Vance Bedford

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

Over the years, Texas fans have grown accustomed to gaudy statistics from the team’s pass rushers. In 2008, defensive end Brian Orakpo led the team with 11.5 sacks. In 2012, defensive end Alex Okafor recorded 12.5 sacks, and, last season, defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat led the team with 13 sacks.

The above examples blow sophomore defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway, who leads Texas with five, out of the water. Despite the lack of individual production, the Longhorns are averaging three sacks per game — their highest average over the first 10 games of a season since 2008.

This is largely a result of consistency and depth along the defensive front, as seven different players have dropped the quarterback at least twice.

Despite none of the players recording elite numbers, the Longhorns have proven they have an abundance of talent leading the way on the defensive side of the ball this season.

Senior linebacker Jordan Hicks is finally healthy and has acted as the quarterback of the defense.

“Just think about the term linebacker,” said Vance Bedford, defensive coordinator and secondary coach. “It means he is half of a lineman and half of a defensive back. He’s in the middle of our defense and controls our defense.”

With 110 tackles on the year, Hicks is tied for the most by a player in a power-five conference. He has also picked off two passes and has recorded 1.5 sacks.

But Hicks does not lead strictly by example. He is extremely vocal, which is a very important characteristic of a linebacker.

“You need a guy who can do it by example but also a person who’s vocal,” Bedford said. “Jordan Hicks has been that guy for us this year.”

Despite receiving many accolades, such as being named a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award, Hicks is quick to tell you his success is not all his own doing.

“I haven’t had a perfect game out there, never will, but I feel like I’m playing my best ball, and, obviously, I have a lot of confidence right now and a lot of credit to the guys in front of me,” Hicks said. “Having Hassan Ridgeway and Malcom Brown ahead of me is kind of nice.”

Brown, a junior defensive tackle, has arguably been Texas’ best player this year, and the coaches have taken notice of his performance.

“I think he’s at an All-American level,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “The way he’s playing, it’s amazing. It’s fun to watch.”

Brown is tied for second on the team with 4.5 sacks, but his impact on the field goes beyond his personal stats. Brown often draws double teams from the opposing offensive linemen, which helps explain why his numbers are not as dominant as his talent might suggest.

He also has the potential to become a top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and have a long, successful NFL career.

“If you ask me right now, I think the young man is a first round pick,” Bedford says.

Other players, such as senior defensive end Cedric Reed, have also made their presence felt on the unit. Reed is coming off the best game of his career, during which he tripled his sack total for the season.

Reed and the defense’s ability to pressure the quarterback could be on display again in Stillwater, Oklahoma, this weekend against a Cowboy offensive line that allows three sacks a game to conference foes, most in the conference. That’s something worth remembering as, since sacks became an official stat, the Longhorns have not lost to Oklahoma State when they win the sack battle.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Heading into the 2014 season, plenty of eyes were on senior defensive end Cedric Reed and his ability to anchor the Texas defense. Last season was thought to be Reed’s coming out party, as the junior collected all-conference honors in his first year starting for the Longhorns, and things were only supposed to go up from there. 

Reed was one of two FBS players — the other being Khalil Mack, who was the fifth overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft — last season with at least five sacks, four pass breakups and five forced fumbles.

But, after recording 10.0 sacks a season ago, Reed has only recorded a meager 1.5 this season with two-thirds of the year in the books.

“I beat myself over it every night,” Reed said. “My numbers aren’t the same as they were last year, and they’re definitely not the numbers I expected.”

With his collegiate career nearly over, Reed acknowledged that his performance this season will likely have a negative effect on his draft position.

“It’s football; you know stats got a lot to do with it, and my stats aren’t there,” Reed said.

Before the season, Reed was named to several watch lists for national awards, such as the Chuck Bednarik Award and the Bronko Nagurski award. But with his performance thus far, Reed is unlikely to be a semi-finalist for either.

