Quandre Diggs

Defensive tackle Malcom Brown is the highlight of Texas’ NFL draft prospects. He might hear his name called in the first round Thursday night, and four other Longhorns could be taken.
Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

While no Longhorns were drafted in the 2014 NFL draft, the one-year drought is likely to end this weekend. 

Texas has five prospects who are projected to hear their names called at the draft, including defensive tackle Malcom Brown, linebacker Jordan Hicks,     cornerback Quandre Diggs, defensive end Cedric Reed and running back Malcolm Brown.

“It feels like just yesterday I was walking on this campus as a young, 220-pound freshman not knowing anything,” Hicks said. “After five years, just to be here and to be going through this process, it’s really rewarding for all of us.” 

Malcom Brown may be the first Longhorn picked after he shot up draft boards while racking up 72 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks last season. His 6-foot-2, 319-pound frame is ideal for the NFL, and he’s the No. 20-ranked prospect, according to NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. 

“Malcom Brown to me is a first-round guy all day long,” Mayock said on NFL.com. “He’s a low-risk investment and a really good football player.” 

While Malcom Brown will find his new home early, Hicks is also a standout prospect. 

Hicks came to Texas as a five-star prospect but battled injuries, causing him to fly under the radar as a pro prospect. He impressed scouts, however, during his senior year and in pre-draft workouts, which was enough for him to earn a fourth-round grade, according to NFL.com. 

While Malcom Brown and Hicks are highly touted prospects, Diggs and Reed will likely find more modest roles in the NFL despite being perennial mainstays in Texas’ defense. 

Diggs is undersized at 5 feet 9 inches and will most likely make his living on special teams, and Reed lacks the athleticism that NFL scouts desire. Both are projected to be picked during the fifth round or later.

The Longhorns’ main offensive prospect is Malcolm Brown, who led Texas in total rushing yards last season but still feels he has a lot to prove at the next level. 

“I feel like I have a lot to show people that I haven’t been able to show these past couple of years due to injuries, and things didn’t go completely my way,” Malcolm Brown said. 

While NFL.com projects Malcolm Brown to be a late-round pick, several scouts think he has NFL-caliber skills. 

“[Malcolm Brown] possesses the size, toughness and ability to play on all three downs, and that will catch the eyes of teams looking for depth at running back,” NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein said on NFL.com. 

While these Longhorns were longtime contributors for the program, their chapters at Texas will come to a close as they find a new home and a new start this weekend. 

“It’s definitely a different feeling not being a student and not being a current athlete here,” Diggs said. “At the same time, it’s time for a new journey in life.”

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Tuesday marked head coach Charlie Strong’s first NFL Pro Day with Texas, where he saw 14 Longhorns perform for scouts and coaches from 25 different teams in the league.

The five players who participated in last month’s NFL Combine — defensive tackle Malcom Brown, running back Malcolm Brown, linebacker Jordan Hicks, defensive end Cedric Reed and cornerback Quandre Diggs — mostly focused on position drills as they tried to establish a spot in the NFL Draft. 

Diggs participated in the vertical jump and the broad jump, reaching 36 inches and 9 feet 11 inches, respectively. Malcolm Brown ran in the 40-yard dash, aiming to beat his time of 4.62 from the Combine. He clocked in around 4.5 seconds.

“I definitely believe I am one of the best cornerbacks in this class,” Diggs said. “A lot of people have made a big to do about my size. It is one thing if you’re 6 foot 1 inch but are soft. I know the kind of player I am, and I let my play speak for itself.”

Reed, after only taking part in the bench press at the combine, did not participate in the Pro Day. He is still recovering from meniscus surgery he had during the offseason.

Tuesday was crucial for wide receivers Jaxon Shipley and John Harris and safety Mykkele Thompson, who weren’t invited to the Combine. 

Shipley ran between a 4.43 and a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash and jumped a 39-inch vertical. During wide receiver drills, his routes were clean, and he showed scouts the strong hands Texas fans were familiar with.

“Coming out here today, I really want to surprise some people with my speed,” Shipley said. “I also wanted people understand that, even with injuries in college, I can still play at a high level.”

Shipley said he felt good about his performance and was glad to talk with a couple of scouts following his workouts.

Thompson also looked strong in all of his drills, especially the broad jump, which was around 10 feet 9 inches. His broad jump would have been better than many guys at the combine, including Alabama safety Landon Collins and LSU cornerback Jalen Collins.

