4 Texas The Longhorns have been fighting among themselves in the off-season--and that may be the key to their success

August 10, 2003

When asked, over dinner at an outdoor cafe in Austin this summer,
about his reason for returning to Texas for his senior season--a
decision that cost him a top five slot in the 2003 NFL draft--Roy
Williams skipped the typical scripted speech about devotion to
team, desire to win a championship or value of a degree. "I
wasn't the best receiver in the nation last year; [Michigan
State's] Charles Rogers was," said Williams. "I gotta make it
right."

Last year, with Williams and quarterback Chris Simms highlighting
a wealth of talent, Texas notched an impressive 11-2 record. But
those two losses--a third-straight defeat to Big 12 South nemesis
Oklahoma in October and a sloppy loss to Texas Tech--relegated
the Longhorns to the Cotton Bowl (or, as far as they were
concerned, the Consolation Bowl). Williams, nagged by a September
hamstring pull, felt he underperformed, despite his 64 catches
for 1,142 yards and 12 touchdowns. At the end of the regular
season he had a talk with receivers coach Darryl Drake, who
didn't sugarcoat the problem. "I don't know if there are guys out
there who are better than you," Drake said. "But I think there
might be guys who work harder."

Williams admitted to himself that at times he relied too much on
the quickness and size (6'4", 210 pounds) that had led some
analysts to anoint him the nation's best pure athlete. He
responded with an inspired Cotton Bowl performance that included
a 51-yard touchdown catch, another reception of 75 yards and a
39-yard TD run, almost single-handedly turning a 10-point Texas
deficit into a 35-20 win over LSU. Less than a week later, he
returned to campus and made the Longhorns athletic complex his
second home. He pestered Drake for game film and, as he watched,
took special note of how he needed to improve his run-blocking.
As the summer progressed, socializing was put on the back burner;
when he went to see the street-racing flick 2 Fast 2 Furious, he
left early to be home at a decent hour. "Roy is craving
discipline," says Drake. "He's always worked hard, but this is a
whole different attitude."

Williams isn't the only Longhorn taking a hard look at himself.
Poised for his sixth season as the coach at Texas and dogged by
criticism that he's been too conservative, Mack Brown reshuffled
his staff and mapped out a plan for what he calls "a face-lift"
for the program. Brown says fans can expect more running and play
action from the offense (which features a deep pool of talented
running backs and receivers but is breaking in a new quarterback)
as well as improved tackling and more zone coverage from a
defense anchored by a speedy secondary. "We had all-out fights on
the practice field during spring ball," says Brown approvingly.
"That shows me an element of toughness we really haven't had."

Chance Mock, the hard-nosed, hard-throwing junior quarterback who
has the difficult task of replacing Simms, agrees. "It's more
competitive in workouts than I've ever seen around here," he
says, noting also that Williams's return and rejuvenated work
ethic have contributed to the edgy atmosphere in Austin. He's
watched Williams working in particular on the tough plays that
occur in games when the ball may be behind him or off to the
side. "Roy's been doing things like placing himself in odd
positions when catching balls during practice," says Mock, who
since mid-June has held near nightly throwing sessions with his
receiving corps, which also includes seniors B.J. Johnson and
Sloan Thomas. "His method is to make things as hard for himself
as possible."

The Longhorns hope the hard work pays off down the road. If they
play with the passion they've shown in the off-season, Texas has
a good shot at upending Oklahoma and earning its first BCS bowl
bid under Brown. "It has to be our year," says Williams. "Some of
us don't have another chance." --K.K.

COLOR PHOTO: ALEX JONES/DAILY TEXAN/AP (WILLIAMS) SOAR POINT Williams's talent has led to a number of game-breaking performances, and now he's vowing to work even harder. COLOR PHOTO: RONALD MARTINEZ/GETTY IMAGES Benson

FAST FACTS

2002 RECORD 11-2 (6-2, T1 in Big 12 South)
FINAL AP RANK 6
RETURNING STARTERS 17

KEY RETURNEES (2002 stats)

WR Roy Williams (Sr.)
Has school-record 34-game reception streak

RB Cedric Benson (Jr.)
Rushed for 2,346 yards in first two seasons

FS Dakarai Pearson (Sr.)
Made 62 tackles and led Texas with six picks

TE Bo Scaife (Sr.)
Back from knee injury that sidelined him in '02

CB Nathan Vasher (Sr.)
Career numbers: 11 INTs, 38 pass breakups

TELLING NUMBER

246
Yards Roy Williams needs to break Mike Adams's Texas receiving
mark (3,032 yards); he's also six shy of Adams's reception
record (177).

SMART MOVE

Mack Brown rearranged his staff to strengthen a running game
that averaged a mere 3.4 yards per carry, a 16-year low for the
Longhorns. Perfectionist tackles-tight ends coach Mac McWhorter
now is in charge of the entire offensive line, and former LSU
running backs coach Michael Haywood assumes the same job in
Austin. Brown knows rival Oklahoma upped its per-game average by
70 yards after creating a run-game coordinator position.

SCHEDULE

AUG. 31 NEW MEXICO STATE
SEPT. 13 ARKANSAS
20 AT RICE
27 TULANE
OCT. 4 KANSAS STATE
11 VS. OKLAHOMA*
18 AT IOWA STATE
25 AT BAYLOR
NOV. 1 NEBRASKA
8 AT OKLAHOMA STATE
15 TEXAS TECH
28 AT TEXAS A&M

* AT DALLAS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)