DALLAS – Head coach Charlie Strong and several players met with the national media Tuesday at Big 12 Media Days. Here are some of the top takeaways from the appearance.
High praise for Shane Buechele
Strong has been careful when broaching the Longhorns’ quarterback battle. But Texas fans may have a better guess of who will be under center after his Big 12 Media Days appearance.
Strong raved about freshman quarterback Shane Buechele’s skills and leadership. He said the freshman – despite a lack of experience – will put the ball in the right places. He also praised Buechele’s contagious work ethic, calling him a “gym-rat.”
“Nothing has changed from the day he stepped on campus,” Strong said. “You love his overall attitude. But when you have a guy like Shane working the way he works, it rubs off on the whole team.”
Buechele remains in a tight battle for the starting quarterback spot with senior Tyrone Swoopes and redshirt sophomore Jerrod Heard. But he electrified the fan-base with an impressive Orange-White game performance in April, throwing for 299 yards and two touchdowns.
More importantly, Buechele has already won over his teammates.
“You don’t usually see it in a true freshman, but he’s very intelligent,” senior safety Dylan Haines said. “He’s a great competitor and a natural athlete … you just kind of know he grew up around sports and playing sports.”
Strong not worried about pressure
The upcoming season is a crucial year for Strong and his staff. After going 6-7 and 5-7 in his first two years respectively, the pressure is mounting for Texas to show some progress.
But Strong isn’t concerned with the number of eyes on him – he said he doesn’t even think about it.
“My mind is so full of other things,” Strong said. “You still got to go run a football team and build a program.”
Strong said he thinks it’s fair that the pressure is building. He emphasized his track record hasn’t lived up to Texas’ historical standard of success.
Still, he says he’s able to keep a positive frame of mind, even on a “hot seat” at one of the nation’s most-watched programs.
“It’s [about] how we handle adversity” Strong said. “You have to make sure you stay positive as a coach. You can ask the players now, I don’t talk about [my job security], nobody every discusses it. We just go about our business every day knowing we have to turn this program around.”
Using last season blunders as motivation
Strong won’t let his team forget about last season’s struggles.
“I texted a few of them [during bowl games] and I said, ‘How do you guys feel now?’” Strong said. “They were all upset.”
He also makes a point to play footage of last season’s losses – like the 24-0 loss at Iowa State – in team facilities, hoping to spark some drive to turn the ship around.
“Some [players] tried to get me to turn it off, and I said, ‘Do not touch that TV. Do not turn it off!’," Strong said. “It stings [them] a little and it should sting because if you're a competitor, it's going to sting.”
Senior tight end Caleb Bluiett said he gets fired up everytime he sees footage of the team’s losses; he believes Strong’s strategy is paying off.
“[The footage] makes me want to have more passion,” Bluiett said. “It lights a fire that doesn’t want to go away.”