In Texas, you’re expect to win football games. Patience wears thin quickly in Austin if you don’t. Charlie Strong is finding that out the hard way.
Texas is coming off two straight subpar years of finishing below .500 overall and around .500 in Big 12 play. This is Strong’s third year at the helm in Austin and the Longhorn fan base is ready to see positive results.
“The expectations here are always high, which they should be and why would you want it any other way,” Strong said during Tuesday’s Big 12 Media Day. “There is no reason for us to go 6-7 and 5-7 and you want to see progress. Our goal is to win every game.”
One area that needed to improve was on offense, which is why Sterlin Gilbert was brought in from Tulsa as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. Gilbert helped the Golden Hurricanes become one of the highest ranked offenses in the country. Texas was 8th in the Big 12 last season in total offense and last in passing offense.
Who will take the snaps under center? Right now, it seems like Arlington Lamar alum Shane Buechele is the front-runner. The freshman saw first and second team reps during the spring game, throwing a nice TD pass in the corner of the endzone to wide receiver Armanti Foreman. It may still be a three-way position battle involving Tyrone Swopes, a fourth-year quarterback who took over as the starter early in the 2014 season and redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard from Denton Guyer.
But it might be the work ethic of Buechele, whose father Steve is the current bench coach and former third baseman with the Rangers, that may separate himself from the rest of the pack.
“I call him one of those guys, you know, you see guys they’re gym rats,” said Strong. “That’s what he is. He’s always around the facility. He’s a special young man probably because of the way he was raised. But when you have a guy like Shane working the way he works, it rubs off on the whole team. You love his overall attitude.”
Whoever wins the quarterback spot will have the luxury of a running attack led by sophomore Chris Warren. The Rockwall High alum set a single-game school rushing record by a freshman with 276 yards and also scored four touchdowns last season against Texas Tech. He’s expected to be the featured back this year.
On defense, the Longhorns have a stud in former Mesquite Poteet star Malik Jefferson. The sophomore linebacker was honorable mention Big 12 and Big 12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 after finishing second on the team in tackles with 61.
Many feel that Strong is on the hot-seat this season. At Texas, you are judged on winning games and national championships, not progress. However, Strong seems optimistic that this will be the year the Longhorns can begin their journey back to being a Big 12 and national powerhouse.
“Our team is coming together, a lot of energy and momentum and guys are beginning to believe in one another,” said Strong. “One of our themes right now is believe, and I tell them all the time, if you don’t believe in yourself, no one will believe in you. So it’s time to start believing in yourself and get this program heading back in the right direction.”
Texas begins its season September 4 against Notre Dame. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in Austin.
Written by C. James