Texas ramps up practice intensity

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas finally hit somebody.

No, not Baylor. Don't be silly. The Bears had 607 yards and 50 points.

Where the Longhorns did their hitting was in practice against other Longhorns. The jaded might say that is an easier target. The suffering fan might say it is about time. Apparently the coaches agreed with the latter sentiment and decided to let the players loose last week.

So Texas was more physical with drills that pitted starters against each other on each side of the line and coaches turned up the intensity.

"I thought last week was our best three days of practice all year long," said co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin.

And, despite giving up 600-plus yards and half-a-hundred points, because of that practice Texas was somewhat more physical on the field against the Bears, too ... in game six of the season … against a team that has had just three ESPN top 150 players sign in the last five years (Texas has had 51) … and against a team TCU held, one week earlier, to 432 yards and 21 points.

Forget baby steps -- these are caterpillar crawls. But it is progress for Texas, progress it hopes to build on.

"What the challenge is for this week is really bringing the same attitude we had last week," said guard Mason Walters.

That Texas didn't have that attitude prior to the loss to Oklahoma might be slightly disconcerting for those teetering on the edge of wondering whether or not this team has an edge to it. It's a valid point and a tough criticism to deflect: Why did it take a loss Oklahoma for Texas to turn up the intensity in practice?

"The loss, what it does, it cuts out the unnecessary confidence," said guard Trey Hopkins. "It takes away the comfort that you might have had. When you come into a season and you're rolling and you've got everything going, you get a little relaxed."

Fat and happy in a sense. Or, for those with a sense of the Texas football history, satisfied with what has been.

Satisfied and/or lacking intensity, according to Hopkins, is where Texas was before the OU loss. On edge is where the Longhorns should have been, he said.

"For great teams, it shouldn't take a loss to remind you of that," Hopkins said.

It's pretty well established that Texas is not a great team. But what it still can be is a good team. That is, if it continues to understand what it takes in practice to be emotionally and physically prepared to play Saturday.

"We're physical every day at practice. Last week there was more intensity," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "So there needs to be intensity every day. That's the difference."

The difference, Brown said, was last week the burden was placed on the assistant coaches to pick up the intensity.

"Look at yourself in the mirror," Brown said he told the assistant coaches. "I'm out there every day trying to get you to pick it up."

Somebody might want to pick up and dust off the assistant coaches after that statement. Then again, they are well compensated and know that Brown is all about holding them accountable.

Now what Texas has to do is figure out how to hold its team to a higher standard. Say, the same one Oklahoma or Kansas State does.

It starts during the 20 hours a week the coaches get to spend with players.

"Sometimes young guys want to back off and we can't afford that," Brown said.

"You can't just do it because you got your butt kicked and you were embarrassed; you got to do it every day. You have got to be consistently good to be great and that is what we haven't been for the last three years."

To get through the next six weeks, Texas will have to be consistently intense every day with a little more pop when they thud off, a little more aggression in the blocking schemes when they do go Texas vs. Texas, to work running the ball and stopping the run and a lot more intensity from the start of practice to the end of it.

"I'm going to challenge myself to being the same energy and same mindset to practice this week," Walters said.

"That is how we have to practice, every day," said cornerback Carrington Byndom. "Not just Tuesdays. We have to bring it into Wednesday and Thursday."

Keeping that up could be an issue, first because the team usually cannot afford to be too terribly physical during the week because of the wear and tear on the body. Additionally, as Brown said, Texas has not done it for three years. So, in order for Texas to be intense during all hours of practice on Tuesday through Thursday, it means the Longhorns will be breaking a habit, in a few weeks, that has infected the program for as Brown three years.

If Texas doesn't, the hits the Longhorns program has taken from the Big 12 and everybody else might still keep coming.