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July 28, 2013
Let's rewind back a few years to December 9th, 2011. It's a chilly day in Austin, Texas and the Longhorns are all gathered at the Frank Erwin Center for the annual football banquet.
Mack Brown takes the podium and drops a bomb, saying this (2011) year's Holiday Bowl would be a springboard to "another national championship in the next two or three years." Talk about a way to end a speech.
But here we are, two seasons later, and Brown has not waivered on his remarks from the 2011 football banquet.
"We're about to be better," Brown said at Big 12 Football Media Days. "We've really work hard these last two years to put ourselves back in the mix. I think we're about to make another run. Whether it's this year or next year, we're about to make another run. We're getting our depth, we're getting our ability back up, our recruiting is going well. I'm really excited about where we're headed."
Texas' 2013 run will not come easy with the schedule the Longhorns have, but Brown said one game is not going to be the determining factor to know if Texas is back.
"People are going to point to the OU game this year because we've played so poorly and have coached so poorly the last two years. We've got Brigham Young, who has won 90% of their home games before that. We've got Ole Miss who's on a role and they're hot. They ended their season really well. We go to Iowa State Thursday night and everybody knows they can beat you up there. They've shown the ability. They beat Oklahoma State up there, the number two team or number one team in the country on a Friday night a couple of years ago. And then we've got Kansas State who we've played poorly against.
"We need to show progress that we're good enough to beat those teams. And then continue to progress, because you don't just wave a wand and say ok let's go win this game then we're O.K. You've got to get better as a football team."
The Longhorns struggles over the last two seasons have varied offensively and defensively. In 2011, Texas' offense was inconsistent and suffered a lot of injuries in the running game. In 2012, the defense was the worst statistical defense in Texas school history.
"If you go back and look at our offense two years ago, it wasn't very good. We had inconsistent quarterback play. And then we started running the ball as well as we have ever run it since the time we've been at Texas. We had back-to-back games of 441 yards rushing, then lost all the backs.
"But our offense last year got better. We didn't run it as well all the time but we got better. We showed the ability that we could play in this league. As good as the offenses are, at times last year we were one of them.
"Defensively we were really good two years ago. We lead the league in rushing. We had great linebackers with Keenan Robinson and Emmanual Acho and they were older and they were experienced. And they had Jordan Hicks with them. So it was easy for Manny (Diaz) and the defense to install the system the first year. And then last year Jordan Hicks got hurt early, we lost the older guys, so our linebacker core was a work in progress. I think as our defense got better it was because our linebackers got better throughout the year.
"Now we've got guys who have played, with Peter Jinkens in that group, Dalton Santos and Steve Edmond. All of them are in better shape, They're better prepared for what they're going to face with up tempo offenses, because they're going to see it everyday in practice and we're just at a better place. They'll make adjustments better. You've still got Kendall Thompson and you've got Tevin Jackson. A lot of guys have played now and we think that we're starting the season at a point of strength where last year it was a point of concern.
"Last year we stunk. We had that five game series where we didn't stop anybody. I got tired watching them run down the field, it was just unbelievable. Then all of the sudden, we got a little bit better. But I think the hard-knocks that we have had, the injuries that we have had, what we've been forced to do that last couple of years is really going to pay benefits this year."
Brown's seems to be confident in his teams' ability on the field, but what does Brown think the most important pieces of the puzzle are for 2013?
"I think that we need to run the ball better against good defenses, when we want to run it and dictate that. We need to stop the run better and therefore force more turnovers. Turnovers have killed us in the games we have lost and usually it's because you can't run it. So you get one-dimensional and you get in trouble.
"To me our emphasis would be running the ball every week. It would be therefore protecting the ball. And it would be stopping the run. We didn't get in trouble because of the pass, we got in trouble because people were gashing us and we couldn't stop them and that's what we need to stop. If you stop people on first and second down then you have the chance to put the quarterback under pressure on third down, second and long then you get more turnovers. We've hurt ourselves in key games on both of those.
"I think because we're better on both sides of the ball and we have more depth, it's easier to practice it. These guys are competing and fighting daily and that makes it easier to play in the ball games when you've played against a really good athlete during the week, you know you've got a chance to do that.
"There's just a different swagger and a different level of confidence right now than we've had the previous two years and there should be."