bad apples, and insisting that the house was in good order. But that only exasperated fans' frustration as Mack missed the point: very few were saying that the overall health of the program was problematic, but almost of all of us felt that the problem was indicative of a general slipping of standards. The team lacked leadership. Discipline issues seemed more systemic than Brown was willing to admit. The "Not Our Standard" focus which had helped Texas in the recent past suddenly seemed conspicuously absent.

I remember talking to Chip Brown about this and he reminded me that Mack Brown isn't quite as stubborn as some of his fiercest critics seem to believe, but that he does hate feeling like others are dictating what he has to do. He likes to do things on his timetable, and on his own accord. While you could argue that doesn't always serve him well, some of the changes we've seen since the loss to Texas A&M suggest Mack Brown isn't so much incapable of change as he is deliberate in making it.

And that, experience will teach you, can be as often a good trait as it is a weakness. What matters presently is that Mack's addressed this in a meaningful way. It's worth applauding.

Next: Early departures for the NFL and the impact on freshman playing time.