Underclassmen appreciate senior leadership

Lauren Giudice

This senior class has been through a lot. In their first year as Longhorns, the team finished the season ranked third in the country and went 12-1. As sophomores, they went all the way to the national championship game. As juniors, there was a big change and they didn’t even qualify for a bowl game. Now this season, the seniors are leading the team through another rough patch.

With so much experience with ups and downs, underclassmen have come to respect and admire the class of 2011.

“They’ve definitely been mentors for us throughout this whole season, and you know, to play for them on senior night, it’s an honor for me,” said sophomore cornerback Carrington Byndom. “And I’ll go out there and give it all that I have for them and for the team. Definitely having those guys back there is an honor.”

With such a young team, leadership is vital. The team has been through a lot in the past couple of years and many young players admire specific upperclassmen who helped them transition to college football.

Junior safety Kenny Vaccarro said he credits senior safety Blake Gideon for getting him where he is today.

“He has been through a lot here,” Vaccarro said. “Obviously, as far as the mental side of the game goes, it’s hard to come in and learn these systems. He helps the defense glue together and puts us all in the right positions.”

Jackson Jeffcoat, who has been playing well all season, said he wants to send the seniors off on a high note — especially fellow defensive end Kheeston Randall.

“Kheeston is a great guy, and he is like a big brother to me,” Jeffcoat said. “It’s always fun having him around. He was with us last year as a junior and unfortunately we didn’t get to send our seniors off the way we wanted to.”

Sophomore offensive lineman Mason Walters said seniors David Snow and Tray Allen helped him, especially when he first arrived on campus. Walters said the team will fight as hard as they can on Saturday.

“Coming in, both those guys, they were already kind of established older guys when I was new on campus, and they’ve both helped me out in places on the field and off the field,” Walters said.

Senior linebackers Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho have both been playing well this season and leading the defense to the best team in the Big 12 in total defense. Acho has the fourth-highest amount of tackles in the conference and was named game captain for the BYU, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Missouri games this season. Robinson was named team captain for the games against Texas Tech, BYU, UCLA and Oklahoma. Unfortunately, Robinson injured his thumb in last week’s game against Missouri. Sophomore linebacker Jordan Hicks said he has a huge amount of respect for them.

“They’re both great leaders,” Hicks said. “I’ve learned almost everything I know here about this defense from them and Coach Diaz. So they’ve taught me a lot.”

Acho said this senior class has been through a lot and that they have grown together.

“I love this senior class,” Acho said. “We’ve been through a lot. We’ve been through the ups. We’ve been through the downs. I like where we are, and I like the friendships that have formed.”

Gideon agrees that the team has been through a lot of highs and lows in their four years at Texas.

Senior running back Fozzy Whittaker said the team was embarrassed by last season. He, along with the other seniors, took it upon themselves to make sure this season was different.

“The senior leaders of this team were going to make sure that we didn’t let that happen again, and we were going to find a way, brick-by-brick, build a new foundation to build up this team so that we’re stronger than ever,” Whittaker said.

Head coach Mack Brown had a lot to say about the senior leaders. He had kind words for many specific seniors. He noted Blake Gideon has started every game at Texas, Christian Scott’s athletic and academic performance, Whittaker’s unselfishness, Cody Johnson’s willingness to move to fullback, Tray Allen and Blaine Irby’s recoveries from injuries and Justin Tucker’s consistent impressive performances.

It’s pretty clear that this is a senior class with a lot of character and a willingness to lead a young team.

“This is a great senior class that’s given us a lot of joy, and that’s why I want the fans to give them their proper greeting when they come into the stadium on Saturday night for the game,” Brown said.