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What the Bo Davis rant says about the current state of Texas football

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In what is looking more and more like a rebuild instead of a reload for Steve Sarkisian, the new head coach appears to have a long road ahead in building a winning culture.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 18 Rice at Texas Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“We’ve got to get our mindset to, we hate to lose more than we want to win, and that’s something that we’ve got to shift in our locker room.”

On the Monday after the Texas Longhorns suffered an embarrassing 40-21 defeat in Fayetteville to the Arkansas Razorbacks, head coach Steve Sarkisian shared his thoughts on how the team’s mindset needed to change.

In the midst of a four-game losing streak, the program’s worst since 2010, video surfaced on Tuesday of a profane rant from defensive line coach Bo Davis recorded by a player following Saturday’s 30-7 defeat against Iowa State (NSFW — extreme language warning):

Notably, the rant was apparently precipitated by players laughing and joking after the loss — hardly the shift in mindset Sarkisian is demanding from his players, and came only days after an incident in practice between between Sarkisian and subsequently-departed junior wide receiver Joshua Moore.

A few key takeaways about the culture around Texas football that seems more broken than it appeared following the Baylor loss or even when Tom Herman was fired at the start of this year.

The team struggles with tough coaching

Sarkisian is widely known as a player’s coach because of his personable nature and supportive approach on the sideline during games — never more evident than after Xavier Worthy’s costly fumble against Oklahoma — but the altercation with Moore forced the Texas head coach to push back against the belief that he isn’t demanding of his players.

“He’s getting coached and that’s what we do. I think sometimes people get this misconception that because I’m a ‘player’s coach,’ that we don’t coach hard. We have a very demanding staff, we coach hard, we believe in discipline, we believe in doing things the right way, and when things aren’t going that way, we coach our guys,” said Sarkisian.

Where Davis perhaps crossed the line was in demeaning players, but he would probably argue that he was trying to be demanding by holding players accountable to the standard of hating losing.

“We’ve got to create our own breaks and the only way I know how to do that is to be demanding of what is expected,” said Sarkisian. “Not demeaning, not demeaning of players, but be demanding of what’s expected of them so that ultimately we can we can make the progress and get the results we’re looking for down the road.”

The need for Sarkisian to talk publicly about players not misconstruing constructive criticism as a personal attack indicates some difficulties among the players in telling the difference.

The team lacks player leadership

While some in the media chose to focus on the language used by Davis in the video, former players took more notice of the lack of policing by other players.

Following the departures of leaders like quarterback Sam Ehlinger, hybrid defensive end Joseph Ossai, safety Caden Sterns, and safety Chris Brown, this team clearly lacks a strong leadership presence on the team.

The Davis rant makes that clear, but Sarkisian hardly backed away suggesting the same on Monday when he was asked whether he has a “sergeant at arms” on the team, the only player he mentioned was junior running back Roschon Johnson, a backup with only 44 carries this season.

Previously in the press conference, he emphasized the importance of player leadership.

“I think ultimately when teams really get to that point to where they’re really good teams, and they’re not only in their play, but in their culture, players start to hold players accountable for what’s acceptable and what’s not. Clearly as coaches we’re holding the players accountable. I think the players are recognizing who’s doing things the right way and who may be trying to cut some corners — that’s when they step in and they start holding each other accountable. That’s when we’ve got something special.”

If a coach like Davis, who has won a national championship, has to go on a rant like he did on Saturday, there’s not enough player leadership.

The team doesn’t see itself as enough of a family

The video became public because someone, presumably a player, recorded it and then either posted it to social media or shared it by some other means, and it’s the type of video that if it was even recorded in the first place, should never become public.

When Tom Herman was first hired, he asked parents not to leak information to the media for similar reasons.

“Our business is our business. If your son tells you something, it’s expected to stay within the family because that’s family business,” said Herman.

There’s more attrition coming

Including Moore, three Texas players have entered the NCAA transfer portal in the last month and more are likely to follow — Davis was explicit in his rant that any players who aren’t bought into the program can enter the transfer portal, too.

So this staff doesn’t seem like it’s in a position where it’s willing to talk down players who want to leave, as reportedly happened with Moore last Wednesday before he decided to leave anyway, and as former head coach Tom Herman did with multiple players who entered the NCAA transfer portal and then decided to return to the program, including two starters this season, guard Denzel Okafor and nickel back Anthony Cook.

With the obvious need for systemic culture change in the locker room and a pending increase of the 25-man scholarship limit to 32 to balance out the one-time transfer waiver, there’s both a clear need for that approach and the opportunity to maintain scholarship depth that high levels of attrition would otherwise make impossible under the current rules.