It has been a busy offseason for Texas football, but the time to get back onto the gridiron is quickly approaching. The Longhorns will kick off spring practice March 18 and will give the fans a sneak peek at what to expect in 2014.
"The biggest thing right now is we're going to be working on fundamentals," defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said. "It's not about pressure, it's about teaching our guys how to play the game. That's where it starts. Pressure comes from schemes. You have to learn how to play, how to get into stances, how to take on a block, those sort of things. So we're working strictly on the fundamentals this spring."
The Texas defense has experienced a revolving door of scheme and personnel changes and is on its third defensive coordinator since 2011. Even though the defense has new faces leading the charge, the open conversations and lack of egos in the staff meetings have been crucial pieces of the Longhorns puzzle.
"We're all just ball coaches bouncing ideas off each other," defensive line coach Chris Rumph said. "There are no egos. People are willing to listen to each other. We don't have all the answers. We're just some ball coaches trying to win some ball games.
"Nobody is worried about, 'This is my defense. This is your defense. This is my d-line. These are my linebackers.' It's all about we. We're all pulling in the same direction. We all want the same thing. We know that and at the end of the day there's going to be one decision made in the room and we're going to go with it. But before we get to that decision, everyone is going to have an opportunity to say something."
Rumph spent the last three years coaching one of the nation's toughest defensive lines at Alabama. The Crimson Tide gave up an average 240 yards per game and led the nation in passing, rushing, scoring, passing efficiency and total defense under Rumph's watch.
"He is a guy with a lot of experience being around championship teams," Strong has said of Rumph. "You are looking at the highest level and he has competed at the highest level. That is what you want to get into this program. We have been there. It is not hard for us to get back there since we have been there. It's all about work and hard work and that is what he brings to the table."
Strong is arguably one of the best defensive minds in college football and has surrounded himself with other defensive gurus similar to Rumph. The personnel mixture gives the staff the opportunity of creating a dominant defensive attack—one that could emulate the best characteristics of Louisville and Alabama.
"We're going to fit our scheme to the personnel," Bedford said. "We're going to play some 4-3 and some 3-4, we're going to do both. What fits those guys the best is what we're going to end up playing with.
"You look at Alabama and they played a lot of two-gap. They were big. At Louisville, we were more of a movement team because we were under sized. With his (Rumph's) expertise of two-gap, we're going to try a little bit of that this spring. We're going to start with the four-down and work on technique. He's a great teacher and I think you will see that when the season starts."
Alabama has been known for its potent defenses for many years. But what Strong and his staff did at Louisville, a school recognized more for basketball than football, was huge. Strong, Bedford and linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary helped turn Louisville into the nation's No. 1 ranked defense in 2013 and led the Cardinals to a 23-3 record over the last two years.
How? Toughness, which began with strength and conditioning coach Pat Moorer.
"We prided ourselves on being tougher than the teams we played against at Louisville," Jean-Mary said. "Pat (Moorer) spends more time with the guys than anyone else. He's an extension of what we want to do as a staff."
"We have the best strength coach in the country with Pat Moorer," Bedford said. "You're going to see these guy's bodies change. They're going to look totally different and their attitude is going to be different. So now it's easier for us to coach. No distractions, get the job done. If you do those type of things, like we did the last four years at Louisville, you saw what happened. We lost three games in two years."
Strong and his staff have said only positive remarks on Moorer and his strength program. He's a hard-nosed guy, who rarely smiles and, if Twitter shows an accurate description, has gained the respect of the Longhorns.
It sounds as if Moorer's program and ability to instill work ethic into his players sounds similar to a different strength and conditioning coach in the south: Alabama's Scott Cochran.
Cochran was profiled on Showtime's 60 Minute Sports, where he seemed pleased when his players vomited after a workout, according to AL.com. Although no reports of Moorer cheering on vomiting players have surfaced, it does not mean the Longhorns have not reached that point.
"There's a lot of throwing up," reported Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com. "It's all about building toughness and competitiveness. Guys are getting pushed in every way possible right now to know the culture is changing."
Regardless of the scheme or vomiting players, the Longhorns are in desperate need of a defensive makeover. The good news for Texas fans is Strong and his staff have the chance of creating a defensive recipe that could ensure the days of allowing 550 yards rushing are well in the past.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.
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