Charlie Strong

Charlie Strong: Texas is the state’s flagship program

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Texas A&M put together one of the top recruiting classes in the country, but new Texas head coach Charlie Strong is making a bold statement on his first national signing day as the head coach of the Longhorns.

“We’re still the University of Texas,” Strong said according to the Austin American Statesman. “We will always be the flagship university of this state.”

The Texas Class of 2o14 was ranked second in the Big 12 and 20th overall by Rivals. Those rankings are not all that bad, but the standard is set high for the Longhorns program given the luxuries and benefits found within the program. With Oklahoma taking the top Big 12 class and storied rival Texas A&M hauling in a top ten class (A&M is ranked sixth overall by Rivals), the tone is being set by Strong right now that Texas needs to get back to the top. Despite being able to lure away one Louisville target on signing day (defensive tackle Poona Ford), Texas saw nine of the state’s top recruits and 19 of the top 25 go to other programs. That includes defensive end Myles Garrett, the state’s top recruit who committed to Texas A&M.

“It’s hard to try to keep guys in, but you have to go recruit them and not be afraid,” Strong said. “You’ve got to go battle those Southeastern Conference teams, whomever they may be.”

SEC schools claimed 18 of the top 50 players in Texas, including a large number of players heading to Texas A&M. Strong realizes what he is up against at Texas. With fertile recruiting grounds all over the state, the SEC, Pac 12 and Big 12 are thriving on talent found in the state of Texas. Texas A&M helped to open the doors to the SEC when they joined the conference a couple of years ago, but the Aggies have also seen a  spark in recruiting due to a successful transition from the Big 12 to the SEC as well. At the same time Texas has fallen behind Baylor in the Big 12, Texas Tech and TCU have started to benefit from a struggling Longhorns program and Oklahoma continues to take charge in the Big 12 pecking order when it comes to recruiting.

“What’s going to be key is we have to control this state,” Strong said. “If we do decide to go out-of-state, we will go out-of-state for a specific need. You can’t make a living in those other states. You’ve got to take care of this state.”

Fortunate;y for Texas, Strong has experience with getting his program to the top of the state in football. Strong previously took over a deflated Louisville program that was picked to finish last in the Big East in his first year on the job. Under Strong’s leadership Louisville quickly became the top team in the Big East and became the top program in the state of Kentucky. The goal is similar at Texas, but Texas A&M is no Kentucky. The objective is simple for Texas; keep the best talent close to home.

“Everyone’s coming here,” Strong stated. “If you think about it, if everyone’s coming to pluck your state, why are you going to venture out?”

Record-breaking QB one of two coaches hired by New Mexico State

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Doug Martin‘s 2017 on-field coaching staff will have a decidedly familiar feel to it, even as it’s in some ways brand-new.

New Mexico State announced that two coaches have been hired by Martin, Chase Holbrook and Kai Brown.  The former will serve as tight ends coach, the latter as defensive ends coach.

Holbrook spent the 2016 season as a quality control coach for Mike Leach at Washington State.  A former NMSU quarterback, he still owns the school’s single-season and career records for passing, passing attempts, completions, touchdowns, total offense and total touchdowns.

Brown was a graduate assistant the past three seasons for the football program.

“We are really excited about Chase coming back to New Mexico State,” Martin said. “Having a former great quarterback that has his name written all over the Aggie record book will have a huge impact on us taking that next step. Chase really believes and cares deeply about the football program here. To have a coach of his talent join our staff makes us a better program immediately. …

“Kai has been a very loyal hard working coach for us as a GA and it gives me great pride to add him to our staff in a full time role. He brings a lot of enthusiasm to our program and has a great relationship with our players.”

This will be both coaches’ first foray into full-time coaching responsibilities at the FBS level.

