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Charlie Strong or Art Briles: Who Is the Better Fit for the Texas Longhorns?

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Charlie Strong or Art Briles: Who Is the Better Fit for the Texas Longhorns?
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Aside from Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher, Gus Malzahn and the rest of their like, the Texas Longhorns could be looking at offering head coaching contracts to either Art Briles of Baylor or Charlie Strong of Louisville.

According to Kirk Bohls and Brian Davis of The Austin American-Statesman, Briles would accept the Texas head coaching job:

The Baylor source said that Briles has no plans to remain in Arizona and is scheduled to return to Waco on Wednesday with the rest of the Baylor team. Two sources, including one close to Briles, has told the Statesman that Briles would accept the Texas job if offered.

Briles never denied interest in Texas when questioned recently in his answers that were tweeted by Craig Smoak of ESPN Central Texas which can be found via Storify. As for Strong, his interview with Texas athletic director Steve Patterson went "very well", per Bohls, who also tweeted that Strong could be prepping to accept the job.

Perhaps Strong has a good feeling about taking over the program in Austin, or he could be wary of the spotlight. What does he bring to the table if he's offered—and accepts—the Texas head coaching job?

 

Charlie Strong

Strong has had coaching experience on both the offensive and defensive sides of the football. Since first working as a graduate assistant at the University of Florida in 1983, Strong has been a wide receivers coach, outside linebackers coach, defensive ends coach, defensive tackles coach, a defensive coordinator and now a head coach.

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Strong won two national championships as the defensive coordinator at Florida.

In 2013, Louisville's defense ranked third in the nation in points allowed at 12.2 per game. In his tenure at Louisville, Strong went 37-15 with a 3-1 bowl record, including a BCS Sugar Bowl victory over Florida in 2013. He also developed former Rivals.com 4-star dual-threat quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in becoming a projected first overall pick for the 2014 NFL draft, per B/R's Matt Miller.

The question surrounding Strong is whether or not he can recruit the state of Texas. He had no Texas players on his 2013 Louisville roster. Make no mistake about it, Strong is a good recruiter, especially in the state of Florida, when it comes to Rivals.com's 3- and 4-star recruits. Despite not landing any 5-star recruits while at Louisville, he's been able to coach lesser-rated prospects to success.

Obviously, 5-star recruits don't just waltz into Louisville. Let's look at one player, not named Bridgewater, who Strong has coached to become a success—Louisville senior defensive end Marcus Smith. 

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Smith, left, blossomed under Strong while at Louisville.

In 2010, Rivals.com gave Smith a 3-star ranking. His only other offer was from Florida, but that was when Strong was still the defensive coordinator with the Gators. Coming out of high school, Smith was a 6'3", 210-pound athlete. Through four years under Strong, Smith added over 40 pounds and led the nation with 14.5 sacks in 2013. Smith is now an early-round draft projection by NFLdraftscout.com.

The main takeaway from Strong is that he's a great coach and good recruiter. He's made a living by going into Miami and leaving with recruits that fit his program.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Could Strong recruit the next Charles, left, and McCoy, right, from deep in the heart of Texas?

That was also the case while he was at Florida, when he was able to get Rivals.com 5-star defensive players. He finds fast players who he can coach. In 2003, Strong helped the Gators get Rivals.com 5-star recruit Jarvis Moss from Denton, Texas. Who knows? Maybe Strong can go into Houston and find the next Vince Young.

All of that leads to his weakness. Can Strong go into the unknown areas of Texas and find talent? Where's the next Colt McCoy? Can he go into Port Arthur, Texas, and find the next Jamaal Charles? Is there an Earl Thomas from Orange, Texas, waiting to be found by Strong in 2014?

With so much abundant talent in Texas, what will Strong be able to come away with? Those are all good questions for the Texas athletic director and advisory committee to ponder when deciding if Strong's unknown Texas recruiting ability overrides his coaching ability to not be worth the gamble.

 

Art Briles

Briles is a Texas success story. He began his coaching career under the Friday night lights of Texas high school football. His first NCAA head coaching job came in 2003, when he took over at the University of Houston after coaching running backs at Texas Tech.

While at Houston, Briles went 34-28 and was winless in four bowl games. In 2008, he came to Baylor and turned the program around, eventually going 11-2 in 2013 and giving the Bears their first-ever BCS berth. In just six years, Briles has turned the Bears into an offensive juggernaut. In 2013, the Bears led the nation in total offense with 53.3 points per game.

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Kolb flourished under Briles at the University of Houston

Briles' strengths come from his ability to develop players. Specifically, Briles excels at developing quarterbacks. Briles took Rivals.com 3-star quarterback Kevin Kolb and made him into a star. In his third year as the senior starter for the Houston Cougars, Kolb threw for 30 touchdowns with only four interceptions and was taken in the second round of the 2007 NFL draft.

In 2008, Briles got Robert Griffin III to commit to Baylor. Griffin was considering going to Houston, but when Briles moved to Waco, Texas, Griffin enrolled at Baylor. Griffin started four years there and won the Heisman Trophy in 2011. Just like Kolb, Griffin developed in his three-plus years under center.

Briles made Nick Florence a star in 2012 when the quarterback threw for over 4,000 yards with 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Florence was once a Rivals.com 3-star quarterback. In 2013, Briles had former Rivals.com 3-star quarterback Bryce Petty throw for 32 touchdowns and four interceptions.

What does this have to do with Texas?

Darren Carroll/Getty Images
Could Gilbert have been the real deal at Texas under Briles, despite an injury in 2011.

The Longhorns get the talent, but struggle to develop their players. Could Briles have developed top-rated Garrett Gilbert into the greatest Texas quarterback ever? That's a good, but drastic, question.

The Longhorns have also had several top players transfer, including Rivals.com's third-best quarterback from 2010, Connor Wood, and heavily recruited quarterback Connor Brewer, from the class of 2011. Either player could have made an impact for the 'Horns in 2013 when quarterback David Ash went out with an injury.

Briles and Baylor are on the rise. Even though his defense's have been historically mediocre, the Bears ranked 21st in the nation in points allowed this season. However, giving up 52 points to Central Florida in the Tostito's Fiesta Bowl wasn't something to write home about.

Finally, what discipline would Briles install if at Texas? Baylor doesn't have much, Bears running back Glasco Martin alluded to in a tweet minutes after after he didn't touch the ball much in the Fiesta Bowl:

That's not something a football coach should want a player to tweet after a game. It questioned Briles' accountability and discipline. Texas should want a guy who players respect and fear, as any big-time program should want.

If Briles comes to Texas, he would have to hire a prolific defensive coordinator. Is Gene Chizik someone who's willing to come back to Austin? Maybe Briles would keep Greg Robinson on board. Surely, prominent defensive backs coach Duane Akina would keep his spot on coaching staff.

Hiring Briles is less of a gamble for Patterson, but will Briles leave Baylor after recently signing a contract extension through 2023, per college football insider Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports?

 

Recap

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Will Briles, center, sprawl Waco for Austin?

Strong will bring back the Texas defense. With the right offensive coordinator in place, the offense could prosper. They key is whether or not Strong can recruit in Texas.

Briles will bring back the Texas offense. With the right defensive coordinator in place, there's no telling how complete the Longhorns could be for many years to come. The question is what Briles will do on the defensive side of the ball.

 

What do you think? Briles or Strong? Feel free to leave a comment in the section below.

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