Guard Vahe puts last year all in him­self

Be­ing re­placed as a start­ing line­man was about mind­set and ef­fort, he says.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Brian Davis bdavis@states­man.com

No­body ever said any­thing pub­licly about it, but it was ob­vi­ous that guard Pa­trick Vahe landed in the Texas dog­house last sea­son. From hulk­ing to sulk­ing, the 325-pound sopho­more started the first seven games and then mys­te­ri­ously got benched against Bay­lor, Texas Tech and West Vir­ginia.

There were whis­pers that Vahe got cross­ways with then-of­fen­sive line coach Matt Mat­tox. Never one to hold any­thing back, Vahe will gladly give his opin­ions. That’s what makes him one of the most en­gag­ing per­son­al­i­ties in the en­tire UT ath­letic de­part­ment.

On Thurs­day, Vahe was made avail­able to re­porters for the first time since Oc­to­ber. Though he didn’t go into full de­tail about what hap­pened, it’s clear the 6-foot-4 Vahe wants his start­ing job back at left guard along­side All-Amer­ica tackle Con­nor Wil­liams.

“My mind’s been on the wrong path,” Vahe said Thurs­day af­ter UT’s fourth spring prac­tice. “My ef­fort re­ally wasn’t there. It re­ally wasn’t what was needed for the team at that mo­ment. But I’m on a dif­fer­ent road right now.”

Did the coach­ing change give Vahe a fresh start?

“As of right now, any coach that comes through, I re­spect them a lot,” he said. “What­ever they have to bring to the plate, I’ll be sure to step up to it.”

Was the old coach­ing staff the prob­lem?

“I don’t blame the coach­ing staff,” Vahe said. “It was just a per­sonal prob­lem of mine. It was my de­ci­sion to get back to where I needed to be. The coaches were there to help me out, and I took ad­van­tage of that.” So what changed? “Just re­al­ize why I’m here, the rea­son why I play at Texas,” Vahe said. “I love play­ing this foot­ball game. Any coach that comes through here to help me out, I take ad­van­tage of that.

“Why am I here? I do it be­cause of my pride, my fam­ily. I’ve al­ways wanted to come here since I was a lit­tle boy. See­ing them win these na­tional cham­pi­onships, I wanted to be a part of that. Or at least get my de­gree from one of the best schools in the world.”

Vahe started the first 10 games of the 2014 sea­son be­fore miss­ing the fi­nal two due to in­jury. He was an hon­or­able-men­tion pick by the Big 12 coaches and was pen­ciled in as a pos­si­ble four-year starter for the Longhorns.

But last sea­son changed the dy­namic. Jake McMil­lon started for Vahe against the Bears and played well enough to start again the fol­low­ing week. One pos­i­tive out­come was that UT coaches learned how ver­sa­tile McMil­lon re­ally was. This sea­son, McMil­lon (6-3, 305) should be a vi­tal con­trib­u­tor up front.

New of­fen­sive line coach Derek Ware­hime was asked specif­i­cally about his gre­gar­i­ous guard and said, “Vahe’s in a great spot men­tally right now.”

Vahe can’t say enough good things about Ware­hime — that’s for sure. “Very en­thu­si­as­tic,” he said. “He’s a very chal­leng­ing guy. He just wants the best out of ev­ery­body, and we’re start­ing to re­al­ize it day by day.” D-line get­ting in shape: Coach Tom Her­man shocked just about ev­ery­body ear­lier this month when he de­clared the de­fen­sive line­men were some “re­ally fat guys” who needed to lose weight. At least one of them didn’t seem too up­set.

“I don’t know. It’s just all smoke to me,” said nose guard Poona Ford, who is listed at 310 pounds on the ros­ter. “We have a cer­tain plan and what goals we need to reach ev­ery week.”

Her­man has since soft­ened his stance some­what and praised the line­men af­ter spring work­outs started. Seven line­men listed on the ros­ter weigh more than 300 pounds, some­thing for­mer coach Char­lie Strong en­cour­aged.

Briefly: De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Todd Or­lando stopped him­self in mid-thought and of­fered high praise for ju­nior DeShon El­liott. “He’s been im­pres­sive to me; he re­ally has. That kid gives us ev­ery­thing he has,” Or­lando said. El­liott could be a start­ing safety who plays the wide side of the field.

JAY JAN­NER / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Texas guard Pa­trick Vahe is “in a great spot men­tally right now,” said new of­fen­sive line coach Derek Ware­hime. Vahe is equally up­beat about his coach.

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