Harris, one of the Longhorns few offensive weapons last season, gave a good performance.  He completed 19 reps on the bench press and ran a 40-yard time of about 4.5. On the his last attempt for the 40, Harris pulled his hamstring, but it didn’t bother him the rest of the day.

“At this time last year, I was not really paying attention to Pro Day,” Harris said. “I remember coming to watch for a little while but quickly leaving. Now, a year later, a lot has changed.”

The Longhorn prospects still have a long process ahead of them, with individual team workouts and meetings before the NFL Draft on April 30 through May 2.

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

The relationship between a player and coach at the collegiate level is unlike any other bond.

Many college athletes are able to attend school only because of their ability to play a sport, and, typically, it is their coach who recognized that talent and provided them with the opportunity to gain a post-secondary education.

Coaches often act as father, or mother, figures for athletes who come from tough upbringings and are usually mentors to players outside the field of play, just as much as they are teachers on it.

But these coaches are paid to do what they do, and their livelihoods depend on the success of their athletes, so it’s not uncommon for them to play the role of harsh disciplinarian. They often scream and holler at their student-athletes, pushing them to their absolute physical limits. And athletes expect it.

Therein lies the challenge coaches around the country face each day. They must each find a way to motivate their players and push them to improve and produce on the field, while maintaining their respect and serving as a leader whom players feel comfortable approaching off the field.

Mack Brown, former Texas head coach, was as good as anyone at finding that balance through the first three-quarters of his tenure in Austin, developing a reputation as a happy-go-lucky southern gentleman, whose players loved to win for him. But, as his teams failed to produce in his final four years on campus, Brown was all of a sudden accused of being too soft on his guys.

The hiring of Charlie Strong symbolized the end of anything soft on the 40 Acres, as he quickly went to work, instilling his core values and removing anyone who didn’t abide by them. Being the opposite of Brown, the initial fear was that Strong’s no-nonsense approach would rub some of the team’s veterans the wrong way, causing the disciplinarian to quickly lose the locker room.

However, much as when Brown first arrived, Strong and his staff appear to have found the perfect balance. Despite his team’s struggles and the possibility of missing a bowl game, Strong’s players continue to preach their admiration for the new regime.

“[The coaches] respect each and every guy by the type of person he is,” senior defensive back Quandre Diggs said. “I think they can relate to everybody just by the way they act.”

“The way they act” is much different this year. Under Brown, entrance to the coaches’ wing of Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletics Center required a code. Upon his arrival, Strong had all such barriers removed, opting instead for an open-door policy among his coaches and encouraging players to stop by whenever they please.

That’s just one example of how the new staff has quickly built a strong repertoire with its players.

“I can tell you, I’m about to go sit in those guys’ office right now and look at some film.,” Diggs said. “There are things I wasn’t able to do my first three years here.”

It speaks wonders that Diggs and his fellow seniors have already bought into the new regime’s hard-nosed style. After spending several years playing for a man who couldn’t be more opposite, the team’s veterans have quickly adjusted to Strong and company’s different approach.

“They do a good job of letting everybody know that they truly care about you, that they want to relate to you,” said senior linebacker Jordan Hicks, who spent four years playing for Brown.

It’s a unique relationship, the one between player and coach, but Strong and his staff seem to have rapidly established a good one, and the players appreciate it.

“It’s important to have that relationship with your coach,” Diggs said. “We don’t take that for granted.”

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

The right Reed

It was as if senior defensive end Cedric Reed bottled up all his frustrations from the first 10 weeks of the season and let them out against West Virginia on Saturday.

Reed opened the season as a preseason All-American and many believed he would be a top pick in this year’s NFL Draft. However, as the season wore on and he failed to make much of an impact in any of Texas’ first nine games, Reed’s draft stock plummeted along with hopes of him being an All-American or winning any of the awards for which he was initially watch-listed.

But Saturday, he reminded everyone just what he is capable of. The 6-foot-5-inch, 272-pound lineman was an absolute menace all afternoon and got in the West Virginia backfield on several occasions.

“It feels great,” Reed said. “I knew it was coming, and my teammates and coaches knew it was coming.“

Reed finished the afternoon with 12 tackles, three sacks, a safety and a forced fumble.

Can you Diggs it?

