Charlie Strong Returns “Home” after “Visiting” Texas
Former Texas Football coach Charlie Strong has returned to the state of Florida in hopes of duplicating past success. More than anything else, Strong moving to South Florida captures why Strong’s three-year tenure at Texas did not work out.
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In a new interview with Fox Sports, Coach Strong talked about “coming back home,” where he knows the names of Florida high school football coaches and the top football recruits.
Strong looked good in a cowboy hat when Texas beat Oklahoma in 2015, but Florida continued to tug at him. The Miami Hurricanes knocked on his door in 2015, but Strong stayed in Austin. Then, when Texas fired Strong after the 2016 season, this time he took the South Florida job.
Texas vs. Florida Recruiting Challenge
Why Charlie Strong only lasted three years with the Longhorns requires a review of the college coaching landscape.
When it was clear that Mack Brown was going to exit after the 2013 season, the popular head coaching candidates were Charlie Strong, David Shaw of Stanford, and Jim Mora of UCLA. (C’mon, Nick Saban was not realistic.)
Looking at the roster that Strong assembled at Louisville, there were signs that Strong might struggle at Texas. Why? The Cardinals roster had zero players from the state of Texas. There were plenty of Florida players, though.
Coach Strong built the Louisville program with Florida players. One of those was Teddy Bridgewater, who led a group of top recruits from the Miami area that played for Strong.
When Strong took the Texas job, he vowed to prioritize Texas high school recruits and supplement with players from other states. He tried with the “Florida Five,” but only one player – Davante Davis – actually made the field.
The type of athlete who comes from Texas varies from Florida, which varies from California, which varies from other parts of the country. Coach Strong knew Florida well, but he had to learn Texas. Unfortunately, he was unable to turn those recruits into winning teams in his three seasons.
Now, Coach Strong has returned to Florida to coach the USF Bulls. This is his comfort zone when it comes to recruiting and coaching. And now he has credibility from a big-time program like Texas to build up the South Florida program.
Tom Herman Comes From Opposite Background
Texas’ new head coach, Tom Herman, has the opposite recruiting background. Most notably, Coach Herman has spent the majority of his adult life recruiting the state of Texas.
At his previous job, Herman capitalized on the high school recruiting hotbed in Houston to turn the Cougars into a Non-Power 5 powerhouse. Herman and his staff barely had to leave the city to find top-notch recruits, like five-star DT Ed Oliver.
Now that Herman is coaching at a state school after cutting his teeth at a city school, he can reach across Texas to find talent. Herman knows the coaches and the coaches know him.
For Coach Strong, there was a learning curve of getting to know the high school landscape. Strong caught some big fish, like Malik Jefferson, but the Longhorns teams did not pan out on the field.
Coach Herman should benefit from Strong’s recruits becoming juniors and seniors. Their experience, Herman’s own recruiting prowess, and his relationships with players should be a recipe for success.
It’s unfortunate that Coach Strong had such an uphill battle when he took the Texas job. But, now that he’s back in Florida, he should find instant success with a USF team that went 11-2 in 2016. Coach Herman will look to duplicate that kind of record at Texas.
Don’t forget that South Florida is scheduled to visit Austin in 2020. Who knows what kind of teams Coach Herman and Charlie Strong will have three years from now. But, both coaches should thrive in their home environments going forward.