Some Texas Longhorn football fans may have thought that last year’s 10-3 record was another feather in the cap for Head Coach Mack Brown. Although 10-win seasons are a benchmark for most college coaches, last season was a depressing one for Brown, according to the March issue of Inside Texas .

According to writer Pat Culpepper, the Longhorns’ 10-win season was the result of playing some of the weakest Division I schools plus Big 12 pushovers Baylor, Iowa State and believe it or not, Nebraska.

Spring practice 2007 featured defensive coordinator Duane Akina and assistant Larry Mac Duff introducing some sophisticated NFL-type schemes that looked real good on paper and during spring practice.

But they didn’t work very well in actual combat, with the Longhorns having to recover an onside kick against weak sister Arkansas State to preserved the victory in their September opener.

Culpepper points out in his article that victories over Oklahoma State , Nebraska and Texas Tech proved one thing—“the Cowboys, Huskers and Raiders defenses were worse than the Longhorns’ defense.”

And we’re talking about a pass defense that ranked 109th in the nation for surrendering 277.7 yards per football game in 2007. After the season Mac Duff was replaced by former Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, a young and inventive coordinator who brings fire to the practice field and the Texas sideline.

The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was the 38-30 loss to Texas A&M the day after Thanksgiving. Perhaps Culpepper put it best—“The Longhorns were devoid of fundamentals. The ‘Horns were a terrible tackling team and even worse in pursuit, which is nothing but conditioning and desire. All those intricate schemes of defense by Akina and Mac Duff folded like a cheap suit.

“When the Longhorns imploded at Kyle Field, Coach Brown had seen enough and so the clapping stopped, the excuses dried up and he decided to take matters into his own hands. The head coach was fed up, mad and determined to change the way he related to the Texas football team and its lack of inner fire and damning inconsistency,” Culpepper continued.

“Underneath that smile and impeccable manners burns a fire born of dismal seasons as head coach at Tulane and North Carolina . He had fought his way out of New Orleans while building a competitive team, and had built a championship-caliber outfit at North Carolina . What he saw his Longhorns doing carried too many signs of failure.”

When it came time to start practicing for the Holiday Bowl game against Pac-10 co-champions Arizona State , Brown announced that all positions were up for grabs. And instead of the players being on the field around 10:30 a.m., Brown announced 6 a.m. practices in full pads.

When a player messed up—jumped the snap count, fumbled the ball, dropped an interception or took incorrect pursuit angles—there were up-and-downs for the entire team. Reports from insiders indicated there was heavy contact and even sprinting after practices.

Brown’s gamble paid off as the Longhorns looked like another team during that bowl game. And when the dust settled and the final gun sounded, Texas had whipped those Sun Devils in every facet of the game to the tune of 52-34. Brown finally found what he was looking for– what is inside the players in those burnt orange uniforms.

Spring practice 2008 will be used as a continuation of the Holiday Bowl success and the mental toughness of the Longhorn team. Brown will have to find replacements for running back Jamaal Charles and tight end Jermichael Finley, who both left the team to make themselves eligible for the upcoming NFL draft next month.

The focal point of the defense is the secondary where Texas loses three starting cornerbacks and three safeties from that pass defense ranked 109th in the country last season.

“But what the team lacks in experience at cornerback it makes up in depth and potential,” according to the magazine article. “Senior returning starter Ryan Palmer and top 2007 backup junior Deon Beasley are the projected spring starters, but they’ll be bolstered by a strong base of sophomores and freshmen, including Earl Thomas, who players have been raving about.”

Although Beasley wasn’t listed as a starter the past two seasons, he got plenty of playing time simply because he’s one of the fastest players on the team and speed was what was definitely needed on pass defense.

And one of the best tributes a player can get is recognition from his own teammates, which is how Thomas has been evaluated during his red-shirt freshman year. Now he is expected to step up and contribute this fall.

This Korner is betting that the combination of Coach Brown’s hard-line approach and the presence of Orange ’s Deon Beasley and Earl Thomas, the Longhorns pass defense will rank among the nation’s best in 2008 and beyond.

KWICKIES…The Lamar baseball team finished the YMBL/Cardinal Classic Baseball Tournament with a 4-0 shutout win over Arkansas State Sunday at Vincent-Beck Stadium in Beaumont . Lanky 6-7 Brian Needham got the mound victory for the 4-3 Cardinals while Tim Erickson struck out four of the first five hitters he faced to earn the save. The Big Red will entertain our alma mater the McNeese State Cowboys Tuesday night at Vincent-Beck in a non-conference game.

And while on the topic of Lamar and McNeese, our Cowboys halted the Cardinals’ 11-game basketball winning streak by nipping them 74-71 Saturday night at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles . The Cards rallied from 14 points down with 3:31 remaining to almost pull out the victory. Lamar leads the Southland Conference East Division with a 12-2 record and 18-9 overall while the Cowboys stand at 7-7 in the SLC and 13-13 overall. The Cards finish their regular season this week by hosting Nicholls State at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Montagne Center and then travel to Hammond , La. to take on Southeastern Louisiana at 3 p.m. Saturday.

And speaking of winning streaks, the Houston Rockets extended their victory skein to 15 in a row by whipping the Denver Nuggets 103-89 Sunday, tying a franchise record set twice in 1993-94. The Rockets swing back into action Wednesday when they host the Indiana Pacers at 7:30 p.m. in the Toyota Center .

Congrats are in order to District 21-3A member Silsbee, which is headed to the Class 3A state basketball tournament in Austin after knocking off fellow District 21-3A member Hardin-Jefferson 62-50 Saturday in the Regional finals at Huntsville . The Tigers (29-6) will face Kennedale (31-5) in the Class 3A semifinal game Thursday at 2 p.m. in Austin . The winner will meet the winner between Burkburnett (30-6) and South San Antonio West (28-9) Saturday at 10 a.m. for the state championship.

JUST BETWEEN US…The Houston Chronicle polled Harris County voters to see whether people believed Roger Clemens or Brian McNamee is telling the truth about Clemens’ alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. The poll was conducted by Zogby International and had 604 respondents with 35.5 percent saying they were more likely to believe McNamee, 32.8 percent supporting Clemens and 31.7 percent having no response. By contrast, 57 percent of respondents to a recent national Gallup Poll said they believed Clemens was lying, while 31 percent said they believed he was telling the truth. In Boston , where Clemens began his career, only 8.2 percent of the respondents to a survey by said they believed the pitcher and in New York where Clemens played last season 79 percent of the respondents to a Daily News poll said they believed McNamee.