While Reed has seen his draft stock plummet for the majority of this season, senior defensive back Quandre Diggs’ pro potential seems to increase each week, and the game against West Virginia was no exception.

Diggs spent most of his afternoon covering senior Kevin White, the Mountaineers’ best receiver and one of the top pass catchers in the entire country. White racked up plenty of yardage, but Diggs kept him out of the end zone and made a few huge plays in the process.

The most notable was an interception in the fourth quarter that helped Texas seal its victory. After getting beat on a similar play earlier in the game, Diggs jumped an out pattern and picked off West Virginia senior Clint Trickett, ending the Mountaineer drive and giving the Longhorn offense great field position.

“I knew I was going to get another opportunity, and, in my head, you’re going to beat me one time, but the next time I’m going to go make a play,” Diggs said. “That’s just what I did, and it comes from great film review [and] great study.”

Big day for Gray

From the moment he arrived in Austin, head coach Charlie Strong preached his affinity for run-heavy offenses. He was confident that his running backs — senior Malcolm Brown and junior Johnathan Gray — were the ideal tandem to lead the Longhorn offense.

But for the first eight games, a depleted offensive line and some less than convincing running back play forced Strong’s team to throw the ball more than he would have liked.

Over the last two weeks, however, Strong has gone back to the run and it has paid off.

As his young, patchwork offensive line continues to gain experience and develop chemistry, the running backs have exploded onto the scene, and Gray’s turn was Saturday.

The junior scatback totaled 101 yards and three touchdowns on just 10 carries against the Mountaineers. The most impressive of those 10 touches came early in the second quarter, as Gray juked a West Virginia defender and stretched for the pylon on a 39-yard touchdown run.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Like Steve Spurrier’s visor, Bill Snyder’s pullover, or Bear Bryant’s fedora, Texas head coach Charlie Strong’s game-day attire is most recognizable by one thing: the mock turtleneck.

Against North Texas, Strong debuted the garment, a turtleneck in which the neckpiece is not in fact folded down, in 95-degree heat. No matter the temperature or circumstance, Strong sports the ’90s fashion item with pride.

Recently, however, the Longhorns’ new coach added some variety to his sideline wardrobe, going with a burnt orange top against Iowa State instead of the white one he had worn through the team’s first six games.

Despite beating the Cyclones in his first game wearing the new color, Strong made the curious decision to go back to white in the team’s next game and sure enough, the Longhorns were shut out by Kansas State. But, after another burnt orange victory in Lubbock last weekend, Strong is now a perfect 2-0 in the school’s color.

“My daughter, Hailee, she told me I can only wear orange from here on out,” Strong said.

Some of his players have noticed the trend, too, and if senior defensive back Quandre Diggs had his way, the whole team would be wearing the lucky shirt.

“I told him before the game that’s the one he needs to wear,” Diggs said. “I think everybody needs to wear a little mock turtleneck this week. And I think if we play as well as we did, we all need to continue to wear it.”

While superstition doesn’t appear to play into Strong’s reliance on game-day turtlenecks, a few Longhorns have found a link between certain wardrobe decisions and on-field success and seem convinced it’s a case of causation, not just correlation.

“I’m very superstitious,” Diggs said. “I have to have two thin wristbands on my legs. I’ve got to have high socks that I can pull down and scrunch up, and my main thing is having the long shirt under my jersey. That’s something I’ve been wearing for the last two or so years. I feel like it’s been working for me.”

They may not be quite as obvious, but sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes has a few quirks of his own.

“Every time I put my pads and shoes on, I’ve got to do it a certain way every time or I won’t feel right,” Swoopes said. “I always put my left side on before I put the right side on.”

Superstition, the idea that one event causes another without any natural process linking the two, has long been a polarizing topic in sports. Some players rely on a whole slew of odd rituals, while others believe it to be total nonsense, taking credit away from the time and effort spent working on their craft.

Senior wide receiver John Harris is an example of an athlete who doesn’t care much for the notion.

“I say when we throw the ball, everything’s going right,” Harris said, when asked if he was superstitious. “Whenever we have that ball in our hands, it’s going to be a good day.”

Strong seems to have a similar perspective, preferring to keep it simple and denounce any suggestion that he might be the least bit superstitious.

But Saturday, superstitious or not, he’ll be wearing orange.

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

Although senior safety Mykkele Thompson hasn’t missed a game in his four years at Texas, a few of his competitions are a little hazy. 

