Some more updates from Monday’s football press conference with Charlie Strong.
FOR OPENERS: How Strong opened his presser:
“It was an embarrassing loss … when you’re at home, at your stadium and talk about defending your home turf, you should never lose like that,” Strong said. “It’s not an indication of the type of team we have.”
Before the game, Strong instructed one of his coaches to blow the whistle and send the team back into the locker room. That’s where he told them he didn’t feel that they were ready, which he revealed to us after the game in his presser. In that locker room, Strong told his players that even though the coaches were not in Provo last year, he felt that he and his staff were taking this Texas-BYU game more personally than they were.
“We weren’t ready,” he said. “… But we have to move on.”
ON UCLA: Strong called UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, who’s the 14th-ranked passer in the country (53 of 77 for 638 yards, 3 TDs and 1 interception, a Heisman Trophy candidate.
ON ASH: When asked about David Ash‘s status: “Right now, David is definitely out. The doctors are going to make a decision. Until then, Tyrone is our quarterback.”
Two sources told our own Brian Davis over the weekend that it’s doubtful Texas’ medical staff will allow Ash back onto the field.
Later, it appeared that Strong indirectly reflected that same thought, when he was asked about the simple game plan that had been installed for him against BYU.
“Each and every week,” Strong said of Swoopes, “something will be added for him” in the game plan.
Another indication: After Strong is finished, UT officials routinely bring a couple of players at a time for the print media to interview. These interview sessions usually last 5-10 minutes. Swoopes — who has never been brought out on a Monday presser before — was made available for nearly 15. And that was virtually 15 minutes of exclusive time; running back Malcolm Brown took his seat toward the tail end of Swoopes’.
ON SUSPENSIONS: Not saying that Strong is evasive, but he has shown a knack for not answering a specific question sometimes. This week, some reporters didn’t let it go.
One reporter asked him about a published report over the weekend saying Strong personally intervened in the cases of suspended offensive tackles Desmond Harrison and Kennedy Estelle, throwing his political weight around with Texas’ dean of students to strong-arm a decision to not throw Harrison and Estelle out of school. The reporter asked him if such an appeal was made to that UT official or to some ruling committee.
“There is no committee,” Strong said. “There’s no one I have to appeal to. When I make the decision to suspend someone, I make that decision. There’s no committee at all.”
Strong answered the question with conviction, but didn’t really answer the question at all.
Later, a reporter asked the question again, and again, Strong answered without answering.
Later, Davis — jumping into the issue — acknowledged that he didn’t want to belabor the point, but then specifically brought up the original report, and point-blank asked Strong whether that conversation with the dean of students did or did not occur.
“The dean of students — I don’t have to talk to the dean of students. No, that did not happen. When I make the decision to suspend guys in this program, I make that decision. No one else but me.”
Later in the presser, Kirk Bohls asked Strong if Nick Rose — who missed a 38-yard field goal against North Texas and a 42-yarder against BYU — was still the starting kicker.
Strong’s answer: “The thing about Rose, he’s good enough to make them. It’s all a confidence factor. We’re punting the ball well, we’ve just got to do a better job of recovering. Too many penalties. That hurt us. Our average starting field position in the second half was around the 14-yard line. Some of that was just the returns, maybe some penalties. But we need to do a better job in the kicking game.”
Then Bohls, who had asked whether there’d be a change in the lineup, had to ask again: “But Nick is still the field goal kicker?”
Strong: “Nick is the field goal kicker.”
MISSED TACKLES: Strong was asked how many missed tackles he counted in the BYU game after watching it on tape. The Longhorns missed more than 20 in last year’s 40-21 loss in Provo.
Strong said he counted “more than 10. That’s why you get beat the way you get beat. It was a large amount.”
ON NOT BEING READY FOR BYU: Circling back to Strong’s post-game comments about his players not being ready for BYU, he mentioned that during the week, he had posters placed around the locker room for motivational purposes, using a “500” rushing yards (a reference to the 2013 Texas-BYU game) as an example. Those posters apparently stayed up all week.
Strong said he told the players that at any other school he’s coached at (which includes Florida, South Carolina and Louisville), someone would’ve torn those posters down because players wouldn’t have wanted that kind of stuff in their locker room.
No one apparently tore down the posters. Small anecdote, but perhaps telling.
“It’s a process,” Strong said. “We’ve just gotta continue to build on it. … I told them after the game that it’s embarrassing and humiliating to get beat at home. They have continued to hear it from me. You don’t walk out in your home stadium, in front of your home crowd … when a team did embarrass you a year ago? If you’re a player, what should you do?”
Then, Bohls blurted out: “I’d tear the sign off.”
Strong laughed. Hard.
Earlier updates …
David Ash is still out: Don’t look for Ash’s return anytime soon — perhaps for the rest of this season, even. And perhaps ever. All Strong definitively said today is that Ash will not play this week against UCLA. “The doctors are going to make a decision,” he said. “Until then, Tyrone is our quarterback.”
But, later in the presser, when asked about the safe game plan called for Tyrone Swoopes in the loss to BYU, Strong said: “Each and every week, something will be added for him.”
Sounded like that wouldn’t be so much of a priority if Texas was expecting Ash back.
Harrison, Estelle status: Starting left tackle Kennedy Estelle and starting right tackle Desmond Harrison are till suspended, for violating one of Strong’s five core values. In Harrison’s case, he was suspended for the opener but then was reinstated to the team last Monday, Strong announced. Two days later, Harrison was suspended again.
Neither will play against UCLA, Strong said. They should be allowed to return to practice, but Strong said he hasn’t decided which day that will be. And he said there’s no timeline for their reinstatement.
Strong did say, however, that both were down to their last chance. “They have stopped (their breaking of the core values),” Strong said. “They’re not going to break another one because they won’t be here if they break another one.”
What about Daje?: Speaking of suspended players, receiver Daje Johnson and safety Josh Turner may or may not return this week for UCLA. When asked about them, Strong said: “That decision has not been made yet.”
Is Nick Rose safe?: Yes, for now. Rose has missed two field goals (from 38 and 42 yards) through the first two games, but Strong said he’s still the kicker.
In fact, Strong said no starting jobs are up for grabs this week.
Texas is 1-1, with a win over North Texas and a loss to BYU. UCLA is 2-0, having beaten Virginia and Memphis. The Bruins are ranked No. 12 in the country. The series is tied all-time, 3-3.
The game’s at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Kickoff is at 7:15, and it’s being carried on Fox.
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