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Carlton: Longhorn teammates confident in Swoopes; Gray: QB has 'definitely done a 180' from year ago



AUSTIN – Tyrone Swoopes may never have felt worse on a football field than he did last Thanksgiving.

After committing five turnovers in a 48-10 home loss to TCU, the Texas quarterback got a few welcome words of advice from Horned Frogs counterpart Trevone Boykin. Swoopes recounted the impromptu chat Monday, just after being named the Longhorns starter for Saturday’s opener at Notre Dame:

“Keep your head,†Boykin told Swoopes, according to his account. “I was in the same situation as you. Just keep playing and keep learning and keep growing.â€

The sentiment is just as important now as then.

It’s long been apparent that Swoopes would be the winner in a kinda-sorta quarterback competition with redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard. No one quite knows if the junior is anywhere close to the quantum leap that Boykin made from facing a position shift to Heisman frontrunner status this season.

The end-of-the-season meltdowns against TCU and Arkansas raised too many doubts about Swoopes during a 6-7 season. He looked tentative and even skittish in the face of defensive pressure, a turnover waiting to happen.

Still, Swoopes’ experience with 12 starts gave him an early edge over Heard last spring and his arm strength helped him maintain it.

Coach Charlie Strong said Swoopes met the criteria he set back in late July.

“The guy that wins the quarterback position has to win over this team, and he’s won over the team,†Strong said. “It’s going to be fun to watch him.â€

At times during his media session with reporters, Swoopes seemed a little overwhelmed, still sounding like the kid from a Class 2A school (Whitewright) feeling his way. He says his persona was vastly different during summer workouts and preseason camp.

“I feel like everybody is different around people they know and they’re comfortable with,†Swoopes said. “Yeah, I feel like I’m a lot different.â€

Teammates agree, portraying a vocal leader. Senior running back Johnathan Gray said Swoopes “had definitely done a 180 coming from last year†and sees greater maturity.

“I think he’s really taken ownership of the position, not to say he didn’t last year,†center Taylor Doyle said. “He did a great job of keeping the energy levels high. Coach Strong always calls it the juice, bringing the juice every day.â€

It’s not just the leadership vibe, either.

Defensive back Dylan Haines tactfully noted that Swoopes “made so many not-smart throws†while trying to make things happen.

“You look at him this year,†Haines said, “he’s so much smarter.â€

Swoopes will be facing a talented Notre Dame defense, one reason the Irish are ranked No. 11 to begin the season in the Associated Press’ Top 25 poll. The Texas offensive line will be starting two freshmen in Connor Williams and Patrick Vahe, among the 23 freshmen and redshirt freshmen on the team’s first depth chart.

Even Strong acknowledged that as a defensive coach, he would blitz non-stop if he saw two freshman offensive line starters.

Forgive Texas fans for pondering about the worst-case scenarios after last season.

Swoopes, who said he leaned on his family for support following last season, dismissed prevailing opinion.

“People are going to think what they want to think,†Swoopes said. “I can’t really control that. All I can do is just control my play on the field, and hopefully I plan on being a lot better than I was in the past.â€



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Five things Texas fans should know about No. 11 Notre Dame



Returning Starters
Notre Dame has seven returning starters on the offensive side of the ball and most of its defense coming back for the 2015 campaign.
Defensive woes in 2014
While the Notre Dame defense returns multiple starters, it had its struggles last year.
The Fighting Irish ranked No. 71 in total defense out of 127 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Notre Dame gave up an average of 233 passing yards a game. The team finished at No. 75 in passing yards allowed.
They also finished No. 72 in rushing defense in 2014.
Defense suffered major injury
Notre Dame suffered a setback when it was announced that defensive tackle Jarron Jones would be out for the season after he injured his MCL which will require surgery.
Jones amassed 40 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in 2014. He also had seven quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and was able to block two kicks
Malik Zaire
Despite only starting one game last year, expectations are high for junior quarterback Malik Zaire. During his sophomore season, he went 21 of 35 for 266 passing yard and one touchdown in seven games played.
In his lone start in Notre Dame’s bowl game against LSU, Zaire threw for 96 yards and one touchdown. He had an additional 96 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown.




