Cedric Golden

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Charlie Strong should play his cards — even Daje

It's a bottom-line world. Charlie Strong knows, 'We have to win some games.'

Posted July 22nd, 2015

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Story highlights
  • While TCU, Baylor going strong, Strong must get this thing in gear and fast.
  • Maybe Daje's next single should be titled "Pit" with Pat Moorer as executive producer.

DALLAS — Charlie Strong knows the score entering Year 2.

We’re still in July, but his ultimate goal goes far beyond X’s and O’s and subtleties on offense and defense.

“We have to win some games,” he said.

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Simple as that.

Daje Johnson looks to the stands at the annual Texas Football Orange-White Scrimmage at Royal Memorial Stadium on Saturday, April 19, 2014. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Daje Johnson looks to the stands at the annual Texas Football Orange-White Scrimmage at Royal Memorial Stadium on Saturday, April 19, 2014. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Win some games and the bluest of blue chippers will beat a path to the 512.

Win some games and Longhorns will name their kids and cars after you.

Win some games and UT supporters who don’t support the methods of Steve Patterson will change their minds…

OK, let’s climb one Everest at a time here.

Winning begets winning, and Strong would love to rediscover the elixir Mack Brown used to register nine consecutive 10-win seasons and a national championship, but since there isn’t a Vince Young or Colt McCoy falling into his lap anytime soon, Chuck will have to make do with the players at his disposal.

Translation: There will come a time this fall when he will have to go against his defensive-minded nature and take more chances against teams that have been superior to Texas offensively for quite some time now. Whether it’s Tyrone Swoopes, whom Strong called his starter heading into the summer, or redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard, Strong and his offensive brain trust will have to dial up something – anything – to improve their fortunes.

Maybe during one of his conversations with Mack, his predecessor will suggest he roll the dice on offense more if he wants to have any chance of keeping up with the Big 12’s big dogs, TCU and Baylor, both of which averaged more than 46 points per game last season. If that means trotting out Heard as the starter in South Bend, then take that chance. Heard’s upside could morph into an upgrade over Swoopes.

A group that ranked ninth in the Big 12 in scoring (21.4 points per game), ninth in yards per game (337.3), ninth in total touchdowns (34), and last in passing (199.9 ypg) could sure use one.

While TCU and Baylor show no signs of slowing down, Strong must get this thing in gear and fast. I’m not saying the Horns are capable of scoring 35-plus a game, but improving to about 27 – that’s one more touchdown per game – could get them to seven wins. Last season, it was a chore just getting everyone lined up in the right spot behind an inexperienced quarterback. The ensuing struggles eventually placed too much stress on a veteran defense forced to defend short fields for most of the season.

“When you talk about chances, if you feel like you can’t score on offense, you can’t take too many chances,” Strong said. “Because now you’ve got to sit back and just hope you can keep them from scoring.”

One player who could help bring a big-play dynamic to this attack is the ever-embattled Daje Johnson, who at his best could be a poor man’s Ramonce Taylor. Johnson, as has become his custom, is back in the doghouse after releasing a rap single called “Dealer” – too bad it’s not about art or cards – a couple of weeks ago.

In the rap game, a song that’s described as “ill” is something to be proud of, but in Johnson’s case, his effort was the opposite: ill-timed, ill-conceived and ill-advised. So much that Strong called him in and said,”You must not be on the team anymore since you’re a rapper now,” prompting a slew of excuses and apologies from DJ Daje.

Maybe his next single should be titled “Pit” and have Pat Moorer as executive producer.

While he isn’t the best decision-maker on the roster, Johnson has difference-making ability, and Strong knows as much, even though Daje has to be down to his last strike as a Texas Longhorn. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson should make him one of the focal points in the offense in the way Florida used Percy Harvin on the off chance that the long-dormant light bulb comes on in his thick head.

“When Daje is healthy and on point and at the peak of his game, he’s one of the best players in college football,” said teammate Johnathan Gray.

And what about his rap skills, J. Gray?

“I tell him the truth,” Gray said. “Some songs are good, and some are really, really bad.”

Sounds like Longhorn games over the past five years.

Strong can’t stand pat in 2015.

Contact Cedric Golden at 512-912-5944.

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