It’s not because the multitude of games blur together, but rather, Thompson literally played with impaired vision through his first three seasons.

When head coach Charlie Strong came to Texas, he realized Thompson wore glasses off the field but didn’t ever wear corrective lenses at game time. Concerned, Strong asked the safety from San Antonio why.

“I said to him, ‘Let me ask you something. In a game, do you have contacts in?’” Strong said. “He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘So how do you see the ball?’ and he said, ‘Well, they’re not that bad.’”

Through the conversation, Strong discovered that Thompson had been wearing glasses since the ninth grade — seven years earlier. And yet, through 39 college games and a slew of high school competitions, Thompson stepped on the field without contacts. Thompson played through his blurry vision, performing well enough to rush for 3,614 yards and 48 touchdowns in high school and garner recognition as ESPNU’s 60th-best athlete.

Through his first three seasons at Texas, he practiced well enough to secure playing time in every game and start 18 of the 26 games he played in his sophomore and junior years. On the field, Thompson racked up 144 solo tackles through three seasons. But one statistic remained low: Through 39 contests, Thompson had just one interception.

“You don’t start 30 games and have only two interceptions for a career,” senior cornerback Quandre Diggs said. “I always give him a hard time, but that’s my best friend, so I can do that.”

Although Diggs joked with Thompson in good spirits, the inconsistency was evident. Strong decided to test out Thompson’s vision as they watched a double move against Baylor. Strong asked Thompson whether he saw the move, and Thompson admitted he did, but he saw it “kind of late.” Before the next game, Strong had Thompson fitted for contacts.

Since then, Thompson’s production has increased. His 11 tackles against Iowa State marked his best since 2012, and against Texas Tech on Saturday, he intercepted his first ball in 12 months. It took him 36 games to intercept his first pass, but he intercepted his second pass just 4 games after getting contacts. One thought came to Strong’s mind.

“I said, ‘You never would’ve caught that ball if you hadn’t had those contacts in,’” Strong said. “He’s been wearing his contacts now.”

With new clarity, Thompson’s play on the field has changed. But it’s not just a physical improvement. Diggs says Thompson’s mental game has improved as well.

“I definitely think [getting the interception] makes him a more confident player,” Diggs said. “You can tell just by yesterday [in practice] that he’s a way more confident person.”

As Thompson contributes more to the team and builds his confidence, suddenly it all becomes clear. He begins to see football through a new lens — finally, one with corrective vision.

Texas’ loss to Kansas State on Saturday marked its first shutout since 2004. The Longhorns will look to improve by living up to their normal standard of play.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Although head coach Charlie Strong first came to Texas in January, he understands traditions that date back long before his arrival. Texas historically secures winning records, glides smoothly to bowl eligibility and even spends many weeks in the top-25 rankings. As Texas’ winning percentage continues to plummet following the program’s first shutout in a decade, Strong says he needs to reevaluate.

“We’re sitting there at 3-5, and that’s just not acceptable in this program,” Strong said. “It’s frustrating and disappointing. That will never be the standard of this program.”

The “standard” of this program is a reality that players and coaches alike are trying to reconcile. They know that the inconsistencies plaguing Texas aren’t the standard, but, under a new coaching staff, the Longhorns look to redefine what that standard actually is. Redshirt junior center Taylor Doyle says Joe Wickline, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, gives the players one interpretation.

“Go out there and play tough football — you have to be perfect,” Doyle said to summarize Wickline’s advice. “There’s no room for any errors as far as who you have to block.”

If perfection is the standard, the Longhorns know they haven’t reached it. Doyle attributes the struggles to “growing pains,” as new players and coaches adjust to the program. In contrast, senior cornerback Quandre Diggs doesn’t think growing pains sufficiently characterize the shortcomings. Instead, he believes some of his teammates don’t buy into Strong’s program, and, until they do, the team won’t succeed.

“Hopefully, a light clicks for some people, and it all comes together,” Diggs said.

For Diggs, the light never turns off. He says he clings to optimism, hope and faith because he doesn’t see another way. He tries to balance the optimism with realism but doesn’t believe the two mind-sets conflict.

“I don’t ever go into a game and think I’m going to lose,” Diggs said. “Why would I do that? I might as well not practice.”

