"Nothing's broke here."
That's what Charlie Strong keeps saying. He said it when he was introduced as the new Texas head coach on Jan. 6. He's said it over and over to the groups of Longhorn supporters that he's spoken to over the past two and a half months. He's said it in the living rooms of recruits as he scrambled to save ESPN RecruitingNation's 16th-ranked class. And he said it again one week ago, to the Longhorn Network's Kaylee Hartung as his first team started spring practice.
But for a program that isn't broken, Strong has sure been doing a lot of fixing. The team has been brought back to campus to live in the same dorm. The players and staff no longer ride the bus to the practice field. They walk. And when the team lined up for its first official wind sprints of the spring, Strong lined up and took off with them.
In other words, old school.
"None of that should surprise you if you've ever spent any time around Charlie," said Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, who retained only one assistant coach from the previous staff when he took over at Florida in 2005. That was Strong. "As a player you can't complain about working out when the coach is right there with you."
"Changing a culture is hard stuff," said Tennessee head coach Butch Jones, entering his second year at the other UT in Knoxville, Tenn. "But it's something that you know will take a while to do. When it comes to the football stuff, time is not on your side. You have 15 spring practices to install playbooks and evaluate what you have."
So, what exactly does Strong have? What does he not? Here are the three biggest needs Texas must tackle before the April 19 Orange-White game.
3-4 or 4-3?
Strong is a defensive-minded coach and his bread-and-butter defense has been a 3-4 base formation. Under Mack Brown, Texas was a 4-3 program. So task No. 1 for Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford is to determine whether they will stick with the 4-3 based on the personnel they inherited.