“I take full responsibility for my play this year,” Reed said. “I’ve been hearing a lot about it. But I’m trying every day. I’m giving it all I got on the field.”

However, in certain aspects, Reed believes he has proven to be a much better player than in the past.

“I’d say I’m a better run stopper,” Reed said. “Last year, I was a great pass rusher, and I’ve probably been doing a lot of run stopping better this year.”

Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford can attest to Reed’s high level of play against the run.

“We play some odd defense. We’ve put him in four-technique with his head up to help us stop the run, and, when you look at that, he’s done a great job,” Bedford said. “A guy is 6-foot-6, and he plays long; it’s hard for guys to get into his legs, so he’s able to handle two gaps.”

Bedford said Reed’s presence demands attention from opposing offensive linemen, which helps his teammates put up better numbers.

“We told him, ‘Hey, you go fall on a grenade for us right now. Keep these guys off our backers,’ and all of a sudden, that linebacker has 17 tackles,” Bedford said.

Still, though, the senior would like to boost his numbers in the closing games of his Texas career.

“I’m going to be playing a lot more on the left, like I used to,” Reed said. ‘”I’m going to try to get back to what I used to do well when I had good stats.”

Despite being disappointed by his play and the team’s struggles, Reed doesn’t second-guess his decision to return to school.

“I’m happy,” Reed said. “No regrets, man. I live life to the fullest, man. I’m definitely happy where I’m at right now.”

Last year against Texas, Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters ran for just 26 yards on 18 attempts. This year, he already has seven rushing touchdowns through six games.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Last week, against a struggling Iowa State team, the Longhorn defense turned in its worst performance of the season.

Save for a few well-timed turnovers, the Texas defense had a miserable time slowing down quarterback Sam Richardson and the Cyclones’ option attack. This week, they’ll face a similar scheme, run by a much better team with a much better quarterback.

Kansas State’s senior quarterback, Jake Waters, has had incredible success running the option for the Wildcats this season, as he leads the team in passing and rushing.

“He reminds me of Russell Wilson,” Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said, comparing him to the Super Bowl winning quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks. “[The] guy is a winner, competitor. You have to be very disciplined on defense because of what he does.”

Under Waters’ leadership, No. 11 Kansas State has risen to the top of the Big 12 standings as the only team that remains unbeaten in conference play.

In Waters’ second year running the Wildcat offense, the junior-college transfer has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,431 yards and nine touchdowns while rushing for another 371 yards and seven scores.

Waters and Kansas State’s running backs are at the center of head coach Bill Snyder’s high-powered option offense, but the Wildcats’ capacity in the passing game are what force defenses to respect Waters’ arm. Senior receivers Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton have combined to form one of the more potent wide out combinations in the Big 12 so far this season.

“[Waters] has two tremendous weapons out there with Lockett and Sexton and those guys, they go out and compete each and every game,” senior defensive back Quandre Diggs said. “Just the opportunity to go out and compete against one of the best in the country [is special.]”

Kansas State’s option provides opposing defenses with a unique challenge, as it slows things down at the line of scrimmage. As Waters decides whether to hand the ball off, keep it or utilize the play-action pass, he is often able to freeze the defense, opening things up downfield.

Case in point in last week’s game against Oklahoma, when Waters faked the quarterback draw and lobbed a pop-pass to fullback Glenn Gronkowski for a 62-yard score. Texas will have to be conscious of that possibility again this weekend in order to limit big plays.

“It comes back with discipline, knowing your assignment, what your responsibilities are, situations, and when it pops, it can’t go for 70 yards,” Bedford said.

In particular, the Longhorn defensive backs will have to practice better eye discipline against the Wildcats. Against Iowa State, the Texas secondary often got caught with its eyes in the backfield, leaving receivers open for big gains.

Kansas State’s offense is designed to just do that, so it will take a concerted effort to lock down the Wildcats’ talented receiving corps.

“The quarterback is sitting back there dancing,” junior cornerback Duke Thomas said. “If you’ve got a man, you’ve really got to pay attention to what’s going on.”

