One of the biggest challenges Charlie Strong will be facing — outside of “external” forces and politics — as he takes over at Texas will be taking what’s been a middle-of-the-road (at best) football program over the past three years and getting it back to a position of national prominence.
As part of that overall challenge, Strong and his new UT coaching staff must find a way to stiffen what’s been a soft defense against the run the past two years. In 2012, the Longhorns finished 88th in the country (192.2 yards per game) in stopping the run; in 2013, that improved slightly to 85th (183.1 ypg), although that improvement was preceded by an embarrassing 19-point loss to BYU in early September in which the Cougars rolled up 550 yards on the ground.
There’s certainly talent on that side of the ball to improve, with Mack Brown still able to pull in Top-10 recruiting classes even as the rankings failed of late to translate to on-field success. Talent, though, is not one of the T’s Strong will be stressing as he gets set to embark on his first spring in Austin.
“You have to coach it, you have to recruit it and you have to be about it,” Strong said of instilling toughness in his Longhorns while doing a radio interview late last week. “I have a slogan, there’s a t-shirt. It says, ‘Put the ‘T’ back into Texas.’ No. 1 is toughness. No. 2 is trust, togetherness, teamwork. Those things have to be done.”
Perhaps more interesting — and eyebrow raising — were Strong’s comments regarding the externals mentioned previously.
During the interview, Strong was asked what surprised him most about taking the Texas job. The coach’s answer was, well, intriguing.
“Everybody has advice for you. Everybody has an opinion,” Strong said. “More than anything I think that everybody wants to meet you, and then when they do have an opportunity they don’t know when to say, ‘OK, I have to go. It’s time for me to move on.'”
Get used to it, Coach Strong. In Texas, the state’s flagship football program is everybody’s business 24/7/365.
(Tip O’ the Cap: Dallas Morning News)