Mack Brown confident as Texas opens season
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Texas coach Mack Brown strolled into his Sunday news conference at the start of training camp lighter than he's been in years.
Literally and figuratively.
Brown said he has lost 25 pounds, and looked trim and refreshed and exuded the confident aura of a coach who is sleeping well knowing that he has the most experienced team in the Big 12.
And almost a month before the first real snap from scrimmage, Brown declared the Longhorns his best team since the 2009 squad played for the national title.
"I am more confident this will be the best team we've had in three years," Brown said.
Of course, the last three went 22-16 and haven't even challenged for a Big 12 title let alone been in the hunt for a national one. But Brown clearly feels like the last three seasons, from the disastrous 5-7 in 2010, have led to this point when he's got 19 returning starters in a league that seems as wide open as ever.
Brown is even opening up the doors to the place (sort of) to the fans to come see what he's talking about. Unlike the last few years when Brown retreated behind closed practices to spare his program and young players from intense fan and media scrutiny, the Longhorns are inviting fans to watch three practices this week.
"The attitude of the entire team is we get this thing, now we're older," Brown said.
But Brown, who enters his 16th season as Texas having won just two Big 12 titles, also noted talk is cheap until the season starts.
"Now we've got to shut up and do it," Brown said.
Whether the Longhorns live up to Brown's expectations depends largely on junior quarterback David Ash, who has dazzled and befuddled his coaches over the last two seasons. With a 12-6 record as a starter, Ash's resume includes some big comebacks and blowout losses, notably last season's embarrassing 63-21 loss to Oklahoma.
For Texas coaches and fans who still remember the heady days of Vince Young and Colt McCoy, Ash has been a figure of frustration with 23 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions
Brown said he sees new maturity in Ash and a new confidence propelled by last season's come-from-behind win against Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl. Plus Ash no longer has to look over his shoulder at backup Case McCoy, who spent most of the summer on a mission trip in South America. Ash is the established No. 1 and the offense is his to lead.
"The biggest thing from David is he's had two great years to learn. Some things really positive, some things not as good ... all of those situations have prepared him," Brown said. "He understands now (his teammates) all watch him, when he speaks they'll listen because he is the guy."