The Texas defense held Baylor and its explosive offense to just 21 points. This season, they have played well, allowing under 17 points per game. But with a 2-3 record, the unit is not satisfied.
Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

Over the past couple of years, Texas’ defense had its share of struggles. After a stellar 2011 campaign, the unit was plagued by missed tackles and blown assignments resulting in, statistically, the two worst defensive seasons in program history in 2012 and 2013.

A renewed emphasis on the defensive side of the ball came with the hiring of head coach Charlie Strong. Through five games this year, the group has shown remarkable progress overall from the past couple of seasons. Take, for example, last weekend’s loss to Baylor, in which the unit held the defending conference champs to only 21 points, despite the Bears averaging more than 50 points per contest. Still, the unit believes there is room for improvement.

“We definitely could play better than that,” senior cornerback Quandre Diggs said. “You know, we gave up 21 points that we didn’t have to give up. Of course, we had a good day. We can make it better, and we are going to continue to strive to make it better each and every week.”

Senior defensive end Cedric Reed agreed with Diggs’ comments.

“There’s a lot of mistakes that we can fix,” Reed said. “We could hold a lot of teams to shutouts if we really hone in our techniques.”

Many watching at home may have thought Texas played well defensively, but senior safety Mykkele Thompson echoed the idea that the unit isn’t consistently playing at its full potential.

“We did some good things in spurts, but all around it wasn’t as good as it seemed on TV,” Thompson said.

Through five games this season, the Texas defense has surrendered 82 points, 73 of which were scored after halftime, with 42 in the third quarter alone. 

“Coach keeps telling us [in] the first half we are playing amazing,” junior cornerback Duke Thomas said. “But second half, we aren’t coming out as strong and not finishing strong. And that’s basically where we at right now — finish strong and win games.”

Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said forcing turnovers is crucial for the defense.

“You know, in the games we’ve had success in, we’ve had takeaways,” Bedford said. “Last week, we had no takeaways, therefore we lost the football game. A dominating football team? You’re going to get turnovers. That’s the name of the game. You’re going to shorten the field for your offense. You’re going to score on defense. Whatever it takes. That’s what great defenses must do.”

While the statistics have been better, Bedford said wins are what really matter.

“It’s not important just to play hard and to play fast — but to play smart,” Bedford said. “And if we can continue to play hard and fast and play smarter, I think good things can happen for us.”

Freshman Jason Hall displayed physicality during his first start at safety against Kansas on Saturday.

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

When asked about freshman safety Jason Hall, teammates and coaches consistently mention the same trait: Hall’s energy.

“He’s the safety on the nickel package; he’s the starter so he plays a lot,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “He plays with a lot of energy and passion, and he brings a lot to the team. So yeah, he’ll play a lot. He’s been playing a lot.”

Hall, a South Grand Prairie High School graduate dubbed the No. 85 safety in his class by ESPN, was named an honorable mention All-State 5A by the Associated Press in 2013. His senior year production amounted to 57 tackles, six interceptions, six pass breakups, one pressure and two defensive touchdowns. Instead of redshirting his freshman year, Hall’s start against Kansas made him the first true freshman to start at safety since Blake Gideon in 2008. 

“We’ve been playing Jason Hall a little bit each game, and he played quite a bit against UCLA,” defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said before the Kansas game. “Did he make some mistakes? Yes, he did. But what I saw was a physical presence; that’s what we are looking for — guys that can bring physicality to the game.”

Hall continued to bring physicality to the game against the Jayhawks this weekend. Registering a career-high seven tackles, five of which were solos, Hall tied sophomore defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway’s stops, only ranking behind veterans senior linebacker Jordan Hicks and junior linebacker Steve Edmond. Through two games played, Hall has recorded 11 total tackles, eight of which were solo. Fellow defensive back senior Quandre Diggs said Hall ramps up the team energy when he steps on the field.

