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.
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.
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.