Even after offseason workouts universally described as more demanding than those under the previous regime, Texas Longhorns players are still adjusting to the intensity of practices under new head coach Charlie Strong.
For senior center Dominic Espinosa, the offeseason workouts were more difficult than what he has experienced in the past.
"Those were unreal," Espinosa said. "They are tough. They're great, especially for a guy like me who has been doing this, I'm coming on my fifth year. So I've gone through a lot of workouts with former strength coaches Benny [Wylie] and Mad Dog [Jeff Madden] and I've seen some crazy workouts. But these are some good ones.
The workouts were also longer than normal for a Texas offseason, as Strong pushed back the start of spring practice beyond spring break in order to make sure that his charges would have some extra time to improve their conditioning with the help of strength and conditioning coach Pat Moorer.
According to star defensive end Cedric Reed, those workouts in the offseason weren't enough to prepare him for the first practice on Tuesday.
"The first five periods I think I was winded and I realized that, yeah, this is going to be real," Reed said on Thursday. "Everybody was looking at me saying that we are going to have to turn it up a notch. But like I said, we are getting into the swing of things and spring is a time for us to get our bodies back in shape."
Strong had acknowledged during his own press conference on Tuesday that the tempo was going to be an adjustment for his players.
Just as much as physical strength, the intensity level in practice is about honing the mental toughness that a team needs to overcome adversity in a hostile environment.
"I would say it's fast...it's tough," Espinosa said when asked to describe practices. "It's a lot of mental stuff. Even in the first workout when we got back with all these new guys it's been a lot of mental strain on us and that's what they're trying to do for us and get us ready for a lot of situations and what we're doing now. We're going to be having the season and it's to get us mentally tough and ready to go for these practices coming up. We're taking advantage of it right now."
Espinosa also confirmed that Strong's coaching style is one of the biggest changes this spring.
"It's really hands on," said the three-year starter at center. "Even workouts with [Coach Strong], he's working out with us. He's there really early. I was actually leaving my house one morning coming to workouts and he was running down the road I live off of. I was like, man, he's running before I'm even up there. So it was crazy to see him doing that. He's out there with us and he wants to grind out there with us as well."
For defensive players, that hands-on approach should continue to play well on the recruiting trail, where Strong has already picked up several important commitments in the 2015 class, including raw but high-upside Rowlett defensive end Charles Omenihu and versatile, hard-hitting Rockwall-Heath safety/outside linebacker DeShon Elliott.
Not to mention how much it should benefit the current players, who essentially have two defensive coordinators in Strong and Texas Ex Vance Bedford, who is known for his energy and love for the program. Where previous coordinators defensively for Texas spent much of their time in practice working with their position group, each position has its own coach and Bedford has Chris Vaughn to help him with the defensive backs, allowing both Strong and Bedford to give their attention to whatever group needs it the most.
And so between the offseason workouts, the change in pace in practice, and a coaching staff that is more involved with more players, the Horns are in the process of putting the T back in Texas.