In all candor, Lamarr Houston wasn't happy about his move from defensive end to defensive tackle before last season.
It was moving from a showcase position for his speed, power and athleticism, where the feature stat is sacks, to the coal mine, where the job is to take up blockers and help the linebackers make the tackle.
But Houston is the son of two preachers and knows all too well about having faith.
"That's what the team needed me to do," Houston said.
Houston posted 4.5 sacks as a sophomore defensive end in 2007. So far this season, Houston shares the lead on the team with five tackles for loss (along with LB Emmanuel Acho) and has 11 QB hurries, trailing only Sergio Kindle, who has 12.
But more importantly, Houston is one of the unquestioned leaders on defense.
"His work ethic is what stands out," said fellow defensive lineman Sam Acho. "This dude is 300 pounds, and he's beating everyone to the ball. He was making plays 8 yards in the backfield in practice (last week).
"It's the off-week, so it's easy to get a little lazy. From week one, he's sprinting to the ball every play. He never has a lazy step. It's just crazy to see him go at 300 pounds. I'm 260 pounds, and I'm getting tired. And here he is, just going and going. It makes me say, 'There's no reason for me to get tired.'"
Added offensive guard Charlie Tanner on Monday, "Lamarr has great ball get-off. He just explodes off the line, and he has great hand placement. If I get my hands on a defensive lineman's chest, I can control him. But if he can pin on of my arms, I'm a one-armed lineman, and Lamarr is really good at keeping your hands off him."
Muschamp said he sensed Houston's initial reluctance to move from end to tackle. But Muschamp said he didn't have many options with only Roy Miller a proven product inside last season.
"He's played well for us," Muschamp said. "He's gotten a lot of good push inside for us. He worked awfully hard over the summer. He's really bought in to that being his home inside. I thought athletically he'd be a great mismatch inside because of his lower body flexibility and change of direction, and we didn't have any other ones. That made it a little easier, too."
Teammates watch Houston get on the bench press and push up 500 pounds as a former defensive end, and marvel at his work ethic. (Tanner and Houston have both benched 500. Kindle is close behind at 460 pounds.)
"Lamarr coming in at 250 pounds as a defensive end, gaining fifty pounds and going to a spot he wasn't comfortable with says a lot about him," Kindle said. "The guy has the same quickness he had at defensive end, and he's strong as an ox."
Teammates say the leaders of the defense are Houston, Kindle and linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy. But Kindle, who has a soft voice, said Houston handles the vocal leadership most of the time.
"The louder I scream, the higher pitched my voice gets," Kindle joked. "Lamarr doesn't have that problem."
I asked Houston today if any players have had to get up in front of the team to make any speeches, and he said no, "Not yet."
Houston has completely bought into the hard hat mentality Muschamp has brought into the program. When I asked Houston about the possibility for complacency, he smiled and said, "Gotta keep working and stay hungry. We're blue collar."
Houston was asked if the defensive line has surprised people so far this season on a unit that ranks No. 8 nationally in tackles for loss (averaging 8.0 per game) and No. 11 in sacks (averaging 3.0 per game).
"I think we've done our job," Houston said. "But we can play with more intensity and get our pad level lower."
For a team to have a chance to win it all, the players have to be policing the players and holding each other accountable. Houston has showed since being arrested for DWI in 2008 that he is willing to take personal responsibility. He also reaches out to teammates.
When Kindle had a traffic mishap over the summer and ran into an apartment building, Houston said, "I'll be his driver." So far, Houston and Kindle are patrolling the defensive line for Texas the way Muschamp had envisioned.
"Last year being his first year as an inside player - and it happens a little differently and quicker inside - I thought he adjusted well as the season wore on. He had an ankle injury which slowed him a little bit. But we're expecting a big year out of him, and he's expecting a big year out of himself."
THREE THINGS ...
THAT GOT BETTER
Eddie Jones - After four games, Jones has turned into a hitman on third down. That's when Will Muschamp wants his best pass rushers on the field, and Jones is consistently one of those.