“We had a nice little spark from Jason when he came in,” Diggs said about Hall’s UCLA production. “He came in and he had two nice plays back-to-back, and, you know, he’s out there hitting guys. He loves to hit; he loves competing. You can tell he has a passion for the game.”

Nevertheless, Diggs sees Hall’s youth as a double-edged sword. Although his inexperience motivates him to perform, it also overwhelms him with excitement at times.

“Once we get him in the right direction and get him lined up in the right places, you know he’s going to let loose and he’s going to go,” Diggs said. “That’s the hard thing about being young. You just want to get in and you want to play. [You] might not do things right, but you’re going to run your tail up to the ball.”

Hall does run his tail up to the ball. He sees the football team as “something I want to be a part of,” as he told The Daily Texan in April. Each game, he’s becoming an increasingly significant part.

But, as Diggs says, once Hall learns to “read his keys more,” toning down the energy to balance it with a tad more strategy, Hall’s “going to be a great player.”

Before the season, those who had been around Hassan Ridgeway knew that the redshirt sophomore defensive tackle had the talent to be a special player. His teammates often spoke about the flashes of brilliance they had seen in practice, but, to some, it appeared that a poor work ethic prevented him from reaching his full potential.

Nicknamed the “Green Mile” by his teammates, Ridgeway’s challenge for 2014 was to “bring it” on every single play. As the season grew near, junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown saw Ridgeway putting in the extra effort.

“He’s grown up a lot,” Brown said. “Sometimes Hassan just goes. And when he really goes, you’re like, ‘Man, just do that every play.’ But he’s grown up a lot, I feel like his mind has gotten better, and he’s going to be a great player for us.”

In Texas’ season opener against North Texas, Ridgeway immediately demonstrated that potential, accumulating two sacks, the first two of his collegiate career. 

“I hadn’t gotten a sack since high school, so that was a big moment for me,” Ridgeway said. “That was my first college sack, I was pretty emotional for that one.”

In Texas’ two game since, Ridgeway has continued to make an impact in the defensive line rotation. 

In the second half of Texas’ loss to UCLA, senior defensive tackle Desmond “Tank” Jackson suffered a season-ending foot injury. Ridgeway played well in relief of Jackson but will now be tasked with the added pressure of replacing him as a starter.  

Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford expects Ridgeway to be able to handle the added playing time but knows it will be tough to replace Jackson’s leadership presence. 

“Hassan Ridgeway was backing up Malcom [Brown]. Now he has to go to nose [tackle],” Bedford says. “As far as a physical presence, I think we will be good there. But, as far as the excitement, the enthusiasm [and] the emotional leader, you can’t replace that. “

Head coach Charlie Strong really likes what he’s been seeing from Ridgeway, who now will need to continue to play at a very high level to make up for the loss of Jackson.

“Without a doubt, [he’s been] playing very well,“ Strong said. “Now, he gets an opportunity to go start. He’s so strong, so powerful and he can get off blocks and make plays. And you just see him go at people and just throwing back and just reach over to get sacks. He’s playing very well — just love his whole attitude.”

After Jackson left the game in the third quarter, the Longhorns struggled to consistently stop the UCLA offense and running game. Given the success the Bruins had, it’s safe to assume that Big 12 opponents are going to try to take advantage of Ridgeway’s lack of experience in the middle.

“I would run at Hassan Ridgeway,” Bedford said. “One of these days, Hassan is going to actually get mad. He is one of the nicest young people I’ve ever been around. If he ever gets mad I’m going to be the first one to leave the room because he will hurt somebody. My man could be a beast. I think he has ability to be a special talent.”

Ridgeway’s coaches and teammates clearly believe he will develop into a great player. Now, it’s up to him to prove them right and make an impact as the Longhorns try to turn their season around.

After his defense was torched against BYU last weekend for 429 yards at home, defensive coordinator Vance Bedford told the team to “look in the mirror” and face reality. 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford has some advice for the Longhorns: Take a look in the mirror.

