Texas Football: Charlie Strong's Coaching Staff Bringing Continuity to Defense

Taylor Gaspar@Taylor_GasparFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2014

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The Texas Longhorns are just entering the second week of spring practice and have already witnessed the positive impact of the new coaching staff. Charlie Strong and his assistant coaches are on a mission to bring toughness back to Texas football, and the Longhorns are buying into the coach's goals.

"You have to understand why this coaching staff is here and understand why they are coaching you so hard," defensive end Cedric Reed said. "There are going to be times where you're confused but you have to let your pride down and soak it in. We are buying into all of the changes that are going around."

Getting used to a new coaching staff is not a foreign concept for Reed and other returning Longhorns on defense. Texas replaced defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and defensive line coach Mike Tolleson following the 2010 season and replaced defensive coordinator Manny Diaz after Week 2 of the 2013 season.

In other words, the Longhorns have lacked continuity throughout their time at Texas.

But things are different with Strong leading the way. 


All Hands on Deck

"He's really hands on," center Dominic Espinosa said. "He's out there with us and wants to grind with us."

Strong's hands-on approach is one of the many perks the Longhorns will have, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Texas inherited one of the best defensive minds in the country when it hired Strong, and that mind will be heavily involved when it comes time to build the defensive game plan.

When he left Florida to go to the University of Louisville I said, 'Charlie, I know you're a head coach and you're going to be busy, but I want you to understand that I am coming with you because I'm going to count on you to stay involved,' defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said. 'He is one of the best defensive coaches in the country. Why would you not want him to be a part of everything you do?'

Strong's involvement with day-to-day activities is an important method of adding continuity to the defense. Another way came when he found one man to coach the defensive line.

Texas previously had a defensive tackle coach and a defensive end coach, but Strong removed the separation on the line when he hired former Alabama defensive line coach Chris Rumph.

"It helps a lot with both of us being in the same room," Reed said of having only one defensive line coach. "We can both be on the same page about what's going on instead of hearing about it from one guy or another guy."

The Texas defensive line has not played consistently well over the last two seasons. The separate line coaches aren't entirely to blame, but the added continuity of the line moving forward could be a positive step for the defensive linemen.

"It's not like we were off-page last year, but at the same time we all can now see what each other are doing," Reed said. "We are getting coached the same way so it's definitely a plus."

Strong demands a lot from his players, but understands that it will take more than one coach and more than on-field demands to encourage his team to buy into his philosophies.


Removing the Restraints

Strong and his assistants are doing everything they can to get to know their players on a more personal level. The first notion of getting to know the players started when he removed the locks from the football offices and encouraged the team to come spend time with the coaching staff.

Nov 9, 2013; Morgantown, WV, USA; Texas Longhorns defensive end Cedric Reed (88) reacts after recovering a fumble in the second quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

"The first couple of days they were here they were calling me to get up to the offices and I thought it was unusual because we had never really gone up there," Reed said. "But I made sure to go. It was definitely a change for me, but it was a plus."

Strong's gesture was a bit of a surprise to the Texas players. Reed said discipline normally followed when you got called to the coach's office, but that has not been the case since he removed the locks.

Strong understands that building a personal bond with his team will be a great way to break the ice and a way for the players to believe what he and his staff are teaching.

"We have a great facility here but everything was kind of locked down," Strong said. "So what I did was take the locks off of the doors and told the players they can walk right in. I want them to know who we are. When a young man knows that you care about him, then he will do everything you ask of him."

Only time will tell if Strong's methods will pay off on the field. But one thing is certain, Strong is working hard to change the culture of the Texas Longhorns football program.


All quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. You can follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.


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