Texas Longhorns Football Insiderishness: Spring Edition

Ronald Martinez

Bubble chatter.

A few things I've learned despite the Strong information lockdown:

Before Spring football, more than a dozen players were pulled aside and told that they had to get their act together or hit the road.  The issues ranged from academics to attitude to lack of team commitment (i.e. partying excessively, lack of effort in conditioning drills).  The academic laggards were all presented with detailed plans and support to get where they need to be.  Some of those players are already gone, others are pending, others are on the road to reform.

All good grace and special privilege in the Strong regime are earned through academic performance and conditioning program/practice effort.  The players have their position coach, academic support staff, the S&C group and Strong all talking to each other constantly about those criteria.  There are no walls and failure in one area can lead to consequences in another.  The departmental silos of the past are being leveled, mainly because Strong takes a constant personal interest in the process.

Most of the players like the structure, attention and support they're getting.  Most understand that something had to change and the resentment one might expect at losing privileges has already been processed.  Others are struggling with the constant attention and the feeling that eyes are on them at all times.  There's no places to hide anymore.  All are struggling to some degree moving from a highly corporatized, clock-punching environment to a more personally exacting and intimate program.  Witness Strong throwing them out of practice the other day for being robotic.

I talked to someone who works in Athletics about the biggest difference of the current regime.  "Strong is always here. The coaches are everywhere and have their fingers in everything.  Brown was a ghost."

Strong and his staff have met meaningfully with the football academics support staff more in the last three months than the previous regime in the previous half decade.  He gets a weekly briefing and the position coaches are all tasked with keeping up with their guys.  The front line academic staff feel supported, the players know that missing tutoring or failing to deliver on commitments won't be tolerated, and several academic risks are on mandatory "two-a-day" tutoring sessions to get them up to speed.  The tutors have direct lines to the position coaches and Strong, effectively bypassing (ineffectual) middle management.

Announced drug tests are IQ tests.  We can debate whether marijuana should be more criminalized than alcohol but if you can't handle your business because of your habits, whatever they may be, you have to hit the road. Further, if you are told that you will be tested and then fail that test, you may indeed have a drug problem but it's equally likely you have an IQ or commitment problem. Strong doesn't have a high tolerance for this stuff or the many schools hiding behind "counseling and treatment" protocols requiring multiple offenses to be kicked off of the team.  He'll help a guy with real problems, but won't play the game with the talented drug users.  I think he saw how it all unraveled at Florida.

David Ash is on his third offense in four years.  Wickline and Watson are still trying to figure out how to best suit it to his talents. The early sense is that Swoopes may want to get in some TE reps.  I don't think Ash will flourish in a read-heavy progression-oriented offense after the snap.  He's at his best when he makes his keys before the snap and then plays ball.

Pray that Wickline is a miracle worker because the OL is rough right now.  Espinosa is a reliable starter at center, but Kent Perkins will be out for the rest of the Spring and the other projected starters are on the academic fault line, haven't been developed at all, or are totally inexperienced.

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