“If you can’t be your worst critic when you wake up in the morning, and you look in the mirror, what do you see?” Bedford said. “Some [players] walk around with a crown on their head all the time. They really need to take the crown off and see reality.”

If the players don’t see reality now — BYU’s 41-7 destruction last week certainly looked like reality — it will hit them full force in Arlington on Saturday. Reality will take the form of Brett Hundley, Heisman candidate UCLA junior quarterback; Myles Jack, sophomore two-way linebacker and running back; and the remainder of the threat that No. 12 UCLA poses. To prepare, the defensive squad is trying to take Bedford’s advice to heart. They didn’t quite look in a literal mirror, but they did watch game film.

“Our whole attitude is that, if we expect something to change, and we want to be the best defense in the country, then we have to act like it,” senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson said. “We have to go out there and play with some juice, play angry, play smart and play fundamentally sound. Last week, we didn’t do that.”       

The squad found the “little things” that they say prevented their efficiency, as well as the more glaring problems, such as last week’s six missed sacks.

“When you have opportunity in life, you have to make the best of them,” Bedford said. “In the game of football, when the ball is in the air, you have the opportunity to go make a play. We missed a lot of opportunities in that game in the third quarter. We didn’t give ourselves a chance.”

Although Bedford, head coach Charlie Strong and the rest of the coaching staff seek to give the Longhorns as many opportunities as possible once they’re on the field, the road to playing time is longer than it once was. Suspensions abound when players don’t follow the rules, which will leave Texas with a compromised lineup this weekend. But Bedford sees the adjustment as just one more reminder that the players need to face reality.

“If you’re a parent at home, and your child does something wrong [with no consequences], what are you teaching that kid?” Bedford said. “As a football coach, guess what? You’re a parent. You’re a parent, you’re a teacher, you’re a counselor, you’re a psychologist. You’re all of those things in one. You have to be an extension of mom and dad, teach them discipline and how to do [the] little things right.”

As the Longhorn line-up seems to shift by the week — junior quarterback David Ash, senior center Dominic Espinosa and senior receiver Jaxon Shipley have all sustained injuries in recent games — and inexperienced players step up, the parent-child metaphor becomes increasingly apt. The coaching staff seeks to transition new players, just as parents help their children through pivotal life moments. Against BYU, the transition didn’t seem fully developed.

Heading into Arlington, the Longhorns have a chance to prove they’ve hit that development and can handle their first away game, albeit at a neutral venue. The first family vacation isn’t always smooth, but, if Bedford and the “parents” have trained their children well, they should like what they see in the mirror.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Fans watching Saturday’s game might have thought they were seeing a replay of last year’s contest against BYU, as the Cougars trounced Texas for the second consecutive year, picking the Longhorns apart to the tune of a 41 - 7 blowout victory at Darrel K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

BYU junior quarterback Taysom Hill picked up right where he left off last season, rushing for 99 yards and 3 touchdowns, while also throwing for 181 yards in the contest.

“It’s an embarrassment to this program, it’s an embarrassment to this university,” head coach Charlie Strong said in a fiery post game press conference. “I knew during warmup we weren’t ready to play. I said ‘we’re going to get embarrassed if we don’t watch out’ and that’s what happened.”

The Texas defense kept it close in the first half, as the Longhorns went into half-time trailing just 6-0. But with the offense struggling to sustain any production, the defense spent the majority of the game on the field and ran out of steam in the second half.

BYU scored on each of its four drives in the third quarter, with Hill running it in three times and junior running back Adam Hine plunging into the end zone for a fourth score.

“When you give up 28 points in one quarter, you aren’t ready to play, Coach [Strong] is right about that,” defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said.

Just as he did a year ago, Hill ran the read option to perfection Saturday night. He had several clutch carries for first downs, but his biggest play of the night came on a 30-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, when he leaped over walk-on safety Dylan Haines en route to the endzone.

