Charlie Strong

Texas Longhorns blanked in NFL Draft for first time since before World War II


The 2014 NFL Draft may be viewed as a down year for the Big 12, with just 17 players from the conference being called by NFL franchises. Unfortunately for the Texas Longhorns, none of those 17 players from the Big 12 are coming out of Austin. This marked the first time since before the start of World War II that Texas was without a player drafted by the NFL (1937 to be precise). With just three players drafted in each of the drafts in 2013 and 2012, should fans of the Longhorns be concerned about the state of the program?

Not for long.

Charlie Strong has already been hard at work in setting the tone for the future of the Texas program. He has gone on record saying Texas will not be a national title contender in 2014. He has said Texas needs to be the top program in the state, and he genuinely means it. Better yet, Strong is just the right kind of coach to be taking over a program that has been ditched and forgotten about by Texas A&M, pushed aside by Baylor and is witnessing Texas Tech attempt to build some momentum in Lubbock. Strong knows what it takes to make a program find a new level of toughness, and that is just what Texas needs right now. Texas still has plenty going their way but you can see why Mack Brown‘s career had seen better days at this point. Six draft picks in three years is representative of the quality of play on the field during that span, and that is not going to be good enough for Strong.

Texas fans should take solace in seeing what Strong’s most recent program did in this year’s draft. Louisville sent four players through the NFL Draft, three of which came in the first round. That is a tremendous credit to Strong and the staff he put together in Louisville, as this was the results of his first recruiting class going through a full four-year cycle. That resulted in the Cardinals sending a potential franchise quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater with a late first round draft pick in addition to two defensive contributors (Calvin Pryor to the Jets and Marcus Smith to the Eagles).

Strong knows Texas needs to get tougher, and fortunately for the Longhorns this happens to be his speciality. This should be a temporary draft drought for Texas.

USC’s Max Tuerk already questionable for Notre Dame game

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 11:  Center Max Tuerk #75 of the USC Trojans prepares to snap the football during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona.  The Trojans defeatred the Wildcats 28-26.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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As if the questions about the head coach’s future aren’t enough, now USC could have a rather significant issue in the middle of its offensive line to deal with as well.

Early in the first quarter of what would turn out to be an embarrassing loss to Washington Thursday night, Max Tuerk sustained a sprained knee. Upon further examination, it was determined that the veteran center would be unable to return to the game.

Not only that, Tuerk, who was wearing a brace on his right knee following the loss, is already labeled as questionable for what it in every sense of the phrase a must-win game for Steve Sarkisian against Notre Dame eight days from now.

With Tuerk sidelined for the remainder of the game, he was replaced by Toa Lobendahn. It’s unclear which direction the Trojans would go if Tuerk is a no-go this weekend, although Khaliel Rodgers, who had been dealing with a personal issue, has been Tuerk’s backup.

Tuerk has started 38 games in his Trojan career — 18 at center, 14 at left guard, five at left tackle, one at right tackle. Lobendahn started all 13 games as a true freshman last season, the first eight at left guard and then five at right tackle.

Was Washington loss the beginning of the end of the Steve Sarkisian era at USC?

Steve Sarkisian

Steve Sarkisian’s win totals in his six previous seasons are both a positive and a negative.

On one hand, he resurrected a moribund Washington program that went 0-12 under Ty Willingham in 2008 and took them to four consecutive bowl games from 2010-2013. He won nine games his last year in Seattle, then led a talented-yet-thin USC team to a nine-win season and AP No. 20 finish in 2014.

Those are good accomplishments. But the flip side of the argument is Sarkisian has never won double-digit games in a season, something that’s a necessity to keep one’s job at USC. The Trojans’ 17-12 loss to Washington last night — at home, no less — means the road to 10 wins and a Pac-12 title will be awfully difficult.

And worse yet, there are plenty of arguments to be made Sarkisian doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and a little more time in Los Angeles to turn things around (#SarkAfterDark, his drunken rant at a booster event, certainly doesn’t help). The reaction from national media to last night’s loss looked like this:

Mandel, in his column, argued USC is right where it was two years ago with Lane Kiffin as its coach. And there’s this embarrassing thought, that looks more and more like a truth, for Pat Haden:

This one, however, was the most damning by far for many reasons, most notably that it came at the hands of Sarkisian’s old team. The sense among many Washington fans nearly two years ago was that the Huskies managed to upgrade coaches when the school lured Chris Petersen from Boise State upon Sarkisian’s departure to USC.

They were right.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken similarly wrote that USC needs to drop Sarkisian and bring in Chip Kelly from the Philadelphia Eagles.

This is the state of USC, and it may not get better. The Trojans start a brutal three-game stretch next Saturday at Notre Dame in primetime, then welcome Utah to Los Angeles the next week. A Halloween trip to Berkeley to face Jared Goff and Cal finishes it up. There’s a very real chance USC, for all its talent and all its hype, limps into November with a 4-4 or 3-5 record.

Sarkisian will have to engineer and sustain a major turnaround in these coming weeks, otherwise he’ll give Haden all the ammo he needs to unceremoniously jettison him after two years.