Highlights from Charlie Strong Presser

Here are the highlights from Charlie Strong's press conference on Monday.

The Longhorns have big shoes to fill at middle linebacker now that tackling machine Steve Edmond is gone.

Right now Strong said that position is in Dalton Santos’ hands.

“Right now it’s going to be Dalton Santos, he was Steve Edmond’s backup last season,” Strong said. “That’s a position that is very critical. You lose [Jordan] Hicks, you lose Edmond, you lose two guys that played a lot of football. That’s going to be key. That MLB is the glue of the defense.”

Strong mentioned Peter Jinkens and Tim Cole as capable players that will compete there as well.

“But it’s mainly who is going to step up,” he said. “Right now it’s Santos.”

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Strong said that Darius James has some work to do academically.

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Malik Jefferson has received high praise since he arrived on campus and Strong, like many, can’t wait to see what he can do when Texas puts on the pads for the first time on Saturday.

“I’ve only really seen him during winter conditioning,” he said. “He’s an outstanding athlete. It’s going to be fun to see him Wednesday. Won’t put pads on until Saturday. You have an outstanding athlete that is going to be able to do a lot of things.”

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Strong is confident in the three coaching additions.

“You look at Jay [Norvell] coming in from Oklahoma, being in this conference and the work that he’s done speaks for itself,” Strong said. In Brick [Haley], you get a guy whose recruited the SEC and has recruited this state and has coached in this state, who understands and knows this program. And then you look at the work Jeff Traylor did at Gilmer and the success he had. With those two guys on offense, it’s going to help the offense because they know what we are looking for.”

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Just like last season Longhorns players will start spring practice without the Longhorns decals on their helmets.

“It’s all about building the pride and restoring the pride in this program,” Strong said.

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Strong confirmed that Jeff Traylor would be special teams coach in addition to his tight end coaching duties. Defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn was in charge of special teams last season.

“With him coaching the tight ends, they don’t play a lot,” he said. “With Chris [Vaughn] having to coach secondary and special teams, it was difficult on him.

Strong did say that, like last season, every coach on the staff would be assigned a phase of special teams to coach.

“Jeff is responsible for the overall picture,” Strong said.

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Nick Rose and Mitchell Becker will compete for starting punting duties.

Strong said that Rose has spoken to Justin Tucker and Phil Dawson this off-season and is hopeful those conversations will lead to a more successful season for the senior.

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Strong is hoping that one of the receivers will have a similar impact on the team like John Harris had a season ago, where he came from nowhere to be one of the best receivers in the Big 12.

“You lose Ship [Jaxon Shipley] and you lose Harris. You hope that you’ll find someone to provide that leadership like he did,” Strong said. “You have Marcus, you have Daje, you have some young players that have some ability. It’s just about them stepping up.”

Strong sees the promise in Marcus Johnson, but needs him to make his presence felt and assert himself as a go-to guy.

“He has all the tools. Now it’s about him stepping up and doing it,” Strong said. “Two years ago he had a good year but he’s gotten lost. I said it to him. I watch Dorian Leonard work. From the Daje’s the Dorian’s, the Lorenzo Joe’s, I expect you to be a step ahead of those guys. You’ve been in this program now. Don’t be afraid to separate yourself. John Harris did it last year. He wasn’t afraid.”

One player that Strong has seen that type of improvement in is Daje Johnson, who was suspended for most of the season in 2014. Strong sees a completely different human/player in the speedster.

“I wish I had some wood to knock on,” he said. “He has come a million miles. It was probably July when we had a talk. I had suspended him 5 or 6 games. I said to him ‘You have to prove to me that you want to be here.’ He said ‘I tell you what, I will not be in your dog house again.’ I hope he sticks to it. What an explosive player. He can make a guy miss and take it. He can help us.”

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Texas has several offensive linemen returning from last season, but that doesn’t mean that the crop of new OL – both JUCO and high school recruits – won’t get a chance to play right away.

”Can’t be afraid to play them,” Strong said.

UT’s head coach had nice things to say about true freshmen early enrollees Garrett Thomas and Connor Williams.

”They don’t say anything. They just work really hard,” Strong said.

JUCO transfers Brandon Hodges and Tristan Nickelson will also have a chance to compete for starting spots.

“The thing about it is I’m not big on JUCO but if you have a need and you think there are guys that can fill that position, you have to go out and get them,” he said. “The great thing is they have been here so they know what to expect.”

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Strong said it was simply too early to tell if there is a chance for a graduate quarterback transfer.

”Quarterbacks won’t make a decision until after spring practice,” he said.

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There’s been a lot of talk this offseason about the Longhorns going a different direction with their offense.

We’ve heard Texas was going to have more spread tendencies while still maintaining the physical nature of its head coach. Strong pretty much confirmed these things Monday.

“I look at this state and 98% is spread offense,” he said. “Everyone wants to know what type of offense you are going to run. The key guys we recruit are in the spread. The way we look at it is if 98% are from that background, let’s not change it. You have to do what everyone else is doing but still find a way to stay physical and run the football. You aren’t going to see the ball thrown 60 times a game. I hope the score isn’t 60-59. I couldn’t handle that.”

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