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He has it all to be a future longhorn great.


Malik Jefferson ready to be face of Texas' future


AUSTIN, Texas -- When Malik Jefferson took his official visit to Texas in December, his future teammates pitched him on the glory.

If he went to Texas, they vowed, he’d instantly be the new king on campus.

They weren’t lying. But that crown can feel a little heavy. Just ask his parents, who drove down from Mesquite, Texas, for a weekend recently to check in on their freshman linebacker.

They took him to IHOP. Or, at least, they tried to. Considering how many requests for photos and autographs he obliged at the diner, it’s a miracle his omelet didn’t go cold.

With that smile and those dreadlocks, anonymity in public can be rare. Next time, his mother Teresa joked, they’ll try to pick a place a bit further from downtown for their family meal.

Welcome to life as the face of Texas' future. Just 260 days after he became Charlie Strong's biggest recruiting victory yet, Jefferson will make his debut as the Longhorns’ starting middle linebacker against No. 11 Notre Dame. No pressure, right?

"No pressure at all," Jefferson said. "I knew what I was doing the day I committed, the day I signed and the day I came."

In the past decade, only one Texas true freshman (Blake Gideon, 2008) has earned the right to start in a season opener. This season, Strong has already given out starting jobs to five freshmen: Jefferson, receiver John Burt, left tackle Connor Williams, right guard Patrick Vahe and punter Michael Dickson.

The youth movement is on, and Jefferson is leading the charge. That was made clear on Aug. 6 when, for the first time in a long time, Texas' coaching staff let reporters interview a true freshman before he had ever played in a game. They know he can handle the attention.

Good thing Jefferson no longer feels like a freshman. Enrolling early in January gave Jefferson eight months to prepare for this moment. He showed up weighing 217 pounds and is now 240. He quickly earned the respect of his peers, too. Senior nose tackle Desmond Jackson said Jefferson dropped the five-star act before he arrived. He just wanted to be one of the guys.

"We don’t even consider him a freshman," defensive end Naashon Hughes said. "We actually forget sometimes."

That has been Jefferson’s goal since he enrolled. He could think of only one way to start over and effectively move past the hype.

"You be quiet and you show 'em what you’re about," Jefferson said. "That’s exactly what I tried to do and what I still try to do, because there still is a lot of hype going on."

Texas' defensive coaches do a fine job of keeping any ego in check. The fan base went gaga over the five tackles and forced fumble Jefferson recorded in Texas' spring game. The staff saw everything he didn’t do.

They spotted the mental mistakes and the loafing, the times when their rookie wasn’t in the right spot. After they reviewed the film, Jefferson received his grade: 53/100.

"It was just the speed,†Jefferson said. "I wasn’t used to it yet. I knew what I was doing, but it happened so fast and I couldn’t react."

But this is exactly why he enrolled a semester early. Jefferson knew he’d have to endure days like those in April if he hoped to take a starting job in August.

Before fall practice began, Strong made sure to have a conversation with his 18-year-old star about coping with the Texas-sized expectations. His message: Just be yourself.

"You know how some guys put pressure on themselves," Strong said. "I don't want to see that happen to him. He's going to put so much pressure on himself to always make sure he's always going to be right. No, you're not always going to be right. We do make mistakes. Just grow within the system and it will happen for you."

No matter how the linebacker fares on the road against the Irish, he’ll grow up a little more Saturday night. A stage this big might overwhelm most freshmen. Jefferson better get used to it.

"I always say this: When you're at The University of Texas, it's what you sign on for," Strong said. "You sign on to play in big games, and this is a big game for us."



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— Twitter API (@twitterapi) November 7, 2011


I too was there, with my Dad.  I will never forget that incredible team, that season, that day, that game and the euphoria of beating  ND and winning a NC.


It has been far too long since we beat the Irish....


Time for an epic upset on Saturday!!!


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