3 Things That Must Change Before 'Horns Are a National Title Team

Taylor Gaspar@Taylor_GasparFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2014

3 Things That Must Change Before 'Horns Are a National Title Team

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    The pressure is on Texas head coach Charlie Strong and his new staff to return Longhorn football back to prominence.

    The Texas Longhorns are no longer recognized as a powerhouse football program, and Charlie Strong has had enough of the mediocrity. 

    "I told the team what I expected of them," Strong said. "I told them how unhappy I am with where the program is right now. It falls upon all of us and it's going to be on all of us to go get it right."

    If you have watched Texas football over the last four seasons, you don't see the hard-nosed, mean team that Longhorn fans were used to seeing between 2004-2009. The term "soft" has often been used when discussing the Longhorns, and Strong is eager to change it.

    "If something is soft, you can get it hard," Strong said. "You just have to build toughness. If you build toughness, you can get things back to the right way."

    But getting things back to the right way will not be easy and could take some time.

    The list of necessary changes for Texas could extend for miles, but the primary focus should be on three.

    Here's a look at three big changes that must be made in order for the Longhorns to return to the top of the college football world.


Bring Toughness Back to the 40 Acres

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    The Longhorns 30-21 record over the last four seasons did not happen accidentally, and the lackadaisical play was not something that appeared out of thin air. 

    The Longhorns' struggles have stemmed from a culture of complacency. But that culture is about to change.

    "The mentality is always going to be a physical and mental toughness," Strong said. "You have to build your program on toughness, and that's what all of the successful programs do. It's all about toughness. If you're a disciplined program, you prepare your team the right way and they have the right focus, there won't be an issue."

    Texas has lacked a tough mentality. But strength and conditioning coach Pat Moorer will likely be the bad cop who will instill the toughness back in the locker room.

    "When you lose a football game, you look at what happened," Strong said. "Were we in physical shape? Were we tough enough? Your program has to be built on toughness and it starts in the weight room. Through winter conditioning, through work through the summer, you have to make sure that's where the toughness is being built."

    Moorer, who Strong has described as intimidating, is working with the team currently to rebuild the toughness at Texas, according to Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com.

    "There's a lot of throwing up," Brown wrote. "It's all about building toughness and competitiveness. Guys are getting pushed in every way possible right now to know the culture is changing."

    Changing the culture to a tough mentality will begin with Moorer, but Strong and his assistants will also need to recruit the right players who will fit in to the new culture.





Better Player Evaluation

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    The Longhorns managed to put together top five recruiting classes between 2009 and 2012, according to Rivals.com. But the product on the field has not always displayed top five talent.

    Pete Thamel of SI.com said it best in his October 8, 2013 column.

    An NFL scout who asked to remain anonymous, concurred: 'In the state of Texas, it's a crime that they don't do better in terms of talent. They don't look very talented this year. Where's the Derrick Johnson? They have a guy here and one there. They used to have the whole secondary and linebackers full of guys. They don't have any linebackers or offensive lineman.'

    There really is no reason for the Longhorns to be in this four-year slump. The University of Texas is the flagship university in the state of Texas and has way too many resources to not be hand picking the state's top talent. 

    After defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was fired in September, former Longhorn and current New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro sounded off on the issues at Texas.

    "I blame maybe some of the recruiting and some of the type of players they're bringing in," Vaccaro told Larry Holder of NOLA.com. "I blame the mental, the attitude about it."

    Mack Brown was once known as a recruiting genius, but told Greg Couch of Fox Sports that he maybe relied too heavily on watching film rather than seeing kids in person.

    "I do think in some cases we might have looked at some videos, because everybody was going faster, and we looked at highlight films and maybe took some guys before we really knew them well enough to have taken them," Brown said. "We might have taken kids a little too quickly."

    The days of watching a kid's highlight film needs to come to an end.

    Strong and his staff will have to hit the recruiting trails, and hit it hard, to turn around the S.S. Texas Longhorns.

Win at All Cost

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    When Strong was introduced as the Longhorns head coach, he had one goal in mind: bring championships back to Austin.

    "We need to continue to build on the tradition and continue to lay the rock, but it's all about championships in the end," Strong said.

    Texas fans are used to the head football coach saying things like: "We're about to be really good," or "We're about to make another run," or an all-time favorite "I do think we have a chance to win all of the games."

    But saying these things and doing them are entirely different.

    Mack Brown did a tremendous job in his 16 years as the Longhorns head coach, but he only managed to win two Big 12 Conference titles, which is the same number of titles Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has won in Manhattan.

    The difference between Brown and Snyder is Brown won his two conference championships with an average No. 10 recruiting class each season, while Snyder won his two titles with an average No. 55 recruiting class in his nine seasons at Kansas State, according to Rivals.com.

    Strong needs to continue to preach his win-at-all-cost mentality to the team, but ultimately display that mentality on the field in order to get Texas back to the top of the college football world.


    Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

    Taylor Gaspar is B/R's lead writer covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow her on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar