The Charlie Strong era officially began Tuesday when the Texas Longhorns kicked off the first spring practice.
There is a lot of buzz surrounding the Longhorns program, so much so that ESPN had live SportsCenter check-ins with sideline reporter Kaylee Hartung leading up to Tuesday's afternoon practice.
Strong acknowledged that the Longhorns have much to accomplish this spring.
There is always going to be an attitude because they have something to prove. They want to prove to themselves that they could be a good football team. There's still work to be done. We are nowhere near where we should be and we have a long ways to go.
Texas fans are salivating at the potential changes Strong and his new staff will make in Austin, but those fans will have to wait until the April 19 spring game to witness any changes. Strong has decided to shut down practice because he wants to use the spring as a way for the coaches and players to get to know one another.
I'm still trying to figure out the players and understand what their work ethic is, and to give them a chance to understand what the coaches are really wanting. I just want to make sure in our first year that guys understand who we are and understand our tempo. There are no distractions or worries about who's there and who's going to make a comment.
With the first week of practice underway, here's a look at some of the key changes Strong has installed for the Longhorns and a preview of storylines to watch.
One of the biggest stories for the spring will be focused on the quarterbacks. David Ash and Tyrone Swoopes are the only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. But tight end Miles Onyegbule, who played quarterback in high school, has been summoned to take reps as a backup quarterback this spring.
Here's what the quarterback position looks like in Week 1:
- Ash is returning from a head injury that sidelined him for the majority of the 2013 season. It is unknown if he will be the same quarterback as he was prior to injury. The positive news for Ash is he has returned to the field and has not had any recurring concussion symptoms.
- Swoopes is coming off of his true freshman season, which mainly consisted of garbage time play. Does anyone know what type of quarterback Swoopes is after his 2013 campaign? Doubtful, but he will have the spring to show the coaches what he can do before incoming freshman Jerrod Heard arrives in the summer.
- Onyegbule's move to quarterback was a bit of a curveball, but Strong wanted more depth at the position for the spring. According to Strong, Onyegbule has stepped up to the challenge.
Miles thinks he's a quarterback. Miles has played everything. The thing about him is he's one of those young men who we asked to move to a position and he moved. We're just trying to get some bodies at that position.
In other words, the quarterback position has little depth and is once again up for grabs. "We feel like if we can find the right guy, we could have a chance," Strong said.
But the question remains: Is the right guy on campus? Stay tuned.
Young Offensive Line Lacks Experience
Texas entered 2013 with one of the most experienced offensive lines in the country. This year is much different. Center Dominic Espinosa is the veteran, but there is a large gap in experience between him and the remaining offensive linemen.
"It isn't wide open," Strong said of the offensive line depth chart. "We still have Kennedy (Estelle) and (Desmond) Harrison sitting there, but now we have to get the entire group together and have a solid core group of five guys."
Texas has not recently been recognized for having a tough offensive line. In fact, the last Longhorn offensive linemen to be drafted was Tony Hills, a fourth-round pick in 2008. Strong has a large group of linemen to work with, but determining the core five will be a challenge that will continue throughout the spring.
Other Position Battles to Watch
The Longhorns will need to replace 10 starters from the 2013 roster. There are battles at many positions, but three of the most significant are as follows:
The Longhorns need to replace Lou Groza Award finalist and consensus All-American Anthony Fera. That task will not be easy for special teams coordinator Chris Vaughn. Texas has an experienced placekicker in Nick Jordan, who did not appear in a single game in 2013, and Nick Rose has handled kickoffs for the last two seasons. Mitchell Becker and Will Russ are the only punters on the Longhorns' roster, and both have not seen any playing time at Texas. Determining who will take over Fera's duties may not be settled until the start of the season.
Texas will look to replace veteran safety Adrian Phillips, who played in 50 games and started 28 during his time in Austin. Mykkele Thompson and Josh Turner have starting experience but have not played to their potential. The rest of the safeties lack experience and will compete for snaps.
Defensive line coach Chris Rumph received an immediate present when Cedric Reed decided to return for his senior season. But the person who will play opposite of Reed is undetermined. The top contenders are Shiro Davis, Bryce Cottrell and Caleb Bluiett. All three have received playing time, but Davis is the most experienced. The defensive end battle will be an interesting one to follow.
Strong Changes, Strong Results
|Changes under Charlie Strong|
|1. Walk to practice||Players were previously taken to practice in chartered buses. Strong makes the team walk to the practice facility.|
|2. Closed practices||Boosters and parents were previously allowed to attend practices. Strong has shut down practice from boosters and parents.|
|3. Discipline||Two players, FB Chet Moss and DB Leroy Scott were kicked off the team for a violation of team rules.|
|4. Toughness||Strong demands toughness from his players, something that was not always the case under the Longhorns former head coach.|
Strong has stated that his mission for the Longhorns is to put the 'T' back into Texas. The 'T' begins with toughness, which starts in the weight room with strength and conditioning coach Pat Moorer.
According to Espinosa, Moorer has instilled an increased commitment.
It's tough. I have gone through a lot of workouts with (former strength coaches) Bennie (Wylie) and Mad Dog (Jeff Madden), but these are crazy and some good ones. We got to see guys who usually wouldn't compete or lead really step up and buy into his workouts.
The players are not the only ones involved in Moorer's workouts. Strong has taken part, finding an additional way of motivating the players to build toughness, according to Espinosa.
He's really hands on. He's working out with us there real early. I was actually leaving my house one morning to come to workouts and he was running down the road I live off of. He's running an hour before I even get up to campus. He's out there with us and wants to grind with us.
Reed also spoke to the inspiration Strong is providing.
We showed up to workouts at 5:30 (a.m.) and he (Strong) would come in there sweating already, so he was already doing something before that. We would be like, 'What did you do, spill some water on you?' And he would say he was coming in from running so it caught us by surprise.
Putting the 'T' back into Texas will be a work in progress. The opening week of spring practice has been tough on the team, but will be the first step in the changes Strong will continue to bring to the Texas Longhorns.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist cover the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.
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