For Charlie Strong, success will be in development more than recruitment


The Associated Press

Charlie Strong speaks to the media as the defensie coordinator at Florida during a college football media day in 2009. 

Photo courtesy of Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

David Leffler

Head coach Charlie Strong has been unable to escape the topic of recruiting since he replaced Mack Brown as Texas’ football coach. Unsurprisingly, this has only worsened in the week since the Longhorns have accrued the nation’s 20th ranked recruiting class, according to recruiting website, Rivals. 

But what will be the primary focus here, though, is not the players Strong brings in, but his ability to cultivate their talent and return this program to the elite status it once held. 

Critics of Strong’s hiring have asserted he has weak connections in Texas, which will hurt his capacity to recruit against the likes of Texas A&M, Oklahoma and LSU. This argument has merit; Look at what happened with Sione and Maea Teuhema, two brothers who recently dropped their commitments to Texas in favor of LSU. Overall, six Longhorn pledges have decommitted in the last month.

The discussion neglects the primary criteria of coaching: winning. Brown led the Longhorns to nine consecutive 10-win seasons and two appearances
in the BCS National
Championship. But with seven top-five recruiting classes from the stretch of 2002-2013, most Texas fans expected more championships.

While many of Brown’s teams did not live up to lofty expectations, Strong’s have made a habit of overachieving. Despite having no top-25 recruiting classes at Louisville, he coached the Cardinals to four straight winning seasons, including a 23-3 record from 2011-2012 and a win over heavily favored Florida in the 2011 Sugar Bowl. His coaching ability was best displayed last season, when Louisville boasted the nation’s top defense without a five-star recruit on the roster.

Of course, when given premium talent, Strong has produced premium results. While defensive coordinator at Florida, Strong put together several top-five defenses, including stifling units on the Gators’ championship teams in 2006 and 2008. Strong has shown a far greater ability to translate high-school recruits into stars at the college level, and, if he can display the leadership and intellect he did at his previous coaching stops, the Longhorns will be rewarded with elite players defined by success on the field — not the other way around.