It didn’t take long for Texas head coach Charlie Strong to be asked about the number of wins the Longhorns have to capture so that he keeps his job.
Strong was the first coach to address reporters on the last day of Big 12 Media Days July 18.
“Expectations here are always high, which they should be,” he said. “There’s no reason for us to go 6-7 or 5-7. They want to see progress. Our goal is to win every game.”
Then he recalled the end of last season, after the 23-17 win against Baylor, and the scene in the locker room after the victory sunk in.
“Guys are just sitting there, and I called them up and looked at them and I said, ‘What’s wrong,'” Strong recalled. “And they said, ‘The season is over.’ And I said, ‘Yes, the season is over, but if we played like this,’ they should be continuing on.
“And I think that’s the taste that’s left in their mouths because they felt like we should be a team that continued on.”
That feeling has stayed with the Longhorns for the last eight months, he said, and his driven them in offseason workouts, practices and even their downtime.
Strong made it point to show games from last season throughout the football offices, he said, including the best wins and the heart-wrenching losses, specifically falling to Iowa State 24-0. The coach indicated that the players wanted to remove that game from television sets. But he wouldn’t allow it.
Strong said he feels pretty good coming into this season because of the last two recruiting classes, which he and his staff assembled. He quickly added that people shouldn’t overlook some of the older players, because they’ve done a good job.
He praised safety Dylan Haines, tight end Caleb Bluiett, defensive tackle Paul Boyette and offensive linemen Kent Perkins.
“They’ve done a great job now of establishing the program and getting it back to where it should be,” the coach said. “You want to see progress, and it has to happen.”
He said the leadership from the upperclassmen has been better than it has been, noting that harping on something long enough sends a message that’s eventually received.
He noted Texas signed two 300-pound linemen in 2015 and nine this year, adding winning up front means success for the entire team.
True freshman quarterback Shane Buchele has been rock steady, Strong said, recalling a July 16 visit to the campus before he headed to San Antonio to speak at the Texas High School Coaches Association gathering.
He saw Buechele playing pool with Collin Johnson at the football offices. He said Buechele has the ability to connect with his teammates and build solid relationships.
“You love his overall attitude,” he said. “When you have a guy like Shane working the way he works, it rubs off on the whole team. Now everybody is seeing the way it works, and they all did it.”
One of his teammates, Bluiett, told Strong “there’s nothing (Buchele) can’t do.”
“It’s (Buechele’s) attitude with the whole team, it’s seepin’, seepin’, seepin’,” Strong said. “When you look at him on the field, he just puts the ball in the right place, and he understands the offense. But he’s going to study the game, and he does a really good job of setting the game, and he can always get better. You can always improve. The thing he needs to do now, and he working on it, is getting bigger and stronger because he understands he’s going to take some hits.”
The coach was unsure when the four Baylor signees would play simply because they haven’t practiced yet, he said. Still, he added, they have been great additions to the program because of their personalities and character.
As for other 2016 signees playing, Strong said it’s about getting them prepared. If that happens, age won’t be a factor, he said.
“Sometimes you get concerned about the bigger guys, because now if I’m a freshman defensive lineman or offensive lineman and I’m going against a veteran who has been four or five years into someone’s program, they’re bigger and stronger,” he said. “But skill guys, it’s athlete on athlete and with skill guys, you can see it happen. If a guy can run and jump, he’s going to use his athletic ability to overpower someone.”
Offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert’s scheme is very similar to what the majority of Texas high schools run, so there’s a lot of familiarity for the players, Strong said.
“It’s about you taking advantage of what the defense gives you and then you’re able to get the right guy behind the center,” he said, “and let him make the throws for you and get you in the right place.”
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