Charlie Strong is headed back to the Sunshine State.
Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel reported earlier this morning that both parties were closing in on a five-year deal, and now Scout's Jason Higdon and others are reporting that the deal is wrapped up and finished.
USF wasted no time scooping up the former Florida defensive coordinator after Willie Taggart left for the Oregon Ducks head coaching job.
Strong comes to Tampa after being fired by the Texas Longhorns just a few weeks ago after going 16-21 in his tenure at Texas. While his overall record with UT is less than impressive, his coaching record otherwise still stands out.
Before becoming the head coach of the Longhorns, Strong led the Louisville Cardinals to a bowl game in each of his four years as their head coach. During his time at Louisville, Strong accumulated an overall record of 37-15, winning two Big East Championships and coming out victorious in three of the four bowl games that they played in. His crowning moment was when his Cardinals came out on top of an 11-1 Florida Gator team, in the 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl.
A defensive minded coach, Strong will bring an expertise that is sorely needed at USF. While there are plenty of great things to say about the Bulls’ 2016 season, their defense doesn’t make that list.
The USF defense took a significant step back from their successful 2015 campaign, after defensive coordinator Tom Allen left the school for the same position at Indiana. The Bulls’ defense has floundered under current defensive coordinator Raymond Woodie, giving up an average of 482 yards and 31 points per game.
With the hiring of Strong, Woodie will most likely not be a part of the USF staff in the upcoming season. However, there are plenty of members from the coaching staff that Strong will most likely consider keeping on board.
Co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, Darren Hiller would be a prime candidate for Strong to keep on staff, as his knowledge of the “Gulf Coast” offense will be vital for the Bulls’ success. Hiller’s offensive line gave up only 15 sacks this season, a conference low and opened up lanes for two 1,000 yard rushers in 2016.
Strong is very familiar with coaching in the state of Florida, coaching at the University of Florida on four different occasions that span all the way back to the 1980’s. He was a defensive line coach and assistant head coach under Florida great, Steve Spurrier, while later becoming the linebackers coach and defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer. Strong’s defense helped lead the Gators to two BCS National Championship titles.
With Strong’s extensive history in Florida, he will have no problem recruiting in the state. There has been some speculation as to what would happen to USF’s commits, but there is no doubt that Strong has both the ability and name recognition to keep recruits. With the players that Strong has recruited and coached at other programs, he will most likely be able to bring in a caliber of player that may not have normally considered USF.
Strong will be inheriting a Bulls team that will be losing only nine of their 46 players from the offensive and defensive sides of the depth chart to graduation. The offense will be led by AAC Offensive Player of the Year, quarterback Quinton Flowers, wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling and all-time leading USF rusher, Marlon Mack (if he chooses to come back).
On the defensive side of the ball, Strong will have defensive captain Auggie Sanchez to work with. Sanchez has led the Bulls defense in tackles in 2015 and 2016; defensive tackles Deadrin Senat and Bruce Hector will anchor the defensive line, while cornerbacks Deatrick Nichols and Ronnie Hoggins will continue to stymie opponents’ aerial attack.
Taggart left plenty of weapons at USF for them to win their first ever conference championship game. The players have the hunger to reach the goals that Taggart had set. Strong has the experience achieve those goals and ability to set the bar even higher for the future.