“He reminds me a little bit of Tim Tebow,” Bedford said. “He’s strong, he has a good arm and if you sit back there and you don’t get him down, he’s going to come through there and make some plays, which he did tonight.”

Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes played decently in his first career start at Texas, throwing for 176 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He completed each of his first eight passes, but quarterbacks coach and play caller Shawn Watson was reluctant to let Swoopes loose in the first half, choosing to run the ball the majority of the time instead.

“I think Coach Watson was just giving me something I could handle for my first start, knowing that I would be a little nervous and antsy,” Swoopes said.

The young gunslinger noted that he did feel some butterflies early on in the contest, but quickly settled into the starting role.

 “The first couple plays I was nervous,” Swoopes said. “Then I got banged up a little bit, hit a couple times, and after that I was fine.”

 

Check out more photos from the game in the slideshow below - 

Amid all the dismissals and suspensions that would make for a great “Survivor”-esque reality TV show, Texas walk-on safety Dylan Haines is writing a feel-good, “Rudy”-esque story for the Longhorns.

Haines, a redshirt sophomore who never saw the field under former head coach Mack Brown, burst onto the scene in his first game for head coach Charlie Strong, coming up with an interception in the first half against North Texas.

“The pick came from a tipped ball, so I can’t say that I did everything,” Haines said after the game. “I was just in the right place at the right time. But to get that support from my teammates is just an awesome thing. I think that everyone loves what I’ve done and how hard I’ve worked and how I’ve come up and got my chance.”

The Lago Vista native would likely never have even been given a chance under Brown, who was very shy about playing his walk-ons. But a new coaching philosophy, combined with the dismissals and suspensions of a couple key players in the Longhorn secondary, gave Haines the playing opportunity every walk-on dreams of.

After weeks of hearing how much he had impressed coaches and teammates in practice, Texas fans quickly learned why Haines had shot up the depth chart so quickly. Aside from the 22-yard interception return, Haines recorded a tackle and looked very comfortable in the Longhorns’ new defense.

“He earned the right to be out there,” said defensive coordinator Vance Bedford. “He had an outstanding spring and outstanding camp. He tackled well, and that’s [most important.] The interception is great; I’m all for that. But when he had an opportunity to make plays and tackling, he did a good job of that.”

The Haines family has a lot of history on the 40 Acres, as Dylan’s father, John Haines, played defensive end for the Longhorns in the early 1980s. Bedford, who played with John Haines at Texas, has noticed some similarities between father and son.

“The kid is tough, [and] he’s smart,” Bedford said. “I actually played with his dad, and so he has a lot of football in him, a lot of football awareness and that’s
important.”

Dylan, too, credits much of his surprising success to his father.

“My dad is a very influential person in my life — probably the most influential,” Dylan Haines said. “He never let me get down on myself. He always pushed me to come and compete. My dad has had a huge impact.”

Now more than just John Haines’ son, Dylan, whose teammates have nicknamed “white chocolate,” is attempting to create his own legacy at Texas. Even prior to the season opener, he had impressed his coaches so much that the staff offered him a scholarship in early August.

But more important than earning the respect of the fans or his coaches is that it is very evident Haines’ teammates believe he is capable of anything.

“He comes to work every day and just shows everybody what type of player he really is and that it’s possible for anybody,” senior safety Mykkele Thompson said.

The fans may not have been chanting his name last weekend, but Haines’ inspirational story sure seems fit for Hollywood.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Texas’ newest football coaching staff became official Wednesday evening when head coach Charlie Strong formally announced the assistants who will work alongside him during his first year with the Longhorns.

Defense

Strong hired four new defensive coaches, including Vance Bedford as defensive coordinator and secondary coach. Bedford comes with Strong from Louisville, where he led a 2013 Cardinals defense to a No. 1 ranking in total defense, third-down-conversion defense and sacks.

