A week to get stronger

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The Texas football team called the bye week no time for rest, but rather a big opportunity to get stronger (Photo courtesy of texassports.com).


By Habeab Kurdi

Throughout the Texas football team the honed-in Horns are treating the bye week as a way to get stronger.

After hearing the players’ sharpened focus even during a week with no game, it’s clear there’s not a player on this Texas team treating the bye week as a week off.

“It is a bye week, but it’s not an off week,” junior defensive back Brandon Jones said. “A lot of people get that mixed up and think they can change their routine.”

Ahead of a shortened week of practice head strength and conditioning coach Yancy McKnight and the rest of the Horns staff cemented in that mantra to their players — it’s time to recover and recuperate, but by no means is it time to break out of routine or rest easy.

Coming in at No. 7 in the AP Top 25 and sitting at the top of the Big 12 Conference standings hasn’t altered anything, according to senior defensive lineman Chris Nelson. [place_ad_1]

“It’s just a mentality that’s around here,” Nelson said. “Coach McKnight told us this morning — all the older guys we know that but he had to inform everybody of that — don’t take no days off. You’re taking a deep breath to relax your body, but at the end of the day you still have to prepare.”

Culture Comfort

Coming in from a different culture, graduate transfer Calvin Anderson, who came over from Rice University, said the way Texas prepares showed him something special that will carry over through the weekend. The Westlake graduate said he’s not surprised even a little bit in the way Texas has played, or its approach to getting away from the game for a week.

“They have the mentality that the week is not just an off week, it’s an opportunity to … get more film watched, get your bodies recovered, all that. The culture we have doesn’t allow for people not to view it like that,” Anderson said. “The way we approach each week, when we do have an off week guys are looking for opportunities to get better already.”

As Texas has already secured a bowl berth this season with its sixth win, the narrow victory over Baylor plus the looming meeting with West Virginia is actually helping the team stay in the moment.

“It’s a big credit to this culture. It’s probably easy to take advantage of if you’ve never been a part of it, but being that I was in a culture that wasn’t like that — this is special,” Anderson added.
As Anderson’s experienced in his first year at Texas, the veteran core is hammering that point home to the younger players as well. Though the leadership on the team is letting them know, they say that the message is already understood before it even leaves their lips.

'They’re Gonna Follow'

Senior Texas football defensive lineman Charles Omenihu has the Horns locking down on defense (Photo by Don Bender/Horns Illustrated).

Storming into the backfield for six sacks in seven games, senior defensive lineman Charles Omenihu stayed stoic when discussing the Horns accomplishments so far, and the way they’ll treat this bye week.

“Basically what we’re doing, they’re gonna follow. That’s just how it is man,” Omenihu said. “They see me in the film room, they’re gonna jump in the room and try to see what I’m doing. It’s a lead-by-example kinda thing because everybody is just on the same accord.”

The Horns have practices Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week before taking the weekend “off” from the day-to-day football grind. [place_ad_1]

The Tuesday practice especially stands out to the Texas players because regardless of the previous week or the week ahead, the spirit of the squad comes out in full force during the full-contact, intense Tuesday practices that keeps the Horns’ edge sharp.

“We pride ourselves in our ability to practice hard and every Tuesday we go full pads during the season,” junior wide receiver Collin Johnson said. “We’re used to that as a team and I believe that helps us and gets us prepared as offensive players. Being older you have more responsibility because you have experience, (but I’m the) same old Collin — vocal when I need to be, try to encourage and lead by example, because we’ve got something special going here.”

Flexible Yet Focused

How can someone relax while not relaxing? Take it easy while not taking a step back? Jones, who leads the team in tackles with 49, said the key is the Longhorns flexible yet focused mentality.

“A lot of people take their foot off the gas and they relax a little too much and get off routine, and it’s really a lot harder to get back in a groove when next week rolls around,” Jones said. “The biggest message to the younger kids is just don’t change anything you’re doing. Just because you don’t have a game Saturday doesn’t mean the practice intensity needs to be any different
and you still need to attack the week like you have a game this Saturday.”

With a wry smile and a quick laugh, veteran senior cornerback Kris Boyd said it’s the banter and bond that keeps this Texas team in line with each other, while still having fun amidst the grueling work of a long football season.

“I feel like it’s also the bond we’ve built outside of football,” Boyd said. “I tell’em every day ‘I love y’all. I don’t care what they say because like I say it so much and they’ll be laughing like, ‘Oh shut up.’

Boyd said through a laugh, “I don’t care, I’ll still tell them I love them.”

The Longhorns return to the field Saturday, Oct. 27 when they travel to play Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla.

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