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Spring has sprung! - Charlie Strong talks spring practice (article)


Matt Cotcher
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submitted Today, 09:16 PM in Texas Longhorns Football By Matt Cotcher   social_twitter.png @mlcotcher
 

Charlie Strong met with the media on Monday to preview Spring practice on the 40 Acres. This will be Strong’s second set of Spring practices, and although he will again remove the Longhorn logo from helmets, the sense conveyed on Monday was that everything will be improved in year two.

Before talking about personnel and goals for practices, Strong spent a few minutes dissecting the disappointment of a 6-win season in his first year as Head Coach. “Last year we didn’t play together as a team,” said Strong.

Strong was openly critical of the effort and work that players put forth in 2014, saying, “Last season, I talked about it, there’s just not enough pride.”

With agitation in his voice, Strong went as far as saying that he was disappointed the team didn’t respond to adversity better, “What burns…you feel like we didn’t compete at the level we should have been.”

He followed up those remarks by mentioning that the bowl loss to Arkansas stays fresh in his mind because he’s constantly asked what’s wrong with the program by fans and supporters. Strong said he uses the painful memory to motivate himself, his coaches and the players.

According to Strong, “the reason why we are where we are right now is that we haven’t worked hard enough – we haven’t done what we needed to go do.” After detailing the disappointment, Strong shared that he had a “No Excuses” shirt made to serve as a team reminder of their personal responsibility for the program’s success.

But enough about 6-7 and 2014; as Strong noted, “Gotta hit the reset button.”

For starters, Strong reiterated that there will be, “Competition at every position.” When asked if he would like to know his starters will be by the conclusion of Spring practices, Strong left the door open for incoming recruits, but also admitted that some positions will be settled, “By the end [of Spring practice] you would have a good feel – you get the practices in and if a guy can separate himself [he’ll be a starter].”

In terms of specific personnel, there was a repetetive focus on the value of game experience and players who learned on-the-go last season. Strong’s examples on offense included: Marcus Hutchins, Taylor Doyle, Tyrone Swoopes, and Jonathan Gray – defensive players mentioned were: Hassan Ridgeway, Tank Johnson, Shiro Davis, Naashon Hughes, Peter Jinkens, and Duke Thomas.

The position on most fans’ minds was a telling example of Strong’s interest in the roster’s veteran players. Anytime he was asked about Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard, which was often, Strong managed to steer his answer toward Swoopes.

One unintentional example came when Strong talked about Spring conditioning and his choice to move Swoopes from the ‘big skill’ to the ‘skill’ group in the interest of having him compete in drills with quick and agile athletes. The move itself isn’t noteworthy, but Strong’s follow-up comment that Heard also made the switch was telling.

The unspoken implication was that Strong only made an effort to move Swoopes, while Heard moved on his own volition.

When discussing both the wide receiver and defensive back groups, Strong again favored veteran players, mentioning Marcus Johnson and Sheroid Evans. Instead of commenting about a rising star like Armanti Foreman, Strong lumped the “young talent” together at both defensive back and wideout.

A bright spot for fans was Strong’s positive comments about Daje Johnson, saying the electric playmaker has come “a million miles”. While praising his attitude, Strong mentioned that Johnson promised him he will not be in the doghouse any more.

Another experienced player that Strong seemed excited to see in pads is Dalton Santos. Strong praised Santos’ work in conditioning drills and talked about how important his role will be because, “That middle linebacker is the glue of the defense.”

Obviously not all starting positions can be filled with experienced players, and Strong admitted as much when he discussed the team’s need to build depth along both sides of the line of scrimmage. Three of the early enrollees from the 2015 recruiting class will be counted on to immediately compete for playing time – Tristan Nickelson and Brandon Hodges at offensive tackle; and Quincy Vasser at defensive end.

While talking about the need to add bodies on both lines, Strong said, “There was a need for us. I’m not big on junior college [players], but when we have an immediate need and there’s guys that can come in, and you feel like they can help you at that position; then you have to go out and make sure you can get them within the program.”

In the 40 minute session the only question that Strong completely dodged was whether or not anyone on the team is too injured to compete in Spring practice. Other than Darius James battling a knee injury, which was detailed as part of a different answer, no other injury information was provided.

Tuesday is the Longhorns’ NFL Pro Timing Day, then practices officially start on Wednesday. Strong will meet with the media following the first practice on Wednesday. 

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I like Strong and think he will end up being looked upon in a better light as he gets more of "his" players here. I still think this season will be a bit rough, but I think it will be improved in a few areas. Hell it is hard NOT to improve in some of the areas.

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CS talked about Daje last night on LHN.  I liked what I heard.  Daje has worked very hard, kept his nose clean, impressed the coaches and wants to play / contribute.  He is hungry!

 

To me he is a Ramonce Taylor type player.  Get him in the game... not just some special situations.  Line him up at flanker, slot, WR or RB.  Of course punts and maybe KO returns.  He is a huge threat even if he does not get the ball.

 

Remember Daje's punt return vs. ou in 2013?  It blew open the game for the Horns, while energizing the team and UT crowd in Dallas that day.

 

Get him in the mix, find ways to get him the ball - speed burns!!!

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CS talked about Daje last night on LHN.  I liked what I heard.  Daje has worked very hard, kept his nose clean, impressed the coaches and wants to play / contribute.  He is hungry!

 

To me he is a Ramonce Taylor type player.  Get him in the game... not just some special situations.  Line him up at flanker, slot, WR or RB.  Of course punts and maybe KO returns.  He is a huge threat even if he does not get the ball.

 

Remember Daje's punt return vs. ou in 2013?  It blew open the game for the Horns, while energizing the team and UT crowd in Dallas that day.

 

Get him in the mix, find ways to get him the ball - speed burns!!!

 

If Johnson gets serious/consistent about his route running & hands, he has the ability to really impact the offense.

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If Johnson gets serious/consistent about his route running & hands, he has the ability to really impact the offense.

 

Absolutely. 

 

Charlie discussed Marcus Johnson during his LHN interview.  He told him he needed him to not just stay in the pack or WR bunch but to really step up his game and play at a higher level.  CS said he used John Harris as an example of what he was talking about.

 

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Two things:

 

1.  I've said this before, but Strongs presser underlined it.  The QB job is Swoopes to lose.  The only way he loses it is if Heard practices better and takes it away from him.  That will be a tall order for Heard because Tyrone is not just going to roll over and hand it to him..

 

2.  Daje' HAS to play at RB.  He is a game breaker and Gray is not.  Really, it is no more complicated than that.

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I really like the quality and intensity of this QB competition because, as we know Charlie Strong loves the word competition, but he's right because at the Quarterback position its something we haven't seriously had in a long time. Hopefully it will result in dramatic improvement over last years QB play, I don't see how it could not ya know?

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