He's a real football coach. In attitude, demeanor, and outlook. His former players love him - at least the ones who made the affirmative choice that they want to work hard and be coached. A few of our current players may be in for a rude awakening. Because the program culture is about to shift dramatically. And a Texas fanbase that likes to wring its hands over public perception better find a thicker skin.
This is what I wrote a few days ago:
Strong is a good defensive football coach and an utterly unpolished country boy. Flawlessly conducted press conferences would be a thing of the past. I don't particularly mind as I don't have the emotional need for my head football coach to serve as my confidante, small town mayor, and British House of Commons wit, but it would be a fascinating redefinition of program culture. I think he's a good man and coach whose rough edges may not cut light well under a brighter spotlight. Can we deal with that? Can he?
Strong is perfectly cordial with the media, but he does view them with some suspicion and doesn't seem to enjoy the interactions much. He'd rather be watching film, recruiting, or hanging out with his players and family than glad-handing. Our monied types should probably focus on just enjoying the games instead of counting the head coach as their personal pen pal show piece. If you have a problem with that, you're probably someone who practices imaginary golf putts in hallways and can't wait to tell people who your Dad is.
No matter how much the national media erroneously tries to tell us that the personality of Mack Brown defines Texas, remember who our stadium is named after. Texas was built by hard men.
The bigger issue that the semi-introverted Strong will have to contend with is the shock of moving from the small to big time stage and how to deal with his loyalty to the men who were good enough at Louisville, but don't necessarily represent the best available options at a place with the resources of Texas. For a guy that values allegiance, it's going to be an early test.
If we didn't set those expectations early in the interview process, shame on us.
Strong is known for being loyal to staff and friends (but he will make a hard call - he relieved his OC of play-calling duties in mid-season 2011).
How will he handle these issues?
Louisville DL coach Clint Hurtt has a two year show/cause from the NCAA for his role in the Neville Shapiro cheatfest at Miami. Hurtt lied to NCAA investigators, directly provided illegal benefits to recruits and Miami players, and was recently described to me by a veteran of the Florida recruiting wars as "the U's former bagman." Hurtt behaved at Louisville and was likely just conforming to the (let's face it, awesomely hilarious) culture of the U, but if we bring on Hurtt, he's banned from recruiting through spring 2014 and we're knowingly bringing on a staff member who did some very NCAA naughty things. He's no John Blake, but that would be a Longhorn first. WE WILL LOSE MORAL AUTHORITY AND CLASSINESS FOREVER.
My suggestion is that we offer Ed Orgeron a lot of money to coach our DL and serve as our recruiting coordinator. Hand Ed a blank check. Don't worry, he won't know how many 0s makes 10,000,000. We might end up paying him 100K a year. That's the upside of bargaining with Cajuns.
Louisville OC Shawn Watson was run out of Nebraska in 2010 and was CU's offensive coordinator during the Barnett era. He's a pro-style West Coast guy and has a better reputation as a QB coach than as an offensive mind or play caller. He has certainly done well with Bridgewater, but it's hard to know what degree he's responsible for that. I liked what he did at Colorado in their running game and using the TE in play action on their very best teams (think Daniel Graham, Chris Brown, Andre Gurode, Bobby Purify era), but we're certainly not talking about an elite, or possibly even good, Offensive Coordinator.
What Strong does here will be telling. If Watson is still his guy, Strong begins his tenure tied to his perceptual Greg Davis. Not a good way to get early buy-in.
The last great frontier of athletic differentiation is S&C and nutrition. Louisville's S&C coach is Pat Moorer. I don't pretend to know much about him but a quick perusal of his resume and record reveals a typical S&C coach background. Former LB at Florida, jacked, gets his guys to work out hard doing fairly conventional stuff. Feels very Bennie Wylie-ish, but I'm open to learning otherwise.
X's & O's
Strong has solid defensive schemes and was one of the early innovators in the 3-3-5 nickel at South Carolina, but he's mostly about keeping things simple, teaching fundamentals, getting everyone on the same page, and getting great effort. While everyone is always seeking the perfect schematic scrawlings on a napkin to contend with spread offenses, the reality is that hitting hard, tackling reliably, being sound, providing autonomy within a team construct, and actually matching recruiting requirements to the task rather than just randomly taking guys, is a lot more important than the magical schematic bullet.
Strong gets that. It will be very refreshing to watch. It'll take a little time though, because our team is more or less an aggregation of athletes on islands trying to win individual match-ups. For that reason, I'd place the likelihood of him retaining Duane Akina at 0.3% unless he defers to reputation and throwing a former staff retention bone.
Offensively, he chose to make Louisville a fairly traditional pro-style attack with a moderate tilt to the passing game. Mostly because Bridgewater is a stud. They've never really recruited dual threat QBs (Bridgewater is not a dual threat, despite the contentions of lazy college analysts), which I find odd given that Strong the DC understands how they can challenge game planning and he saw Tim Tebow up close for several years. They run a lot of stuff that you'd find in the 1990s NFL. They don't use pace much and not many high school or college coaches are beating down the doors at Louisville to learn how they do things on offense.
No clue. Early analysis, not promising.
Strong has been good here. People posting Louisville class rankings in a vacuum as if the American Athletic Conference or the state of Kentucky represent recruiting hotbeds don't understand how football works or have brains that don't light up a MRI. Strong was a good recruiter at South Carolina and Florida and has done well at Louisville trying to pull athletes out of Florida and SEC/ACC country where Louisville isn't even in the top dozen of preferred schools. Resources, support, and brand identification are all lacking - think Indiana football without the help of conference affiliation.
Louisville is an urban commuter basketball school in the geographical midwest and cultural south. If that sounds like your formula for Top 20 recruiting classes, good on you.
Similarly, Strong recruits well because of dogged persistence and his ability to come across as a trusted father figure. It's not because he can sell ice to Eskimos. More important than being good in the living room is that you're in the right living room to begin with. I think Strong finds the right living rooms more often than not.
I don't pretend to have specific insight into Louisville's developmental and talent identification processes, but his coaching record offers a nice suggestive correlation.
I've long contended that if you win at Texas, we'll fit ourselves and the culture very quickly to the coach rather than the coach to us. Charlie, let's win enough so that I can be proven right!
How y'all feeling?