They said Charlie Strong’s intense discipline is too much for high school football stars.

They said Charlie Strong could connect with parents, but not prospects.

They said Charlie Strong’s core value system is too strict and antiquated.

Then Friday, December 19 happened. Within a 30-minute span Malik Jefferson and DeAndre McNeal changed the narrative on Charlie Strong’s first year as Head Football Coach at The University of Texas.

An inconsistent season on the field was remembered most for disciplines, suspensions, and injuries. With the team finishing an unremarkable 6-6, there wasn’t much to say other than that the Horns lost to the best teams they played and beat everyone else.

That record left a lot of fans and the media wondering how much of Strong’s traditional value system is too much. In the current environment of athlete entitlement would it be possible for social values that more closely resembled those of 50 years ago to gain traction? With rival schools having live DJ’s at practice, and accepting transfers accused of domestic abuse, could UT and Strong survive while adhering to principles of yesteryear?

No drugs. No stealing. No guns. No earrings. Treat women respectfully. Go to class.

Reading those rules makes them seem ridiculously elementary. But when you lose six games, make players live on campus, and dismiss players that could help you win games, those rules morph from social norms to “uncool”.

In college football, perception is the name of the game – uncool, or antiquated is dangerous territory. Spread offenses that average 40 points per game, and arriving at high school games in a helicopter attract attention. Playing smothering defense, and making good grades doesn’t sell.

When the top-ranked high school player, and another four-star athlete committed to play for Strong and UT, perception was turned on it’s rear. What was derided as “too strict” instantly became “what society needs more of”.

As evidence, several highly recruited players are rumored to be close to pledging to Strong. Texas was compiling a recruiting class that most projected to rank in the Top 15, but now, three days after Jefferson, and McNeal announced their intentions, some are now thinking the Longhorns are likely to finish closer to No. 5 than No. 15.

The commitments on Friday were more than just recruiting momentum with six weeks to go until signing day. Remember the uninspiring 6-6 record? Now the adjective to describe Strong’s first season is “potential”.

With the upcoming bowl game against the Arkansas Razorbacks, Texas has an opportunity to vault the program’s perception into the next stratosphere. If Texas plays well and beats the Hogs, the perception will be that they managed to beat an SEC team that improved throughout the season.

Charlie Strong and the Horns are poised to rewrite the book on their first season together. Momentum off the field is at a level most didn’t believe was possible. With additional practices, and a quality bowl game, on-field momentum could follow suit.

The good news on the 40 Acres is that the football roster gained a pair of talented players on Friday. The better news is that discipline is the new black.