It's odd seeing Texas football without Mack Brown on the sidelines. Brown ran Texas football from 1998 to 2013, turning a proud program that had been floundering under John Mackovic around. During his tenure, Brown saw the Texas program turn into one of the most financially successful programs in the country, and many would say his program was one of the major catalysts for the change we've seen around the country. Unfortunately for Brown, the end of his tenure didn't match the early years, and he resigned after four straight mediocre seasons.
When Charlie Strong was named head coach in January, he walked into one of the most coveted and scrutinized positions in all of college football. He's quickly tried to change the "country club" atmosphere that apparently plagued the end of the Brown era, and that has come at a cost. He has dismissed seven players and suspended four more, and he is clearly imposing his stamp on the football program. That takes time.
When Strong does get his program in place, I have no doubts that Texas will once again be in the National Championship hunt. Strong has been successful everywhere he has coached. He has a defensive pedigree, having coordinated defenses at South Carolina and Florida from 1999-2009, and spent the past 5 years turning around a Louisville program that had been run into the ground.
Strong brought Vance Bedford with him from Louisville to run the defense. Bedford and Strong run a 3-3-5 scheme that should match up better against UCLA's spread than it did against BYU, who ran for 250 yards and 5 touchdowns against the Longhorns last week. Expect lots of pressure, lots of blitz packages, and hopefully some blown assignments.
On the offensive side of the ball, Strong brought in Joe Wickline from Oklahoma St. to co-coordinate with Shawn Watson, who Strong brought from Louisville. Apparently they both call plays at different times during games, so this is a truly a shared effort. Watson coordinated Louisville's offense, and seems to be more of the passing game coordinator, while Wickline's background is on the offensive line, and seems to carry more duties in the running game.
At this point in the season, there is not much data to judge special teams. Kicker Jr. Nick Rose is only 1/3 thus far on field goal attempts, but that is the only stat that really stands out. Return man Jr. Marcus Johnson is averaging a little over 20 yards per return, and Texas is allowing a little more than 20 yards per return on kickoffs. Regardless, you know Texas has athletes, and athletes can make a difference on ST.
That concludes part one of the Texas preview. Fire away any additional comments, and be sure to check back in tomorrow for Part 2 of the preview where we'll take a closer look at Texas' offense.