His speed to power and straight speed moves are among the best on the team. Jones, who has battled back from shoulder surgery, has six quarterback hurries, two tackles for loss and a sack.
Getting teams out on third down is a combination of coaching (knowing the offense's tendencies on those plays) and players making plays. And while Kindle, Houston and Sam Acho are the players getting a lot of attention for some impressive stats, keep watching No. 32 because Jones is on the field in those critical situations. And the junior from Kilgore is getting results.
"Eddie has really given us a good push on the quarterback," Muschamp said. "We need him to keep doing that, especially with the passing teams we face."
THAT STAYED THE SAME
One of the big points of emphasis from Greg Davis and the offense this season was fewer runs of zero or negative yards.
So far, Texas has more of those runs (24 of 168, or 14.3 percent) than it did through four games last season (21 of 171, or 12.3 percent).
Last season, Texas finished with 82 of its 508 runs (16 percent) going for zero or negative yards - not including sacks.
One impressive note on Tre' Newton: he didn't have his first zero or negative carry until his 21st attempt of the season.
--Vondrell McGee lost yardage on his sixth carry of the season (on a lost fumble).
--Cody Johnson went for no gain on his seventh carry of the season.
--D.J. Monroe had a carry for minus-3 yards on his fourth carry of the season.
--Foswhitt Whittaker has carried the ball four times this season without a zero or negative run.
Here's the breakdown of UT's 24 carries of zero or negative runs so far this season, not including sacks:
Colt McCoy - 6 (of 28 carries, or 21.4 percent) for minus-20 yards
Newton - 6 (of 41 carries, or 14.6 percent) for minus-8 yards
McGee - 4 (of 38 carries, or 10.5 percent) for minus-13 yards
John Chiles - 2 (of 5 carries, or 40 percent) for minus-12 yards
Monroe - 2 (of 16 carries, or 12.5 percent) for minus-3 yards
Jamison Berryhill - 2 (of 9 carries, or 22.2 percent) for minus-7 yards
Johnson - 1 (of 15 carries, or 7 percent) for no gain
Garrett Gilbert - 1 (of 3 carries, or 33.3 percent) for minus-2 yards
THAT GOT WORSE
Penalties - This is probably a trend worth watching. Texas right now is averaging 8.3 flags per game for 67.8 yards in penalty yardage. Those are the highest numbers in flags and penalty yardage in a decade.
The blame can be spread around. There have been 14 flags on the offense, 13 flags on the defense and five on special teams. One has been on the bench (sideline warning).
Greg Davis said the only penalties he gets upset with are what he calls self-inflicted, things like false start and delay of game. He said holding is going to be called from time to time, and he'll live with it. Unforced errors, he won't.
UT has had four false starts (Adam Ulatoski, Michael Huey, David Snow and Michael Huey) and three delay of games - two of those intentional at the end of games.
Will Muschamp said the only penalties on defense that really irk him are offside and personal fouls in which players fail to show discipline.
"The Oakland Raiders from years ago were some of the most penalized teams in the NFL, and they won a lot," Muschamp said. "On defense, you want guys to be aggressive. But you want to be smart."
The Texas defense has had four offside penalties (Houston, Kheeston Randall and two on Kindle)
The repeat offenders on this year's team so far are:
3 - Kheeston Randall (Roughing passer vs. ULM, offside vs. Wyoming, roughing passer vs. Tech)
2 - Adam Ulatoski (false start vs. ULM, holding vs. Wyoming)
2 - Calvin Howell (Facemask, roughing passer both vs. ULM)
2 - Sergio Kindle (offsides twice vs. Texas Tech)
Here's a breakdown of UT's penalties the last 10 years:
Year Avg. # of flags Yardage
2009 8.3 67.8
2008 6.4 57.0
2007 6.2 55.4
2006 5.5 50.9
2005 7.6 65.5
2004 7.7 59.3
2003 7.7 63.2
2002 7.2 61.5
2001 5.5 48.0
2000 8.1 71.4
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