AUSTIN — Change is upon the football program at the University of Texas, most of all a change of attitude. As spring camp heated up, the new coach, Charlie Strong delivered sobering news to the Longhorn nation by saying, “We will not be in the national championship game.”
This was a reality check to a fan base that has become expectant of national titles every other season. Strong is a realist who knows plenty about what it takes to contend for a championship. He has worked under Steve Spurrier, Lou Holtz and Urban Meyer. Their coaching methods are now his.
This is what we have seen so far from the Strong approach:
- Players must sit in the front two rows of every class;
- Everyone must live on campus;
- Each player has to earn his horns before he can throw up the iconic hook ’em horns in celebration.
- No more coddling, no more excuses.
Far different from former head coach Mack Brown, who pampered his players, telling them how great they were and letting complacency run through the ranks of his program.
It was a program that relied too much on Brown’s recruiting and too little on hard work and good coaching.
The transition is not easy. Strong was so unhappy with the effort at one spring practice session that he stopped in the middle of it and told the players they’d have to start over.
“I sent them back to the gate and told them to come back in with a different attitude.”
Strong has said he expects 5 percent of the players won’t “buy in” to his program, but he’s determined to keep that factor from undermining the commitment of the 95 percent.
It can seem too easy to succeed at Texas. It’s the wealthiest football program in the country, by far, in one of the richest states in football talent. But Strong is telling his players: In order to break the hold of entitlement, you must humble yourself and realize that hard work is ahead.
This time last year UT was drawing attention as a team with national-championship talent, if questionable coaching. This year the talent is not so solid, especially at quarterback, with senior David Ash injured for the spring game and sophomore Tyrone Swoopes not appearing ready for the first string.
Strong’s first recruiting class was impaired by Brown’s reluctance to depart and his encouraging players to delay committing to Texas. Even so, Texas’ upcoming freshman class is rated in the top 20 by most analysts.
Strong has taken the sure first steps to rebuilding the disappointing mess that has become Texas Football. He’s right in saying he can’t do this in one year.
Click here for USA Today’s Laken Litman caution for Texas fans to be patient