Texas coach Charlie Strong, left, talks to defensive coordinator Vance Bedford in the first quarter against Notre Dame at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Sunday September 4, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

BEVO BEAT Football

Whys of Texas: Should Charlie Strong keep or remove Vance Bedford?

Readers are irate at defensive performance vs. Cal; Strong promises all assistants will be evaluated

Posted September 22nd, 2016

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Texas fans, you’re angry. That might be putting it mildly for some. And it’s totally understandable.

Suffice it to say, the Longhorns have come back down from their 2-0 high and are now trying to figure out what went wrong in a 50-43 loss in Strawberry Canyon. If we’re being honest, California should have won 57-43, and we’ll definitely get to that late fumble here in a minute.

But the emails and Facebook comments that poured in this week all had a similar theme: what is Charlie Strong going to do about that defense?

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No sense in delaying the inevitable. Put on your hazmat suits and read on.

Texas defensive coordinator/defensive back coach, Vance Bedford paces the sideline agaisnt Notre Dame during the second half of action held Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind., on Saturday, September 5, 2015. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Texas defensive coordinator/defensive back coach, Vance Bedford paces the sideline against Notre Dame during the second half of action held Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind., on Saturday, September 5, 2015. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Q. Get rid of Vance please.

— Tanner B. via Facebook

DAVIS: I can understand fan frustration with the defense, which is overseen by defensive coordinator Vance Bedford, a Texas-ex who has been with Charlie Strong since his Louisville days.

Q: Vance knows we graded poorly on defense. The question is, “Is he the guy capable of turning it around?” I really hope he can. You can’t deny his zeal and dedication. And yes, he’s one hell of a likable guy…but…can he get it done?

— Patrick D. via Facebook

DAVIS: Well, that’s certainly the major question here in UT’s off week.

Q: Charlie, friend or no friend, this is hurting the football team. His defense is demoralizing the team. Admit it, there are so many great defensive-minded coaches out there, don’t be so stubborn, change now!!!

— Larry B. via Facebook

DAVIS: These first three questions/comments/declarations are just a random sampling. Editors spiked several more that were unprintable. Let’s go back to last season for a moment. Strong knew something had to be done after the season-opening loss at Notre Dame, so he demoted play-caller Shawn Watson. That had to be a difficult conversation. Without Watson guiding Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville, I still contend Strong wouldn’t have become the coach at Texas. Now comes a similar fork-in-the-road moment about Bedford, who has been with Strong since 2010. Strong could easily come out and named linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary as the co-defensive coordinator and say that Jean-Mary is going to call plays. That would satisfy the masses. But unless there’s a change in personnel on the field or a change in scheme, I’m not totally convinced we would see much change against Oklahoma State. Teams are who they are.

Texas head coach Charlie Strong calls to his players during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Notre Dame, in Austin, Texas. One weekend has already changed the tone of the Big 12, and teams on opposite sides of the Red River separating Oklahoma and Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Texas head coach Charlie Strong calls to his players during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Notre Dame, in Austin, Texas. One weekend has already changed the tone of the Big 12, and teams on opposite sides of the Red River separating Oklahoma and Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Q. Why isn’t Charlie more involved with the defense and game planning/adjustments on that side of the ball? He was a great coordinator at Notre Dame and Florida. If he doesn’t intervene and put Bedford on a very short leash, it could cost him his job.

— Forrest S. via Facebook

DAVIS: During the team’s preseason media day press conference, I asked Strong specifically whether we should be holding Bedford’s feet to the fire more. He made it clear that Bedford runs the defense. “You hire coaches, that’s their job,” Strong said then. After the Cal game, Strong wasn’t in a finger-pointing mood. On Monday, the head coach sounded ominous when he said, “I’ll look at it here the next couple of weeks. Each coach will be evaluated and we’ll see where we go from here.” Simply from a P.R. standpoint, Strong risks alienating a lot of fans by keeping Bedford in his role as the face of the defense. He can win back some points by announcing a switch to Jean-Mary or defensive line coach Brick Haley even if it’s just cosmetic. Just remember, Strong was hired because of his defensive chops. By firing/demoting Bedford, in some ways Strong is admitting he’s failed, too.

Q. Next time you can ask Charlie Strong a question why not ask him this one regarding his underperforming defense: “Coach, will you follow the path Nick Saban has taken at Alabama hiring specialist off-the-field consultants like Steve Sarkisian to solve your lack of production in defensive secondary?”

— Ron via email in Madrid, Spain

DAVIS: This is a fascinating topic to me. The NCAA allows for only 10 on-field coaches — the head coach and nine assistants. But you can have all sorts of creative people, from quality control coaches to team psychiatrists. Sports Illustrated counted up 21 analysts, player personnel or operations staffers on the Alabama website. Obviously, money isn’t an issue, and Texas athletics director Mike Perrin would green-light just about anything Strong wanted. If I were the head coach, I’d be open to having veterans I trusted look at my own team and point out areas for improvement.

