One of the famous stories about the 2005 Texas team regards Vince Young writing on the blackboard before the summer something along the lines of, "If you want to beat Ohio State, meet me on the practice field."
His teammates did and Texas did manage to pull off the close victory in the Horseshoe that helped vault the Longhorns to an undefeated season and the national championship.
Two years later, the story was a bit different -- it was Colt McCoy having to bang on the window of wide receiver Brandon Collins' apartment to wake him up, as the receiver was apparently not responsible enough to get himself to the early workouts.
Texas stumbled to a disappointing season.
It's hardly a shock, then, when head coach Mack Brown put the stakes in perspective last week regarding the attendance and effort levels necessary to improve during the summer:
Your team really has to mature and grow up and a lot of things are determined in the summer by how they work together, the team chemistry, leadership, discipline, their conditioning - which gains their self-confidence.
After a disastrous season passing the ball, the young quarterbacks will have a chance to make significant gains in the development of the passing game:
One of the biggest goals for us is that our quarterbacks, our tight ends and our wide receivers need to improve our passing game. And you can do that in the summer. That's something you can do a lot. They can do it on their own without us out there because just about all the players have participated in this offense and they know what to do.
Brown spent a fair amount of time last week lamenting the lack of contact that coaches can have with their team between the end of spring practice and the start of fall camp. Some rule changes should be in order, according to the Texas head coach:
Let's make it so we can find out who is and who is not. Why can't our coaches, when they're in, if it's just one week you have to work with them? If Stacy [Searels] is here for a week, why can't he take his guys out with a strength trainer under guidance and work with them for five days if that's not too much? We all get fired when we lose. There's a tremendous responsibility to make them go to class. There's a tremendous responsibility to keep them out of trouble. And we can't be around them in the summer. It just doesn't seem fair. I'm not talking about the walk-ons. If you're going to give a guy a scholarship, to me you should be able to ask him to show up and work. I don't think it teaches them much when they don't do that.
Until the NCAA makes those rule changes (if they do), the staff has to do what it can to convey information without doing it face-to-face:
One of the great things about hiring younger coaches is they've done a tremendous job of putting stuff on video. So the players, if they want to study each play this summer, the coaches have left it on video where they can actually talk over the play, show the play that worked and why, show the play that didn't work and why. Maybe have 10 goods, five bads of what needs to happen in that play.
Such videos are particularly important for quarterbacks David Ash and Case McCoy, who have the greatest need for film study and the most room for improvement, though Brown cited "leadership and confidence" as the two biggest areas in which the quarterbacks need to get better. In terms of tangible, on-the-field progress, it's all about the timing and rhythm in the passing game, especially for prospective starter Ash, who receives so few repetitions during the summer last year, which set him back significantly during the season -- one illustration of just how important these workouts can be.
If there is one positive, it's that the 2012 class is already on campus and going through the summer workouts. So far, the returns are good:
The varsity guys are already buzzing about the freshmen class. They think they're really good. We can't talk to them about workouts. We can't see the workouts. You can tell when they walk through and say, "Whoa, coach, this is a good bunch of players." That's exciting as we look at it.
There won't likely be many instant-impact type of guys in the class beyond the two junior college transfers and running back Johnathan Gray, but the group should help provide some valuable depth and pushing the older players in front of them may also bring benefits.
Unfortunately for the head coach, it's difficult to project where the team will be at the end of the summer:
It's always amazing to me when people say, How is your team going to be? Nobody really knows how your team is going to be until you get back from summer, you see what kind of conditioning they had, what kind of commitment they made, then you get through preseason camp and see about your health. See if you've been able to stay healthy, because preseason camp is really demanding on everybody.
Of course, that caveat didn't do much to stop talk about the narrative:
I think we're back more to '08. We have to learn who we are. We have to play well, improve. Some young guys need to step up. We've got to be consistent at quarterback. We have to protect the ball even better than we did last year, get more explosive plays on offense, be more balanced, throw it better. On defense we gave up too many big plays early in the year. After they learned the system, [against] Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, where we scored some really long runs, we were pretty consistent until Baylor. They hurt us. I thought the Cal game, going back and studying it, was a good football game for us. Cal had a good team. We were very physical. So I think we want to be a tougher football team. We want to be a deeper football team. I think we're getting to all that. The coaches know more about each other. They know about who we are, what we want. The strength program is back to where it's very demanding, but the guys are loving it. I feel like we're in a great position to move forward.
Tougher, stronger, more physical. All things that strength and conditioning coach Bennie Wylie should help the team achieve before the start of fall camp. Gains that should benefit the team during the 2012 season.
Now about those explosive passing plays...