Can Charlie Strong do what other coaches before him have done – take the Texas Longhorns program to the next level? After 15 years of Mack Brown and a success that produced many All-Americans and a National Title in 2005, Brown wrote himself into the Austin record books as one of the greatest to ever room the sidelines of the university. Strong, who found success as the head man at Louisville before accepting the lead role on the Big 12 team’s campus, will bring his defensive game plan and solid coaching staff to Texas, a team that did not play up to standard in 2013.
Strong faces tough questions to begin the season – not only in the conference, but on the roster as well. Who starts at running back? Can David Ash perform behind center? Does the offensive line have enough talent to protect the backfield? Can the loss of Jackson Jeffcoat be replaced? And it that’s not all, they must answer questions about whether they can compete with Oklahoma and Baylor for the Big 12 title.
Here are 10 things you should know about this team for the 2014
A HIGH PRICE FOR WINNING
According to Rant Sports, “Texas was dead serious about trying to money-whip Saban. Depending on who you talk to — Bama big hitters or Texas big hitters — the Longhorns were prepared to give Saban somewhere between a $12 million and $15 million signing bonus and a salary package worth $100 million [plus performance bonuses],” writes SEC Network personality Paul Finebaum in his book titled, “My Conference Can Beat Your Conference.”
Saban denied all rumors involving the Longhorns. In fact, he stated that Texas was never a legitimate possibility. He never had it in his mind that he was going to leave Alabama. Of course, the $100 million never saw the light of day in Saban’s eyes. The man most likely never even knew that was a possibility. One can’t help but point out that if Saban did know about what the Longhorns were considering he might have second-guessed signing the $55 million contract with the Crimson Tide.
THE PROGRAM COSTS A LOT
In 2012, the football program was valued at $805 million, more than the calculated value of several NFL teams. In 2008, ESPN ranked Texas as the seventh most prestigious college football program since 1936. As of the end of the 2013 season, Texas' all-time record is 875–339–33 (.726), which ranks as the second most wins in NCAA Division I FBS history, behind only Michigan. Texas is also known for their post-season appearances, ranking second in number of bowl game appearances (52), fourth in bowl game victories (27). From 1936 to 2012, the Longhorn football teams have been in the AP or Coaches' rankings 66 out of 76 seasons (86.8% of the time), finishing these seasons ranked in the top twenty-five 48 times and the top ten 28 times. Texas claims four Division I-A national championships (1963, 1969, 1970 and 2005) and 32 conference championships.
BRINGING IN ALL-AMERICANS
A total of 129 (53 consensus & 22 unanimous) Texas players have been named to All-America football teams while two Longhorn players, Earl Campbell (1977) and Ricky Williams (1998), have won the Heisman Trophy, college football's highest individual honor. Seventeen Longhorns have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, while four are enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame.
Darrell K Royal was an American football player and coach. He served as the head coach at Mississippi State University (1954–1955), the University of Washington (1956), and the University of Texas at Austin (1957–1976), compiling a career college football record of 184–60–5. In his 20 seasons at Texas, Royal's teams won three national championships (1963, 1969, and 1970), 11 Southwest Conference titles, and amassed a record of 167–47–5. He won more games than any other coach in Texas Longhorns football history. Royal also coached the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League for one season in 1953. Royal never had a losing season as a head coach for his entire career. He played football at the University of Oklahoma from 1946 to 1949. Royal was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1983.
WHAT ATHLON HAD TO SAY
A good predictor of how the Longhorns will fare could be found in Athlon Sports preview. According their website, “Like other coaching changes at Michigan, Tennessee and Florida State, Charlie Strong takes over a powerful but dormant blue-blood program. The Longhorns boast the most powerful athletic department in college athletics but it hasn't translated into wins, as the program grew stale under Mack Brown. Strong brings a new staff with a renewed focus and energy on restoring the Texas brand name in the Lone Star State. The story at Texas is one that fans have heard before. This team appears to be extremely talented, yet very unmotivated. Hopefully the boys in the locker room will read this and be motivated to prove everyone wrong.
THE RED RIVER SHOOTOUT
It is still one of the best rivalries in college football. Texas and Oklahoma are always tough to beat and when they lock horns, anything is possible. The Red River Shootout, often confused with the Red River Rivalry, but otherwise known as the Texas-OU Game, or the OU-Texas Game, is an American college football rivalry game played annually by the Oklahoma Sooners football team of the University of Oklahoma and the Texas Longhorns football team of the University of Texas at Austin. The series is one of the rivalries in NCAA football. The name derives from the Red River that forms part of the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma that has in the past caused conflict between the two states, most notably the 1931 Red River Bridge War. There have been a total of 108 meetings between the two schools.
MEET CHARLIE STRONG
Strong is a graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, where he was a football player from 1980-1983. Strong held numerous assistant coaching jobs before becoming the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals in 2010. During his four year stint, he led the Cardinals to a 37–15 record, ending each season with a bowl game. On January 5, 2014, Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich announced that Strong would be leaving Louisville to become the next head coach at Texas. String started out as Graduate Assistant at Florida, where he would later coach the defense from 2002-2009. While defense is his calling, he helped develop Teddy Bridgewater into a solid college quarterback and top NFL prospect.
REPLACING AN OFFENSIVE LINE
If the Longhorns are going to go anywhere this year, they need to work on rebuilding an offensive line. Three All-Big 12 blockers depart this roster in the form of left guard Trey Hopkins, left tackle Donald Hawkins and right guard Mason Walters. Those three played a lot of snaps in burnt orange uniforms and replacing them won't be easy. However, there is plenty talent and experience left on the roster. Dominic Espinosa is the leader of the bunch and will anchor the unit at the pivot, while other names like Sedrick Flowers, Kennedy Estelle and Kent Perkins look to grow into bigger roles.
RUNNING TO DAYLIGHT
Texas has been known as a school that produces top flight running backs. Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams, Jamaal Charles. Now, there are a few good men out there who hope to continue in those footsteps. Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron may be seniors, but it appears Johnathan Gray, a junior, may be the best of all of them. The only problem is he is coming off a torn achilles and may not be ready to play this season. Brown can carry the load and carry it well, but needs a true second back to emerge to help him out, as Bergeron has a knack for the untimely turnover. Freshman Donald Catalon is a guy who may play this year even if Gray was healthy, and one can't discount Donta Foreman in a rotation that needs five or six players to confuse the defense.
THE GREATEST EVER
Tommy Nobis was one of the most dominant players in the college game when he played at Texas. There has been talk of Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams being the best to ever play in Austin, for my money, it was Nobis. Tommy Nobis is one of college football’s all-time greatest linebackers. In his tenure with the Texas Longhorns (1963–1965) he averaged nearly 20 tackles a game and, as the only sophomore starter, was an important participant on the Longhorns’ 1963 National College Football Championship team, which defeated #2 Navy led by Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach in the 1964 Cotton Bowl Classic. Nobis was a two time All-American and made the All-Southwest Conference team three times.