Egos in Check

The naked eye can't see it, but it exists. At the entrance to any door leading to any room/field of Texas' football facilities is a basket. Before you enter you'd better drop your ego right there, and leave it on your way out.

"We're not here for ourselves, we're here for these players and if you have an ego you're working at the wrong place," Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong said on Tuesday. "Check your ego at the door and let's get going around here. We're here to win and get these young men graduated."

That goes for the players, assistants coaches and, yes, Strong himself.

The new ball coach of the 40 Acres practiced what he preached during his first spring football press conference when he commended former Texas coach Mack Brown on numerous occasions for leaving him with plenty of talent to work with.

"The thing you like about this group of guys, and I said it before that Coach [Mack] Brown left us a great group," Strong said. "The thing you like is just how they work. There's been no resentment. Everyone has done everything we ask them to do within this program and that's what makes this exciting, that you don't have to just deal with issues.

"There's always going to be issues that pop up but you can deal with them because of the group that you have. You have leaders that are emerging that understand what we're looking for."

It became evident Tuesday that Strong knows who those leaders are on defense.

"There's Malcom Brown, there's Tank (Desmond Jackson) inside, two big guys with Cedric Reed," he said. "I look at our defense up front and I feel like you have a really good established defensive front sitting there looking at you. Then you look at [Steve] Edmond who has played a lot of football with [Dalton] Santos. And you have some guys in this secondary as a group that are back."

Offensively, Strong pointed to three-year starting center Dominic Espinosa as "the anchor of the offensive line," and is confident in the leadership he'll get from running backs Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron.

While he wanted to say the same about the quarterback position, Strong couldn't quite bring himself to it. At least, not yet.

"You would hope that your leadership comes from the quarterback position because he is the guy that has the ball in his hand, he's the guy that makes a lot of decisions so you want to see if [David] Ash and [Tyrone] Swoopes can grow and develop as a leader," he said.

There's reason for pessimism and optimism here.

Those looking at these particular quarterbacks from a glass-half-empty point of view might look at Ash and think that a player who missed 10 games a season ago due to head injury is too fragile to withstand the grind of a starting quarterback for a full season. It's a legitimate concern, is it not?

"Anytime you have a young man that's had concussions it's very serious and we always want to make sure that you protect the players," Strong said. "With him bouncing back, our doctors say he is ready to go. He's a young man that has started here before so we look to him as a leader."

They could look at Swoopes and say he didn't develop nearly enough in a poorly-used freshman season when he was first used in the seventh game against TCU but only attempted 13 passes (5 completions) in the six games he played. Plus you've got five-star freshman Jerrod Heard coming this fall who is coming off his second-straight Class 4A state title at Denton (Texas) Guyer. Get him in there.

Those looking at the glass as being half full might say that, when healthy, Ash was easily one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12. In three games he completed 53-of-87 passes for 760 yards and seven touchdowns against only two interceptions.

And are you really going to throw in the towel on a sophomore that stands 6-foot-4 and 241 pounds like Swoopes all because of the small sample size he has in burnt orange?

"If we can find the right guy there then we have a chance," Strong said of the quarterback position.

The debate as to who should start at quarterback will last through fall practice and into the season. As for who will be calling the plays they run? Strong cleared up that mystery Tuesday.

"The one final voice will be [quarterbacks coach] Shawn [Watson]," he said.

Strong was quick to say that offensive coordinator Joe Wickline, who is also the offensive line coach, will call plays as well. But when it get's down to crunch time, Watson's the guy due to his past experience as the OC at Colorado, Nebraska and Louisville.

"When we go down the stretch and we have to have a call made, I think Shawn, because he's been doing it for a long time and I'm comfortable with him," Strong said.

And he's confident this will work because, well, they're ego-less of course.

"But when you talk about play-calling duties, they're mature enough," he said. "They've been around it enough. Neither one has an ego."

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