Texas Longhorns running back D'Onta Foreman runs ahead of the pack during the second half of a NCAA college football game against California Golden Bears , Saturday, September 17, 2016 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas Longhorns running back D’Onta Foreman runs ahead of the pack during the second half of a NCAA college football game against California Golden Bears , Saturday, September 17, 2016 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Q. Nice to see that the fans are ignoring the adjustments made after halftime that kept Cal off of the scoreboard for the entire third quarter. A relatively great second half from the defense, just for the offense to sputter out.

— Joseph M. via Facebook

DAVIS: This is correct. The Golden Bears’ first drive of the third quarter went 14 yards. Their second went for 18. A third drive that bridged the third and fourth quarters was four plays for no yards. The Texas offense struggled, too. Zach Shackelford’s holding penalty wiped out D’Onta Foreman’s 21-yard gain to the Cal 7. That drive ended in a missed field goal. Penalties also short-circuited UT’s other drives in the quarter. It was a 15-minute rest for the scoreboard operator.

Q. A fumble is a fumble it’s a live ball until someone recovers it or picks it up. You do not put a timer on it, ridiculous. Should have been Texas ball at 20. Sad.

— Bobby B. via Facebook

DAVIS: Strong was impressive during the post-game scrum with reporters when he didn’t blame officiating or that particular call for costing Texas the ballgame. And he shouldn’t, because it didn’t. Texas didn’t lose to Cal because of Vic Enwere’s fumble and the lack of a quick Dylan Haines recovery. All that said, the Horns should’ve had one more chance at the 20-yard line. The problem was everyone on the field — the players and the officials — all thought it was a touchdown. It wasn’t until the Pac-12 replay crew took a second look; the guys upstairs determined Enwere did indeed fumble. Haines himself said one official held out his hands, as if to say “Give me the ball.” Texas fans don’t want to hear this, but strictly based on the letter of the law, the play was officiated correctly. California got the ball at the 1-yard line, took a knee and ran out the clock for the win.

In my mind, the problem is college officials don’t let things play out more. They’re too quick to whistle things dead. Once that ball was out, every official should have waited a second or two before signaling touchdown. If Haines picks that ball up and runs the other way, the perception of the play might have been different.

Texas quarterback Shane Buechele passes against UTEP during the second half at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)
Texas quarterback Shane Buechele passes against UTEP during the second half at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Q. The transition from high school to college is huge! Shane (Buechele) has done a great job so far. Hopefully he will learn how to move around in the pocket to avoid some of those big hits. He was hurt no doubt. Like any athlete, they will deny they are hurt. Good thing he has two weeks to recover. He’s not a big guy and that is a concern.

— Dan N. via Facebook

DAVIS: Buechele has been nothing short of terrific in three games so far. The freshman has completed 66.3 percent of his passes so far for 720 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions. Buechele did leave the game in the first half after taking a big-league hit. On Monday, Buechele said he suffered a rib injury but felt fine. He acted like it was no big deal.

Q. I understand that the defense is taking a hit but what about the offense? We are playing one of the worse run defenses in the country and we start throwing the ball? With our running backs? The running game would’ve kept the D off the field? I really don’t see the concept!

— Larry F. via Facebook

DAVIS: Frankly, I didn’t understand the decisions on UT’s final drive. A quick pass to Jerrod Heard on first down for a 1-yard loss. Buechele ran for a gain of 2. Then, Buechele was sacked on third-and-9. Why not just run Foreman or Chris Warren III there? The clock is still your friend at this point, and the Bears hadn’t stopped them all night long. Buechele has run-pass options on practically every play at the line of scrimmage. I’d love to be sitting in a coaches meeting and listen to them dissect the decision-making during that drive.

Q. I really don’t think the Horns would be able to move to another conference because they will have issues with their network.  I guess they could go independent and take OU with them and play Notre Dame every year.  That wouldn’t be too bad either. Have a great day !

— G. L. Sheehan via email who adds “Living large in beautiful Guadalajara, Mexico.”

DAVIS: I’ll say this — I’m done with the whole let’s-join-the-Pac-12 debate. We left the press box at 2 a.m. Pacific time, which was 4 a.m. Central. The Longhorns had a team charter and didn’t get home until about 7 a.m. I loved the seafood, the weather and the scenery. Loved it. But do that every other week? Meh, I’ll pass. Meanwhile, Big 12 expansion talks have taken an odd turn with Oklahoma president David Boren’s mixed comments indicating the league may not expand after all. The league meeting is Oct. 17 when we hope something gets decided, one way or the other.

Q. They need to laugh…Strong is taking over….all will be right with the longhorn world…Hook ‘Em.

— Cecil W. via Facebook

DAVIS: Let’s end on a high note. Everybody check out how the players reacted when they saw Tim Cole’s face on Longhorn Network.

Have a question for the Whys of Texas? Email bdavis@statesman.com or drop us a line in the comments section on Facebook. 

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