Texas Football: It's Too Early to Determine Charlie Strong's Job Status

Ben Kercheval@@BenKerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterOctober 4, 2015

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 03:  Head coach Gary Patterson of the TCU Horned Frogs greets head coach Charlie Strong of the Texas Longhorns at midfield after the Horned Frogs beat the Texas Longhorns 50-7 at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Fifteen minutes was all it took, which is remarkable when you stand back and consider time in the linear sense.

In 15 minutes of game time, TCU took a torch to all the progress Texas and head coach Charlie Strong had made in the previous three weeks against Rice, Cal and Oklahoma State—much like Frogs receiver KaVontae Turpin torched the Longhorns pass defense for 138 yards and four touchdowns. 

In 15 minutes, the Horned Frogs took advantage of every imaginable Texas mistake, from a fumble to a safety, and made the Horns pay dearly. As far as shooting oneself in the foot goes, Texas may as well have played "Plinko" on The Price Is Right to see what would happen next. It was all pretty much on the table.

“That’s what bothers you,” Strong said (via Mike Finger, the San Antonio Express-News). “When things go wrong, they continue to go, and we can’t stop it. We don’t plug the leak.”

In 15 minutes, TCU, though shorthanded because of injuries, showed it was still one of the best teams in the Big 12 while Texas was irrefutably nowhere near that group, now or anytime in the foreseeable future. TCU head coach Gary Patterson knew as much before the game even kicked off: 

Longhorn Network @LonghornNetwork

Todd McShay asked Gary Patterson what the biggest challenge for his D is today. Patterson: “We've beaten better with less.”

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How times have changed. Accepting that is important here. 

In 15 minutes, TCU led Texas 30-0. It would go on to win 50-7, giving the Longhorns their 21st double-digit loss out of 32 total losses since 2010. That's almost two out of every three losses. 

But while 15 minutes was long enough to show the rebuilding project at Texas was nowhere near complete, it wasn't long enough to prove Strong isn't the guy to lead it. For that matter, 60 minutes isn't long enough. Neither are 18 games. 

Strong isn't what ails Texas. If anything, the myriad issues are far bigger than him. Two-thirds of the aforementioned double-digit losses occurred before Strong was even hired. Mack Brown did many great things for the Longhorns over the years. He won a national title, played for another, put players into the NFL and ran a program free of major NCAA infractions. 

The final years from 2010-13 were embarrassingly poor, though. In 2014, Texas was shut out of the NFL draft for the first time since 1937. The Horns' 2016 NFL draft prospects don't look promising, either, as an AFC scout told Lance Zierlein of NFL media last month: "All 'guys' and no 'dudes'. Texas barely shows up on our master list of prospects to scout this year. Vince Lombardi couldn't do anything with the guys they have on offense."

As astonishing as it seems given the school's abundant resources, Texas doesn't have NFL-caliber players—at least not ones who have been developed. Freshmen like linebacker Malik Jefferson should change that in time, but that's a conversation for another day.

On that subject, though, Strong has only put together one true recruiting class, as former Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs tweeted Saturday:

Nino @qdiggs6

Y'all quick to blame coach strong tho but he only has been able to have ONE true recruiting class.. remember that!

In that class, Strong won over Jefferson, the No. 1 in-state player according to 247Sports. Strong will need two or three classes to find that type of game-changing recruit on offense. At Louisville, he found that player in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. 

Good coaches don't just master the X's and O's of the game; they hire good assistants and get quality players. Suggesting Strong is suddenly a bad coach who only got a chance at Texas because of Bridgewater is absurd, backward thinking. It's also myopic because it ignores how Strong developed loads of talent at Louisville and molded them into draft-ready players. It's also insulting to the years of hard work Strong put in as a defensive assistant and the admiration coaches like Urban Meyer and Lou Holtz have for him. 

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, who uncovers more hidden gems in the recruiting process than perhaps anyone in college football, is the exception, not the rule. And you can still bet Snyder would take 4-star and 5-star players in heartbeat if they were knocking down his door. 

In the meantime, Texas is simply trying to field a roster good enough to win games in Big 12 conference play. Remember the number of double-digit losses? From 2010-13, the Longhorns lost 10 of those games to Big 12 opponents. Getting boat-raced by conference opponents, many of which recruit in Texas, only snowballs the problem: 

Michael Felder @InTheBleachers

For teams like Baylor & TCU absolutely demolishing Texas is as much about trying to continue gaining ground in recruiting as anything.

Strong has lost by double-digits four times to Big 12 teams. This is a problem he inherited, not created. 

None of this means Strong is immune to criticism. The way the offense has been handled is a mess. The play-caller controversy between quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson and offensive line coach Joe Wickline—created to avoid a lawsuit from Wickline's former employer, Oklahoma State—was confusing and unnecessary. (Trial over Wickline's buyout is set for 2016, per Max Olson of ESPN.com.) First-year wide receivers coach Jay Norvell was promoted to play-caller two games into the season, but he hardly looks like a long-term solution. 

Strong hasn't been perfect, but he deserves time to put his stamp on Texas. That tends to take about three to four years. That doesn't mean the Longhorns have to win a national or Big 12 title by Year 4, but it does mean Strong has to show he can at least compete for one. Only then is it fair to decide whether Strong is the right person for Texas. 

However, college football today is a sport of instant results. Compounding the criticism directed at Strong is that Michigan and Florida have won right away with first-year head coaches Jim Harbaugh and Jim McElwain, respectively. The Wolverines are 4-1, and the Gators are 5-0 after knocking off Ole Miss at home. 

Harbaugh and McElwain inherited much better situations, however. Texas' last top-15 recruiting class before 2015 was in 2012. In that span, Florida and Michigan have posted a top-five class each, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. Both programs, despite their struggles, have churned out NFL-caliber players. The only thing missing were coaches who could develop the talent. 

Texas is missing more. Much more. 

Maybe Strong can get things turned around, or maybe he won't. But we're not going to find that out in Year 2. If anything, Texas has a little bit more time on that. 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of ESPN.com

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