September 5, 2017
AUSTIN — Late into Saturday night every Longhorn football player met in the main meeting room of the Moncrief football complex. What had become a common practice during the three-year tenure of Charlie Strong was once again showing up just hours after the Tom Herman era began.
Texas met for a players-only meeting, lasting about 20 minutes, to discuss how the team itself would respond after a 51-41 opening loss to Maryland. The meeting, which was reported by Horns247 and confirmed by the players, was to make sure everyone was held accountable before players started to lose confidence.
“We decided to make sure each and every person that wanted to be on the team was still there, we were on the same page and had the same mission,” said senior captain Naashon Hughes. “[To make sure] we had the same page as a team and as a unit.”
The meeting, Hughes said, was organized by the Texas team captains. All four — Hughes, offensive lineman Connor Williams, defensive back PJ Locke and defensive lineman Poona Ford — stepped up and spoke as well.
They also opened the floor to anyone else that wanted to air any grievances. Then early Sunday morning, they met quickly again to make sure they were still together before film sessions and workouts began.
“We opened the floor for anyone to speak to get anything off their chest,” Williams said. “It was very positive, moving on, staying with the plan and believing in the plan. I think it was very helpful.”
Hughes added: “I think everybody on the team that had anything to say spoke. I honestly don’t know the mood or anything like that; once we got into the meeting we wanted to know we were all on the same page and we all were.”
Locke held back from describing what was said in the meeting (“It’s kind of an in-house thing; that’s kind of brother to brother,” he said.) But he, Hughes and receiver Collin Johnson described a “bunker mentality” among the team.
After all, Texas has been in this situation before. Through two 5-7 seasons in 2015 and 2016, the Longhorns met a few times without coaches to discuss any internal issues there might be.
The only difference this time is it’s happening after week one.
“[The message] is just continue to trust the training,” Hughes said. “We’ve been working hard since day one and for these guys to see a loss or something like that, I don’t want them to get in the mindset of you know, ‘it’s that old Texas,’ or listen to the media or listen to something somebody says and think, ‘oh, this is that old team.’ I want them to understand this is a new team, this is a better team, we’re not going down that path, we’re striving for greatness.”
The exact path Texas follows is still be determined with San Jose State coming to Austin on Saturday and then the first road trip coming up to USC, currently ranked No. 6. After an opening loss, how Texas responds will be a familiar test for the Longhorns.
“We’re all we got right now,” Johnson said. “So we’re just bonding together as a team, we’re all we got and we’re all we need. So that’s just the mindset of this team right now.”