Some interesting stuff from Charlie's opening press conference. Real football, ya'll.
"Little" Malcom Brown redid his body and Big Malcolm Brown is carrying much less body fat. Contract year for both. This wasn't covered in the press conference, but a little birdy told me that Dominic Espinosa also took his biggest leap in strength this offseason than in his previous three seasons combined.
Confirmed dismissals of Overstreet, Bergeron, Collins, Meander, Sanders. Meander and Sanders can never work their way back, irrespective of the legal process. Strong spoke on the matter repeatedly and with great ease - no tough guy posturing, more like a guy accepting that these players forced his hand.
The three that were dismissed were repeat offenders constantly, over and over and over, so at some point you have to do something. Like I said, you have enough players in this program who do it the right way, and we want to make sure the players that do it the right way want to win. And when guys continuously do things they shouldn't be doing, they are sending a message that they really don't care. We don't want that in our program.
There you go. Repeated defiant minor drug use is the football equivalent of "suicide by cop." Suicide by coach. You really don't care that much about football and instead of tapping out and disappointing the expectations built up around you by your family, community and own self-definition, you push it until someone has to throw you out. May as well tie a hand grenade to a boomerang.
It's Mike Tyson biting Holyfield twice to get DQ'd because he knows he's getting his ass whipped and he needs an escape - any escape - that gets him out of there without Mills Lane administering a 10 count.
Or, as Charlie puts it:
I had one of the players tell me that, he said coach I knew you were going to do something, I said, 'well if you knew that then why did you keep doing it?'
The coup de grace was delivered later in the press conference, circling back around on the same subject:
Just dealing with young people that is the way society is. There are going to be people who don't respect what your values are or what your rules are, and they are going to try you. It is not so much they try you, but they are going to bend them and see how far you are going to take them. It is like raising children, you put them out there and they are going to take it as far as you let them, but at some point you are going to say enough is enough. Like I said, it is not like we were policing, like we were out there looking, but when it is right in front of you, you have to do something. You have other players sitting there waiting for you to do something because they want something done … there is a lot of pride and tradition in the program, and if we want to be a part of it, we have to change at some point.
(Nods head) I think we're done here.
Confirmed Harrison, Daje and Turner. Again, very matter of fact and no posturing. Charlie is pretty cut and dried and there's no real sense of lingering resentment or ill will. He took football away from them because he knows it's important to them - it's the only thing that will get their attention. Dude is probably a very good Dad when he's not camped out in the film room.
They will miss a game for sure. I have not decided on the number of games. I look at it like this, we have 85 guys on scholarship, and of that 85, if 80 of them are doing it the right way, why can't the rest of them go do it the right way, and it should be done the right way within our program. Desmond, the thing about him is that he is very athletic, so I don't see it as a step back for him. I think he will get back. Once he will be able to get over his suspension he will be fine.
Are Players Getting It?
They knew that the day I took the job. When I laid out the core values in that first team meeting I let them know what the program is all about. The main thing about this program is it's about player development, and we are going to make sure that they have a chance to go develop and be successful in life. We are not in the business of kicking young men out, because I say this all of the time, the streets have a lot of people out there who are not doing anything with their life. So, when you have a young man with potential and has everything given to him, there is no reason for him to not be successful, and we want to make sure that happens within this program.
PLAYER DEVELOPMENT. Let the words wash over you.
Want a dose of the lack of self-awareness created by a lack of honest feedback from the previous staff?
When I first took the job Cedric Reed and Quandre [Diggs] came into the office and said we would like to talk to you because they were thinking about leaving early [for the NFL]. I said ok, let's do this. Let's go watch some film. I haven't really had a chance to watch you guys play last season, but let's go watch the tape and let's see. Let me give you my opinion. So, we watched the tape and I said, 'I don't think you guys are ready, but if that is the decision you want to make, I don't know you well enough to talk you out of it. But, I would love for you to come back one more year with the coaching staff I put together and play for this team.' Then, we were talking the one night we were at dinner [at Big 12 Media Days] we were joking about it. I said, wow, it's a good thing you boys didn't leave, think about where you would be right now.
Quandre Diggs thought he would be drafted after that junior year? Insane. Is NFL Europe still around? Scott, Jason and I just got done consuming every bit of film from the 2013 season in preparation for our season preview book and...let's just say...speechless.
Here's what Charlie did to help everyone get up to speed on reality:
What I did was, in the month of May … I put together a tape of any player that lined up on defense last year from 10 to 25 plays, if you didn't play that much it was 10. So I met with them individually and we watched the tape, and I just said to them, one of my concerns is just us playing hard, and I said to them if this is who you are, I need to know right now so this is no shock to me when we start camp. I just put the tape on and let the tape run, I said, 'Is that you or someone wearing your number?' That can't be you. I let the tape run. I did it with the defensive players first, and then I did it with the offensive players. What I wanted to do was I wanted those guys to see that it was not acceptable what we were looking at. They can do much better and play much harder, so it is one of my concerns how hard we play. We are going to play hard, but we have to play at a level where it is just four to six seconds of just relentless effort, that is the only thing I am looking for.
Replacing the Dismissed/Suspended
Strong will be looking to the freshmen for depth. Believes skill position freshmen can all contribute early, sticking to the old adage that it's easier to play early the more distant you are from the ball.
Strong repeatedly mentioned the need for players who have been in the program for several years and done little and coasted by to step up and come on.
Mentioned OL - Perk-Flowers-Espinosa-Doyle-Estelle. None of that is written in stone. If you know anything about Joe Wickline, writing his OL depth charts in anything but faint pencil is inadvisable. Just read our preview if you want to understand more.
Blueitt vs. Shiro Davis at DE. Public money is on Davis. Smart money may be on Blueitt. Both will play a lot, so the question may be moot, anyway.
Keeping David Ash healthy
I told him the only thing I need him to do is manage the offense. I don't need you to be a great player, just play within yourself. I put his tape together, and some of the things I have on his tape, he will get outside the pocket and take off with the ball and try to run over a defensive back or linebacker. He would hit them front up, I would say you're a quarterback, get down, just slide underneath the guy, I need you to play the next play. I don't need to see how tough you are, if you can outrun him, outrun him, but run out of bounds, or slide or something, just don't take the hit. Man, he took like three or four hits and I just stopped it and asked what he was trying to prove and he didn't have an answer for me.
Brilliant. That's exactly the right appeal for a guy like Ash.
Overall, a very impressive press conference for its candor and the proper sense of proportion and focus. The more the discussion has to do with actual football and leadership, the more comfortable Strong is. The lack of bluster around the player suspensions and dismissals was particularly impressive. Strong is here to change the culture and instill some values that he believes in, not be a pollyanna or act self-righteous. This isn't coach suicide by inflexibility. I just think things had gotten that complacent here. I can't prove it empirically, but I think Brown's program was on the verge of blowing up again.
I think this will be a tough year in some stretches, but overall I have a great sense of excitement about the possibilities for renewal. Can't wait.
If you want to understand what that renewal will look like, please read our best-selling season preview.