Even with the practice, Texas faces a historically bad team. The Longhorns hadn’t sustained a shutout in the past 132 competitions, and their offense currently ranks No. 109 in the country, averaging 348.3 yards per game. Now, the Longhorns look to avoid another historic milestone: missing bowl eligibility for just the second time since 1997. Senior linebacker Jordan Hicks, who played for Texas in 2010, the only other bowl-free year, says he doesn’t want to graduate during that decline.

“I don’t want to be a part of a class that started off not going and ends not going [to a bowl game],” Hicks said. “I don’t feel like that class would’ve done its part in making Texas better.”

For players like Hicks, Doyle and Diggs, the only things each one says he can do is practice hard and try to motivate his teammates. Strong, too, is determined to rebound and won’t be content with the status quo.

“You’re always learning as a head coach,” Strong said. “When players start trusting you, you’re able to get done what you need to get done. Me, personally, I don’t think I’ve done a great job because if I had, we wouldn’t be sitting here at 3-5.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

The first time defensive coordinator Vance Bedford called Dylan Haines’ name on the first-team list, Haines, a redshirt sophomore defensive back, thought Bedford had made a mistake.

“I looked over there and said, ‘Maybe you got the name wrong,’” Haines said. “He told me to go out and run with the [first-team players]. To be out there with all the starters and be the only walk-on out there was something different.”

Through the 2014 season, however, Haines’ association with the first team has actually remained much the same. Since recording a 22-yard interception in the season opener against North Texas, Haines has started all six games. Haines contributes to the defense, punt, kick return and kickoff teams and has recorded 39 tackles and two interceptions. Haines’ 74-yard pick-six against Iowa State put Texas up 28-21 against the Cyclones with 2:50 remaining in the first half. Head coach Charlie Strong called the play a “gamble” but complimented Haines’ willingness to take a risk.

“Everyone’s taking notice, and when you’re looking for that player that you say you like to see go play — [Haines] plays hard,” Strong said. “On that interception, he took a chance. But it’s all right to take a chance, and it pays off sometimes.”

Strong isn’t the only one who has noticed Haines’ ascent. As No. 44 becomes a
staple on the field, Haines says his teammates support his new role and celebrate his good plays. Although they jockey in practice for starting spots, the competition is all productive and healthy, Haines says.

“We’re all friends outside of football, but we understand that the best players play,” Haines said. “I don’t think there’s any bitterness — just good competition, which is what we need to have a good football team.”

Haines’ depth adds a new complication for opponents. Quarterbacks no longer see Haines’ man as a free target. Senior cornerback Quandre Diggs said he thinks opponents will catch on to Haines’ improvement soon.

“He’s pretty athletic; he’s made big plays for us all year,” Diggs said. “He continues to step up, do his calling and go out and compete. Maybe if he continues to make plays, guys will stop going at him.”

Even if opponents do not stop going after him, Haines doesn’t mind. If an opponent perceives him as weak, Haines sees it as an opportunity. In fact, he sees just about everything as an opportunity. When he didn’t receive any scholarship offers, walking on to Texas’ team was an opportunity. When he redshirted, the extra time to learn and improve was an opportunity. And as a backup last season, scouting was an opportunity — an opportunity he took seriously, earning scout team player of the week leading up to the Red River Rivalry.

But this year’s opportunity — the opportunity to be a starter — is the one Haines coveted the most. Haines comes from a family of athletes. His grandfather, great-uncle and mother competed for the Longhorn track team, and his father and brother played football on the 40 Acres. Now, Haines joins their legacies. He didn’t need a scholarship, which he earned in August, to convince him to finish his degree or stay on the football team. But such recognition is meaningful.

“I was shocked, but I wasn’t surprised,” Haines said. “Working my way to the number one spot on the depth chart, I’d given it some thought but didn’t worry about it too much. … It was something special and made me really happy, showed they really care about their players and it was a reward for hard work.”

Haines’ reward isn’t unique. He knows many walk-ons share his story — gaining scholarships, playing time and occasionally getting drafted. But, for the walk-ons who haven’t reached that level yet, Haines offers advice.

“The mentality you have to have is go out there and improve every day as a player,” Haines said. “I knew I was a capable of playing, so I looked to improve every day and reach my potential. Walk-ons need to come out and be ready to work and make the most of it.”

The Longhorn special teams have been far from special in 2014.

A bad punt and poor coverage led to the game-winning drive for UCLA in Arlington, a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown swung the momentum against Baylor and a kick return touchdown and a boneheaded kick catch interference penalty proved to be the difference against Oklahoma.

