Louisville's Strong(est) candidate?

Is Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong Tom Jurich's top candidate to replace Steve Kragthorpe. After 26 years as an assistant, Strong certainly appears ready for his first head coaching job. He'll lead the Gators top-ranked defense Saturday against Alabama in the SEC title game. Then things could get interesting..........

Charlie Strong has been a Division 1 assistant coach for 26 years. For the past 11 seasons, Strong has been the defensive coordinator at South Carolina and Florida, including the past five years under Gators head coach Urban Meyer.

Saturday, Strong and top-ranked Florida will square off against No. 2 Alabama in the SEC title game in Atlanta. The winner will play for the BCS national championship Jan. 7. With Strong in charge of Florida's defense, the Gators have won two of the past three BCS titles.

Now that Steve Kragthorpe has been fired at Louisville after a 4-8 season,, Strong appears to be one of UofL athletic director Tom Jurich's top candidates. Clearly, after a quarter century as an assistant, Strong appears ready for his shot as a head coach if Jurich comes calling.

Jurich, who is making his fourth football hire in 12 years as AD at Louisville, says he's looking for a great coach that possesses "great" leadership qualities. He also said he's looking for a coach who can recruit the south, an area vital to Louisville's success in the past. Strong, considered one of the nation's Top 25 recruiting assistants, seems to possess the qualities Jurich is looking for in UofL's next head coach.

"I always look for a man's character and that's the thing that stands out [about Strong]," Meyer said. "So a lot of times you might not be the best schematic coach, which I think he's very good, but I think the thing that makes Charlie such a special guy is the fact he has impeccable character and is a great leader."

Bob Redman, publisher of FightinGators.com,, worked on the Florida staff from 1994-2004 and knows Strong well. Redman said there's no one on the Gators staff who is more popular amongst both players and coaches than Strong.

"Strong understands that it is about the players and there is no coach on the staff loved more by all the players than Strong," Redman said. "They flock to his office during their hours not in class and just chat away with him."

Is Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong UofL's top candidate to replace Steve Kragthorpe?
But while Strong is considered a players coach, he's also regarded as a hard-nosed football coach between the lines.

"That doesn't mean he won't yank them for doing something wrong," said Redman. "I have seen him pull All-American Brandon Sikes in the middle of the game for showboating or some other nonsense. He won't hesitate to discipline for off the field issues either."

This season, Strong's defense ranks first nationally in scoring defense, allowing only 9.8 points per contest. No team has scored more than two offensive touchdowns on the Gators and Strong's defense has allowed only 11 touchdowns total on the season. The Gators also rank first nationally in total defense and pass defense.

"He's been able to adapt his defenses as he has gone along," Redman said. "He prefers a 3-4 or 3-3-5, but knows a 4-3 is most important when playing the run. He is aggressive as anyone could want when he knows he has corners that can cover man and he will blitz from anywhere on the field."

According to Redman, even before Meyer took over for Ron Zook at Florida, he'd call upon Strong for advice.

"When Urban Meyer was at Utah and trying to face defenses that run a three-man front, it was Strong he would call to see how he attacked the spread. Meyer was in the second year in a row of earning National Coach of the Year when he was calling Strong at Florida to ask for advice."

Strong has proven his acumen for coaching defense. The question is whether or not he could put a productive offense on the field as a head coach.

"He is a defensive coordinator but I think he can be a top head coach," said Redman. "I know he will rely on his assistants to help him and he will push them and I know he has a great relationship with everyone he ever works with. So the pool of possible assistants could be infinite."

"As a head coach, his best trait is probably the fact that everyone loves working with him," Redman said. "He will be able to find assistants that want to work for him and has worked in enough places to get quality assistants."

If Strong gets the job at Louisville, he'll have a big task rebuilding the Cardinals offense. Louisville ranked last in the Big East in scoring offense at just 18.5 points per game and allowed more sacks than any team in the league. The Cardinals also scored 14 points or less in five of seven Big East games. Louisville was 2-12 in Big East play the past two seasons under Kragthorpe.

"I imagine that he would let the OC call everything and then would take over in very crucial situations when a judgment needs to be made (going on it on fourth, etc.)," Redman said. "Keep in mind, he is a defensive coach so he probably will have that mentality as a head coach, but he is a very aggressive defensive coach. [Bob] Stoops is the same, and I know [that's] worked with him as well."

A finalist for the Broyles Award, which recognizes college football's top assistant, for the second time last year, Strong has worked for three head coaches who have won a national title – Meyer, Steve Spurrier and Lou Holtz. He was named Florida's associated head coach, in addition to his title as defensive coordinator, in 2008.

"Louisville would be a great place for Charlie Strong," Redman said. "I think the quality of program is the level he deserves with his pedigree so far, a great school with a program just waiting to make it's permanent mark nationally in college football."

Redman also doesn't think Strong would have a wandering eye if he got the Louisville job, an important consideration for Tom Jurich.

"If he likes the school and the community, and does well, he will never leave," Redman said. "He has come back to Florida, I believe, seven times as a GA [graduate assistant] or assistant because he loves it and really only left one time in what some would call a lateral move (Notre Dame)."

Strong's recruiting ties in Florida, particularly in the Orlando area, are also something Jurich has to like about his potential candidacy.

"He has major ties in the central Florida area and could milk that for all it was worth," Redman said.

Redman also believes Strong would be a hit with Louisville fans, something Steve Kragthorpe was never really able to accomplish during his three seasons.

"I wouldn't rate him a polished public speaker by any means but he is very fan friendly," said Redman.

Charlie Strong File 2008-Present, Florida (Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers); 2005-2007, Florida (Assistant Head Coach; Co-Defensive Coordinator; Linebackers); Dec. 2004, Florida (Interim Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator); 2003-2004, Florida (Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Ends); 1999-2002, South Carolina (Defensive Coordinator); 1995-1998, Notre Dame (Defensive Line); 1994, Florida (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Tackles); 1990-1993, Ole Miss (Wide Receivers); 1988-89, Florida (Outside Linebackers); 1986-87, Southern Illinois (Wide Receivers); 1985, Texas A&M (Graduate Assistant); 1983-84, Florida (Graduate Assistant)

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