Bedford, a former Longhorn defensive back, has a reputation for turning his defensive teams into aggressive playmakers who shut down opponents’ offenses. Bedford’s defense at Louisville let up only 251.5 yards per game and 12.2 points per game in 2013. Before Bedford started with the Cardinals in 2010, Louisville’s defense gave up 26.2 points per game and 371.1 yards per game in 2009. 

“What he also does a great job of is making sure he puts them in a position to make them successful,” Strong said. “That is what you look for on defense a guy that can disrupt an offense, which he does with pressure.”

Strong also brought another championship coach into the mix at Texas. Former Alabama defensive line coach Chris Rumph was hired for the same role with the Longhorns this past week.

Rumph, who helped the Crimson Tide to two back-to-back national titles in 2011 and 2012, brings more toughness to the Longhorns. During his stints at Clemson and Alabama, he was known for his intense and lively attitude, which kept his players in line. Rumph also adds skillful recruiting, as he has been known to have a great rapport with players and potential recruits.

“He is a guy with a lot of experience being around championship teams, so he has competed at the highest level,” Strong said. “That is what you want to get into this program.”

During his switch from Louisville, Strong also took linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary with him to Texas. Jean-Mary, who has developed NFL players such as Gerris Wilkinson and Chris Reis in his time at Georgia Tech, has gained invaluable experience in building up diminishing linebacker groups — an area Texas has had trouble with in past seasons. 

Strong rounded out his defensive staff with Chris Vaughn as the defensive backs coach and special teams coordinator. Vaughn comes from Memphis, where he built up an aggressive passing defense that moved up 42 spots nationally after he started with the Tigers. In addition, Vaughn, a Murray State alumnus, developed wide receiver Marshay Green into a cornerback at Ole Miss. Green would later become an NFL cornerback and special teams player.

Strong’s final assistant is Pat Moorer, the strength and conditioning coach, whom he brought with him from Louisville. In his three years at Louisville, Moorer instilled toughness and accountability into his players, another area in which the Longhorns have lacked since their 2009 national title appearance.

Offense

Bruce Chambers (TE): Chambers returns to Texas as the only holdover from Mack Brown’s last staff. His connections on the recruiting trail as well as familiarity with the area will make him an important member of new head coach Charlie Strong’s coaching staff. Although Chambers was seen by some as the weak link to Brown’s staff, his continuity with the team and high schools will be essential to Texas’ in-state recruiting success.

Les Koenning (WR): Koenning played for Texas from 1977 to 1980, and was a graduate assistant for the Longhorns from 1981 to 1983. In total, he has 33 years of coaching experience, and has coached at four other schools in the state of Texas during that span of time. He was most recently the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Mississippi State, and under his watch the Bulldogs’ offense reached unprecedented heights. Although many question why Strong brought him in rather than retain Wyatt, his ties to the state and school should make his tenure a successful one.

Tommie Robinson (RB): Robinson is well-seasoned as a coach for various offensive assignments, but doesn’t have much in the way of substantial ties to the state. Robinson is a solid coach, but, as with most of the staff, his hire suffers in perception because it is not the ‘splash’ hire most fans were begging for.

Shawn Watson (Asst. Head Coach/QB): Watson served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Charlie Strong at Louisville, where he helped develop quarterback Teddy Bridgewater into a potential No. 1 overall draft pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Watson’s first big tasks will be developing quarterback Tyrone Swoopes and 2014 commit Jerrod Herd into elite players. His ability to do so will likely dictate how successful the Strong era will be at Texas, though carrying him from Louisville could be Strong’s biggest regret if Watson doesn’t succeed.

Joe Wickline (Offensive Coordinator/ OL): Although much is unknown about his ability to call plays — he last did so at Delta State in 1987 — Wickline is considered to be among the best in the business coaching the offensive line. At Oklahoma State, he developed Russell Okung from a three-star prospect to the No. 6 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, a unit into which Texas has not had a player drafted since Tony Hills in 2008. Wickline should be able to develop the position immediately and is arguably the most impressive hire of the coaching staff.