Since then, he has told the rabid Texas fan base that he doesn’t see them winning a national championship this year, dismissed five players in the span of 24 hours, probably with more to come, and told the world that Texas isn’t tough enough.
Texas, not tough enough? He’s asking for trouble.
But right now, he’s correct in everything he is doing. Texas hasn’t been tough, and Strong is putting that toughness back into the program.
“It’s all about putting a team back into Texas,” Strong said. “We talk about putting a team back into Texas, you talk about toughness, you talk about trust, talk about togetherness, and you talk about just becoming a team.
“You can never become a team until you have toughness to you.”
Strong and his team will need thick skin this year because the doubters are already starting to pile up. But Strong has made it very simple. Players have two choices: Get with the program or get out of the program.
Some haven’t complied. Some have changed their ways and are ready to contribute.
This year for Texas could be a strange one. There’s really no telling what kind of team could come out of it. The Longhorns have the athletes to compete with every program in the Big 12. If Strong can motivate his players, even if some of the best are kicked off, they’ll contend for the conference title.
Everything Strong is doing is aimed at making the program tougher. He’s requiring more of his players and bringing in tough-minded assistant coaches, like former Oklahoma State offensive line coach Joe Wickline.
“He’s been a great asset,” Strong said of Wickline. “… When we get into conference play, he’ll be someone to just go lean on.”
At Big 12 Media Days, Strong was asked how he motivates players and if fear is a part of his repertoire. He joked and said, ‘Just look at me. I don’t think they get afraid of me at all.’
Well coach, it’s not your appearance that’s scary. It’s the demeanor and ferocity that he’s bringing to the Texas program. This year will be a different one for Texas, which had fallen short of a 10-win season in three straight campaigns.
Strong recently announced that quarterback David Ash will be healthy for the season opener, when Texas faces in-state foe North Texas. Once the Longhorns take the field in that game, they’ll show a lot more about whom they are going to be. “Just from their attitude right now, I think that you’re going to find us a different football team, just because of their attitude,” Strong said.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
13 - the number of starters returning, including receiver Jaxson Shipley, quarterback David Ask and defensive tackle Malcolm Brown. … 3 - Strong had three players selected out of Louisville in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, tied for the most of any school. … 5 - it has been five years, since 2009, that Texas won the Big 12 Championship. … 89 - Shipley is just 89 receptions away from setting the new school mark, breaking his brother Jordan’s record of 248.