With fall camp looming just days away, the Texas Longhorns have finally reached the end of summer workouts that saw strength and conditioning coach Pat Moorer emphasize competition over everything else.
The most prominent competition was the “Battle for the Belts,” which currently features four installments as players battled in three different weight classes — lightweight, middleweight, and heavyweight.
However, the “Battle for the Belts” probably wasn’t the most important aspect of the offseason work, as Moorer revealed at the women’s clinic over the weekend, according to Barking Carnival:
They also issue engraved dog tags for the outstanding S&C performers in the offseason workouts. Battle for The Belts is a showcase. The dog tags are about the daily grind. Players can earn more than one. Or none at all. It's not a feel-good trophy. You buy it with sweat and blood. It's also a holistic award and S&C effort is balanced with academics. Every Thursday, every week, the Longhorn position and S&C coaches pore over summer school academic reports from the academic staff and the player's professors in addition to assessing their training efforts and citizenship. Players are punished for class/tutoring tardiness or inattention (in Charlie Strong's world on-time means late and attentive means sitting in the front row) making them ineligible for awards and eligible for an array of punishments. A player needs unanimous approval from all of the coaches and staff to earn his dog tag.
The dog tags allow the coaches to tie together the physical, academic, and emotional maturation processes that head coach Charlie Strong emphasizes. As Moorer pointed out, this is Strong following through on the promises that he makes to parents during the recruiting process — on National Signing Day 2016, the Texas head coach said that getting a degree is the No. 1 thing that he talks about with families of prospects.
As Strong works to complete the culture change he undertook in January of 2014 after arriving in Austin, the transition from a coach-led team to a player-led team is a major factor in ensuring discipline, accountability, and buy-in from everyone.
Right now, the small but determined group of upperclassmen is leading the charge.
“If they see someone not working hard they're being more vocal about it and telling the young man, because now the culture has been set,” Strong said at Big 12 Media Days. “Once you developed that ownership and once they take the ownership then you let them run it.”
Parsing typical offseason rhetoric in search of the actuality behind the scenes is a difficult task, but the word from Moorer is that this group has had a better offseason than either of Strong’s previous two teams at Texas.
In 34 days, the ‘Horns will finally get to put the offseason development to the test when the Fighting Irish come to town for the Sunday evening season opener.