Texas Football: Recapping the Biggest 2014 Offseason News So Far
Firing Mack Brown guaranteed an eventful offseason for the Texas Longhorns and his replacement, Charlie Strong.
Losing his starting quarterback to a broken foot should have been the top storyline for Strong. Far from it. Since January, Strong has been hired despite not being named Nick Saban, hired a great staff and dealt with the consequences of the end of Brown's career on the recruiting trail.
This summer should provide more clarity on the news that has not fully developed, but the intrigue has kept on even past the hiring of a new leading man.
Charlie Strong Replaces Mack Brown
Between BYU's 550-yard rushing exhibition and the 23-point (could have been 50-point) drubbing in the Alamo Bowl, it was clear Texas needed a change at the top. To totally change the culture that Brown had implemented, athletic director Steve Patterson turned to Louisville's Strong.
Strong wasn't the first choice by any means. This list made by The Dallas Morning News had 14 mostly unattainable names ahead of him, but Strong profiles as the type of coach the program needs. He's intense, old-fashioned and, most of all, he's been winning at an 88 percent clip these past two seasons.
Already, Strong has been making an impression worthy of his name, and not just because of his daily jogs at 4:30 a.m. There's his list of demands, the major coup of Joe Wickline from in-conference rival Oklahoma State and he's even dished out some reality to the fanbase on his Comin' On Strong Tour.
From almost every point of view, it couldn't be any more different in Austin. We'll get to see if the change has made an impact when BYU comes to town for a rematch on September 6.
Ups and Downs on National Signing Day
To anyone who still believes Texas football will be a quick fix, there are two specific days that speak to the exact opposite. The first of which is February 5, 2014—national signing day.
Brothers Maea and Sione Teuhema bolted for LSU the day before, joining the likes of Otaro Alaka and Zaycoven Henderson as impact recruits who decommitted late in the process. Even with Strong at the helm, the damage to the program's image has clearly been done.
Strong was able to salvage the day, luring the explosive Poona Ford from South Carolina as well as 3-star tackle Chris Nelson from Florida. And given recent events, the fact that Jerrod Heard has arrived on Texas' campus last week rather than any other program's, that should be counted as a victory at this point.
"June 3. Then it's showtime." Jerrod Heard (@jheard_era) said it at Texas Relays. Today, the Longhorns' new QB is on campus.— Max Olson (@max_olson) June 3, 2014
Ash's Broken Foot Elevates Swoopes
Contributing to his dubious future, David Ash missed the spring game due to a broken foot. On the bright side, it led to Tyrone Swoopes' first bout of extended action on a college football field.
Swoopes turned in a mostly impressive performance in his debut as a starter, throwing for 229 yards and three touchdowns. But his 56.7 completion percentage and interception to walk-on Dylan Haines show that he still has a lot of growing to do as a passer.
Strong expects Ash to return next month, but his lack of durability keeps Swoopes as close to action as any backup in the country.
Longhorns Shut Out of the 2014 NFL Draft
For the first time since 1937, the Texas Longhorns were shut out of the NFL draft.
With national signing day serving as the preview, May 10 is the second day since Brown's firing that showed just how far the program has fallen. Not even Jackson Jeffcoat, an All-American last season, heard his name called in the same draft when a team spent a sixth-rounder on Garrett Gilbert.
As the ultimate trump card to any remaining Brown sympathizers, the Longhorns were 30-21 and have had 10 total draft picks (one first-rounder) over the past four years. During that time, former doormat Baylor has gone 36-16 and had 15 players taken in the draft.
At least Strong had three of his former Louisville players taken in the first round.
The Max Wittek Saga Ends with a Thud
In February, the Longhorns emerged as the favorite to land USC transfer Max Wittek, a former 4-star recruit. Instead they're getting JUCO transfer Logan Vinklarek, who doesn't even have a 247Sports.com profile.
Wittek would have been a backup at Texas but offered experience to a depth chart that could use some distance between true freshman Heard and the field. That plan hit the skids when, as first reported by the Honolulu Star Adviser, Wittek was unable to graduate this spring, making him ineligible to play in 2014 under the graduate transfer rule.
A preferred walk-on, Vinklarek is barely a step above former tight end Miles Onyegbule, who quarterbacked the second-teamers in the spring game. That puts Heard immediately on third-string duty, which could easily lead to him becoming the backup by the fall.
Unless Ash suddenly becomes Wolverine, the Heard era has a great chance of beginning in his first year on campus.
Good Work from the 2015 Commits
As so creatively illustrated by TAMUHighlights, the Longhorns are getting their clocks cleaned on the recruiting trail by Texas A&M. At least Texas' current commits are looking solid.
Both guard Patrick Vahe and running back Kirk Johnson earned MVP honors at NFTC events this spring, while defensive end Charles Omenihu continued his charge to a 4-star rating by giving it to Trevor Elbert (10-second mark) in Dallas.
Joining Omenihu in improving their stock this offseason, offensive tackle commits Toby Weathersby and Ronnie Major have each begun to climb the rankings as top-three tackles, according to 247Sports' Bobby Burton.
This class has major deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball, but the current crop has considerable upside.
Goodbye, Brian Davis
One of the few relics of the Brown era, academic advisor Brian Davis was fired June 3, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Though Texas was one of just two BCS programs to post a perfect APR score in 2013, also per to the Statesman, Davis had to go. Daje Johnson, Kennedy Estelle and Jalen Overstreet all had to sit out the Alamo Bowl because of academic issues, and JUCO tackle Desmond Harrison almost had to miss the entire season due to similar problems.
That's just one season of failure from somebody whose sole responsibility was the football program. As emphasized in his list of expectations, Strong's tenure will be marked with much more attention to academic performance, making Davis beyond expendable.
And for those of you worried about any drop-off in APR, which is determined by the overall academic eligibility of the program, the other football team to post a perfect score was Strong's old Louisville program.