Charlie Strong's full-fledged cleansing of the Texas football program is approaching double digits, as the first-year Longhorns coach confirmed the suspension or outright dismissal of eight players Sunday afternoon.
Strong announced the dismissals of wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander, running backs Jalen Overstreet and Joe Bergeron and defensive back Chevoski Collins at his preseason press conference, per ESPN Texas:
Offensive lineman Desmond Harrison, wide receiver Daje Johnson and safety Josh Turner were also suspended indefinitely:
The punishments come after a rash of off-field incidents involving Longhorns players. Sanders and Meander were charged with felony sexual assault of the second degree and improper photography after allegedly attempting to film themselves raping a woman in June. The charges carry potential prison time of up to 20 years, and bail was set at $75,000 for each.
"We've been monitoring and addressing the situation with Kendall and Montrel since it was brought to our attention," Strong said in a statement, per ESPN.com. "It's been made clear to everyone on our team that treating women with respect is one of our core values, and I'm extremely disappointed that two young men in our program have been accused of not doing that."
Neither player has officially entered a plea, though each is expected to plead not guilty.
While the dismissals of Overstreet and Collins are more clouded in their reasoning, they had been in the works since last month. Taylor Gaspar of Orangebloods.com first reported that Collins and Overstreet were barred from Moncrief Complex, the athletics facility where Texas players work out. Strong did not indicate the reasoning behind their dismissal, though he did make a general statement about the "core values" of his program, per ESPN Texas:
Bergeron and Turner were initially dismissed together about a week ago for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Bergeron and Strong have been through a roller-coaster relationship, starting with the former's first exit from the program in spring practice. While it was thought that Bergeron had re-entered the discussion at running back and repaired his relationship with Strong, Sunday's announcement indicates something additional went on behind the scenes.
Bergeron will likely immediately transfer, as he has just one year of college eligibility remaining.
Turner, while suspended, has been allowed to stay on the team. ESPN.com's Jake Trotter reported that Turner and Strong met last Wednesday and hashed out an agreement to stay on the team. It was not made clear at this time how long Turner, Harrison or Johnson will be suspended.
A source told Chip Brown of HornsDigest.com that Harrison and Johnson were on their "last strike." The reasoning for their suspensions was not made public. Johnson was previously suspended two other times under former head coach Mack Brown for violations of team rules.
News of his latest exit comes as part of Strong's push toward more accountability in the locker room. A strident believer in a disciplined culture, the 54-year-old coach came over from Louisville promising on-field dominance and off-field class.
"They're searching for that. They want discipline," Strong told David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest. "They've heard so much about what they haven't done. Now, they want to prove to everyone that they can do it."
If Strong's trajectory at Texas matches his previous stops, Longhorn fans shouldn't have a problem with his tactics. The Arkansas native went a combined 37-15 in four seasons at Louisville, including a 23-3 mark the past two seasons. He also holds a 3-1 bowl record and won the 2013 Sugar Bowl.
Texas has not won a BCS bowl game since the 2009 Fiesta Bowl. The Longhorns are also coming off a stretch of finishing outside the final Top 25 rankings three of their last four years. Much like he did at Louisville, Strong has a long way to go in rebuilding the talent crop and creating a winner again at Texas.
But even if he doesn't find on-field success in 2014, these latest suspensions prove Strong's commitment to culture.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.
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