Charlie Strong’s weekly press conference has come and gone.
Here’s the takeaway:
Hey, there are still seven games left. The defensive issues can be fixed. It just goes back to coaching and putting players in the right position.
Texas is 2-3, off to an 0-2 start in the Big 12, has lost three straight games, has a defense that’s given up 50, 49, 47 and 45 points in four of its five games, and is playing a team that shut the Longhorns out last year.
“As bad as we played (Saturday), I told our guys we still had our opportunities to go win that football game,” Strong said in his opening statement. “Now we’re going back home, we’ve been away for a month and we’re looking for our fans to come support our football team. I know this: They’re gonna show up and show how much they care about this team and how much they do support it.”
Fans were a hot topic today. It was his longest press conference so far this season — 34 minutes from start to finish — and he got separate questions on whether the fans will come out and still support the team, whether he understands why the fan base is frustrated, and, simply, what do you say to the fans right now?
His answer: “We’ve been away for a month, we have seven games left, and this is their football team. We’re a young team and we need their support. You can’t be a fair weather fan. You’re either in it or you’re not. You’re looking at a team that’s gonna make it interesting and score some points. If I’m a fan, I’m gonna come watch it. I see the team and see where it’s heading.”
Saturday’s game kicks off at 6 p.m. It’s a Longhorn Network game. We’ll have to wait to see what kind of crowd it generates.
Strong pointed out six players — Armanti Foreman, Dorian Leonard, Anthony Wheeler, Devin Duvernay, Jason Hall and D’Onta Foreman — as guys who are playing well right now.
He did not address the status of Chris Warren III. Perhaps we’ll get word on Warren’s availability from Sterlin Gilbert tomorrow night.
He intimated that Tyrone Swoopes may start throwing out of the 18-Wheeler package; teams are loading the box anticipating Swoopes runs out of it, and leaving outside receivers in one-on-one coverage with cornerbacks that are playing tight coverage.
On to some specific topics:
On what’s up with Davante Davis, who’s been struggling? “It starts at practice, and it goes from practice to the game. You can’t just give up the deep ball. The one he gave up, the quarterback was scrambling around and his guy ran a post route. It happens a lot. Once you lose your eyes, you’re gonna lose your man. I don’t need help against the run. You’ve got to make sure whenever we’re in man coverage, just focus on your man.”
On whether he feels he’s getting support here at Texas: “I don’t hear half the conversations. My whole focus is this football team. I take care of business and everything else will take care of itself. We have seven left right now and we’ve gotta get that done. The support is there. We’ve gotta do our part.”
On where you start fixing these defensive backs: “We throw deep balls in practice, so (receivers) go up against our DBs every day. We air it out. In practice, they make plays on the ball, so you would like to see that translate from practice to the game. … It’s just a matter of continuing to work on it.”
On John Burt, who has been struggling: “Sometimes guys just have those drops. The great thing is that position is very competitive. John will come out of it. He’s such a good player.”
On how he felt his first game as the new defensive coordinator went: “It didn’t go good. We lost that game. As a defensive staff, we’ve just gotta continue to work. We’ll get it fixed. You just need to make sure you get guys in position to make plays and put the right players out there.”
On whether he enjoyed it: “It was going back to those old days.”
On why it seems like nothing’s working to fix the defense: “Everything is about fundamentals and technique. It’s a fundamental game. It’s a simple game we make so complicated. … When you get into the game you can’t ever relax. Each play, hey you’ve got to play this play and then move on to the next one. You’ve gotta continue to preach it and you’ve gotta continue to coach it.”
On the irony of having spent two years talking about offense and quarterbacks, and now scoring 41 points a game isn’t enough: “Watch this league. I think Kansas State is playing really good defense. It’s a matchup league. … If you watch this matchup, on one hand you’re gonna have Burt or Dorian Leonard on the outside, in the middle (Jacorey Warrick) or Duvernay, on the outside Heard or Armanti. How are you gonna get four back and cover all those guys? You’re gonna get beat somewhere. If your offensive line can hold up and your quarterback can find out where the mismatch is, you’re gonna score a bunch of points.”
On why the Big 12 has gone all on board with this offense: “You’ve gotta match scores. You can get back into the game so quick, and if you can beat people over the top. You’ve got to be able to stop the run. Are you strong enough up front to go outside? What happened was when people saw what Baylor and TCU were doing with lesser athletes, then boom, everybody else jumped on board and it’s taken off in this league.”
On whether he understands the fan frustration: “I look at it like this. These players signed on for this, but they signed on also to come to the University of Texas to get that support. Sometimes we don’t play as well as we should and I understand that, but we need their support. Our kids are gonna play hard; even to the very end Saturday, throwing the ball backwards trying to move the ball upfield. They’re gonna give it everything we’ve got; they’re gonna leave it out there. We need our fans. I see the frustration in Year 3, but the whole thing is come and yell for Hager, come and yell for Buechele, come and yell for Foreman. They want to hear it. They want people to know they really appreciate what they’re doing.”
On how he himself is holding up: “I’m fine. I’m so competitive, so as a competitor you want more things to happen for you. You just continue to coach, just continue to grind it out. It will turn, guys. It will turn.”
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