The unit has displayed a knack for giving up the big play this season, as special teams have been the driving force behind three of the Longhorns’ four losses this year. 

“We just have people not doing their jobs, plain and simple,” senior defensive back Quandre Diggs said. “Those guys are hearing about it, and I hope they want to fix it this week. We’re going to continue to work on it and continue to get better because it’s definitely not up to par right now.”

Big plays aside, Texas’ special teams have consistently disappointed throughout the first half of the season.

Junior kicker Nick Rose has missed a field goal in four of Texas’ six contests, converting just five of his nine field goal attempts on the year, and even missed an extra point attempt.

Longhorn kick returners haven’t been able to get anything going either, ranking 108th in the nation with an average of just 18.4 yards per return. Maybe touchbacks aren’t so bad after all.

Not to be outdone, Texas’ kick coverage unit ranks 128th — dead last in the country. Opponents are averaging 32.3 yards on kickoff returns, including sophomore Alex Ross’ 91-yard run back for the Sooners last weekend.

On the whole, Texas’ special teams give up an average of 3.9 points per game, fifth worst in the nation, according to Football Outsiders’ special teams efficiency rankings, which take into account each aspect of special teams and measures them in terms of points per game.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Diggs, who has spent time as a punt returner during his career at Texas. “It’s not like it’s not being harped on in meetings. It’s just got to take it to heart and go out and get better effort on it.”

Fatigue may be at the heart of the issue for the Longhorns.

Head coach Charlie Strong prefers to have his best 11 men on the field on special teams, which forces starters from offense and defense into double duty, rather than resting them on the sidelines.

“Some of the starters, I don’t think they take it for granted or anything, but they do play a lot of snaps, and they get tired,” said senior receiver John Harris, who is on the punt return team. “But that’s no excuse. Special teams plays a huge part in the game, as you can see.”

The Longhorn defense is stout — one of the best units in the nation. The offense has been inconsistent, but they are slowly improving. But the specials teams are bad and don’t appear to be getting any better.

No matter how well the rest of the team plays, Texas will continue to lose more often than it wins, if it can’t be effective in all three aspects of the game.

“What needs to happen and what guys have to understand — you don’t take a play off with special teams,” Strong said. “We have offense, we have defense [and] we have special teams — and that’s not the time to take a play off.”

Despite Texas’ 2-4 start, the team’s worst since 1956, senior cornerback Quandre Diggs and the Longhorns are confident they’ll be able to turn things around this season.

Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

For only the third time in program history, the Longhorns have started the season with a 2-4 record — their worst start since going 1-5 in the first six games of 1956. 

Despite the slow start, Texas isn’t proclaiming this year a lost season quite yet. 

“I think it all starts with the mindset,” senior linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “First of the coaching staff, and then of the leaders on this football team. You know, we’ve got a lot of people that are not allowing this thing to go south.”

Although the final scores have not been working in the Longhorns’ favor, senior cornerback Quandre Diggs likes what he has been seeing week to week.

“Me being a senior, I understand that we are 2-4, but you can’t even be down because the way the team is going out and fighting,” Diggs said. “And you’ve seen it each and every week the way those guys compete their tail off in practice.”

In each of Texas’ three most recent losses, the Longhorns made critical mistakes at the most devastating times, ensuring defeat. Some of the players are confident that the team can win once it stops making costly errors. 

“It hasn’t been a whole bunch of the other team beating us other than beating ourselves,” senior running back Malcolm Brown said.

In particular, special teams have been an area of concern for Texas. The Longhorns allowed a kickoff return this past weekend against Oklahoma and a blocked field goal that led to a touchdown against Baylor earlier this month. While the errors may have lost them a few games, Texas believes its 2-4 record doesn’t accurately reflect the talent on the team. 

“And I think that’s the big thing — everybody can feel how close we are,” Hicks said. “They can just feel it. And I think that’s also a big motivating factor.”

The Longhorns look to build off their confidence in their final six games, which could end up as challenging as the first six — three opponents remaining on the schedule are ranked inside the top 15 in the polls. Still, veterans such as Diggs believe the errors will be fixed, and Texas can finish the season strong.

“I think, at the end of the year, when we look back at the end of the season, it’s going to be a success,” Diggs said. “We just got to continue to believe and just stay positive throughout it all.”