Texas Football: Why Charlie Strong Is Perfect Guy to Fix Horns' NFL Draft Issue

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Texas Football: Why Charlie Strong Is Perfect Guy to Fix Horns' NFL Draft Issue
Michael Thomas/Associated Press

Seventy-five years had passed since a Texas Longhorns name was not called during the NFL draft. That streak ended last weekend.

Texas had 10 players eligible for the 2014 NFL draft, two of those players were projected to be anywhere from third- to sixth-round picks. But the 32 NFL teams found 256 players more worthy of using up draft picks than what the Longhorns had to offer.

Breaking a 75-year-old streak is a milestone, but in the case of Texas football, this milestone is one to forget. The 2014 draft was a shocking reminder to all Texas fans—and the college football world for that matter—of how far the Longhorns have fallen from grace. 

Some people may be wondering how Texas football could be in this place. The University of Texas has tradition, money and support, and can access pretty much any number of tools needed to bring in the nation's top talent each year.

But the recent issues Texas football has faced does not have to do with state-of-the-art facilities or even signing the best recruiting classes. It has to do with the lack of player development that occurred throughout the final years of former head coach Mack Brown's career. 

Getting shut out of the 2014 draft could be described as rock bottom for the Longhorns and speaks volumes on the current state of Texas football. However, all hope is not lost for the future, especially with head coach Charlie Strong at the helm. 

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Strong has a solid record of developing players into NFL talent, which is something Texas clearly needs. While Texas fans watched their Longhorns get passed over round after round, Louisville fans celebrated one of their team's best drafts in history with three former Cardinals names called during the first round and another in the third round.

All four draft picks were players Strong recruited while he was the head coach of Louisville.

Strong's draft success began well before 2014. During his seven seasons as defensive coordinator at Florida, Strong developed seven future first-round draft picks and 18 players who were picked in the third round or higher, according to his bio on TexasSports.com.

The key to Strong's success as an assistant and head coach lies in his ability to develop players, and a perfect example of his player development is former Louisville defensive end Marcus Smith.

The 6'3", 251-pound Georgia native was a 3-star quarterback prospect with only two scholarship offers coming out of high school: Florida and Louisville, according to Rivals.com.

Smith never played a down at quarterback for the Cardinals. Instead, he moved to the defensive side of the ball, led the nation with 14.5 sacks in 2013 and finished his career as the American Athletic Conference's Defensive Player of the Year.

Smith was drafted No. 26 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles last weekend.

Using Smith as an example of Strong's player development is more relevant to Texas fans than what meets the eye.

He was a part of the 2010 recruiting class, which is the same class as former Texas defensive end Jackson JeffcoatUnlike underrated Smith, Jeffcoat was a consensus 5-star prospect and had offers from 16 NCAA Division I football programs, per 247Sports

The two defensive ends have very similar game-time experience, similar physiques and both finished their careers as their conference's defensive player of the year. But the biggest difference between Jeffcoat and Smith was the way they developed in college.

Comparing Jackson Jeffcoat and Marcus Smith's Stats
Season G/GS Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Jeffcoat 2013 13/13 86 22-95 13-75
Smith 2013 13/13 42 19-124 14.5-115
Career G/GS Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Jeffcoat 2010-2013 40/33 203 60-226 27.5-194
Smith 2010-2013 45/32 86 35-206 24.5-185

TexasSports.com | GoCards.com

Strong took an underrated athlete and molded him into a first-round draft pick. Jeffcoat did not get the same direction at Texas. He missed multiple games due to various injuries and was a part of a rebuilding program that saw three different defensive coordinators and two different defensive line coaches during his four years in Austin.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Even after a stellar senior season, which helped him nab the Ted Hendricks Award and projected him anywhere between a third- and sixth-round draft pick by CBSSports.com and NFL.com, Jeffcoat was left as the headliner of the group of Longhorns whose names were never called during the 2014 NFL draft.

Jeffcoat not getting drafted was not something many—if not any—NFL draft "experts" predicted, but it happened. And it's fair to say part of the reason is due to a lack of player development.

Strong has a lot of work ahead of him, and a lot of players who need to be developed. And any Texas fans who are expecting a quick-fix solution in his debut season need to recalibrate those expectations.

When Strong replaced Brown, he inherited a roster packed full of former 4-star and 5-star athletes who may not have been properly developed since their arrival in Austin. One could argue there is not a single first-round-caliber NFL prospect on the current roster, which could mean that the 2015 NFL draft may not be much better than this year's.

But with time and the right assistant coaches around him, Strong will put an end to the complacent, lackadaisical mentality the Longhorns have shown in recent years and help return Texas to a football program stacked with athletes who play smashmouth football.

 

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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