Cal turns to Fresno State to complete Justin Wilcox’s staff

EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 14:  A member of the California Golden Bears spirit squad waves a team flag while standing next to the Bears' mascot in front of the Michigan State Spartans crowd on September 14, 2002 at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan.  California defeated Michigan State 46-22.  (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Getty Images)
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In late December, Fresno State hired Tony Tuioti as part of Jeff Tedford‘s first coaching staff with the Mountain West program.  Two months later, Tedford’s former Pac-12 employer has poached said staff.

By way of a press release, Cal announced that Tuioti has been hired as Justin Wilcox‘s outside linebackers coach.  Tedford served as Cal’s head coach from 2002-12; Tim DeRuyter, Fresno’s head coach for five seasons before being fired and replaced by Tedford, is now Wilcox’s defensive coordinator with the Golden Bears.

“Tony has a tremendous resume that showcases his diverse skill set and abilities both on and off the field,” Wilcox said in a statement. “Not only is he an excellent coach, but the experience he has as a director of player personnel will be a tremendous benefit to us in the structuring and organization of our recruiting operation. Finding someone with a skill set as unique and diverse as Tony’s is challenging. We are fortunate that we have found that in Tony and are looking forward to his contributions to our program.”

“Working at Cal for a coach like Justin Wilcox was an opportunity I could not pass up,” a statement from Tuioti began. “I have a tremendous feeling about the positive direction Cal is headed, and I really wanted to be a part of that and contribute all I could to a football program with tremendous potential.”

In 2016, Tuioti worked as a football staffer at Michigan.  His last on-field job at the collegiate level came at Hawaii (2012-13, linebackers coach; 2010-11, defensive line).

Georgia raising money to build Devon Gales a home

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It’s been close to a year and a half since Southern football player Devon Gales fractured his C6 vertebrae when covering a kick at Georgia. While the two sides will forever be linked, Georgia has gone above and beyond its duties to help improve his life.

In addition to regularly visiting him in the hospital and paying for his parents’ travel to Georgia, the Bulldogs will now raise funds to build him a house.

Gales received an NCAA Sportsmanship Award at the Bulldogs’ basketball game on Saturday, and it was announced that the UGAAA will launch a “Drive to Build a Dawg House” for Gales and his family.

“Anybody can just their prayer for you and send you on your way, but they didn’t. They took me as one of their kids, not just as another player, but as one of their children,” Gales said.

To contibute, text (707) 204-1707 to donate $5 toward the fund.

Mike Gundy says Sugar Bowl loss to Ole Miss wasn’t on a “level playing field”

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Laquon Treadwell #1 of the Mississippi Rebels celebrates scoring a 14-yard touchdown against the Oklahoma State Cowboys during the fourth quarter of the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
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Mike Gundy originally blamed himself for Oklahoma State’s 48-20 loss to Ole Miss at the Sugar Bowl that closed the 2015 season.

Speaking at the AFCA Convention in Nashville last month, I heard Gundy explain to thousands of fellow coaches he felt he overtrained his Cowboys in preparation to play the physically imposing Rebels. The end result backfired. As I wrote for FootballScoop:

As Oklahoma State prepared to face No. 12 Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl, Gundy pushed his players harder than usual in December practices. “They’re going to knock us off the ball and it’s not going to look pretty,” he remembers thinking. That strategy backfired on him, though, as the Rebels pounded Gundy’s team 48-20. Oklahoma State was out-rushed 207-63 and averaged only 6.7 yards per pass attempt to Ole Miss’s 9.9. “We weren’t physical and we were slow,” Gundy said.

But now Gundy thinks something else may have contributed to that 28-point spanking.

As he explained to the Tulsa World‘s Bill Haisten, Gundy said he couldn’t help but think of the Sugar Bowl when he learned of the NCAA’s charges against Ole Miss.

“The first thing I thought about was (OSU’s recent experience with the NCAA),” Gundy said, “and the second thing was the Sugar Bowl and my players and what they went through.”

He continued: “We’ll never know what we could have done in the Sugar Bowl if it was a level playing field. That is the truth. I’m not sure we would have won the Sugar Bowl, but we’ll never know.”