Texas Longhorns football notes: Strong's way, academic progress, SOS, and experience

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Is the offseason over yet?

Horns_bullet_mediumStrong through the eyes of former players. New Texas head coach Charlie Strong isn't exactly a man of compromise -- he wants things done the right way and it's not a coincidence that the right way is his way.

At Texas, it started with telling players that it was their fault that they got a good coaching staff fired, just as it began at Louisville. It continued with tough offseason workouts in which he participated, just as it did at Louisville.

The next step is for Strong to start establishing trust with his players, a process that has begun already with the head coach taking the locks off of the coaching offices so players can come and go freely, but the basis of everything is accountability for all players, something that was lacking with the previous regime.

Louisville proved that Strong's blueprint was applicable for him as a head coach and now he's going through the same steps at Texas, confident that it will pay dividends on the field come fall Saturdays.

Horns_bullet_mediumAcademic progress update. For the Longhorns this spring, the players facing academic hurdles to remain in the program weren't just fringe guys occupying scholarships and riding the bench during games. On the contrary, most were either important contributors last year or players who could end up having to step up into big roles this season.

HornsDigest provided an update on guys like offensive tackle Kennedy Estelle, wide receiver Daje Johnson, and running backs Jalen Overstreet and Joe Bergeron:

Players considered on the fence as far as buy-in dating to last year - players whose names are well known because of previous academic or off-field turbulence - Daje Johnson, Desmond Harrison, Kennedy Estelle and Jalen Overstreet - all turned in strong spring semesters.

And Joe Bergeron, who may have questioned authority at every turn in the past, now seems to realize Charlie Strong and his coaching staff aren't just talk. The word is Bergeron has so turned around his attitude and approach - to everything - after last semester that coaches expect him to be a team leader.

Why are those four players important? Harrison and Estelle are two of the three offensive tackles with any on-field experience for the Horns whatsoever, while Johnson is the team's fastest player and perhaps only true home-run threat on offense, though it remains to be seen how the new staff intends on using him because he was hardly featured in the spring game.

The likelihood of Overstreet needing to play a significant role is decreased by the positive news on Bergeron, but if things go sideways with the senior big back again and Johnathan Gray isn't ready to contribute following his Achilles injury last fall, Overstreet could quickly find himself in the rotation.

As for Bergeron, he could play a big role in helping Texas establish the type of physical identity that new head coach Charlie Strong wants on the offensive side of the ball.

So far, it looks like the increased emphasis by the staff on holding players accountable in the classroom has paid off. In the cases of prospective starters like Harrison and Estelle, the stakes were high and letting them wash out of the program wasn't an option.

Horns_bullet_mediumTexas to face toughest schedule in conference. The biggest impediment to success this fall may not be the uncertainty at quarterback with David Ash's injury history or the lack of proven depth at offensive tackle -- it may be the schedule itself, which is hardly forgiving.

Using the same formula that the now-defunct BCS used to use to measure strength of schedule, CBSSports found that the Horns will face the 15th-hardest schedule in the country in 2014, one spot ahead of West Virginia.

Here's what Jerry Palm had to say about it:

Charlie Strong's debut season won't be easy. The Longhorns will play the toughest non-league schedule among Big 12 teams, facing both UCLA and BYU. In the league, they get Kansas State and Oklahoma State on the road, as well as the Red River Shootout against Oklahoma.

Fans expecting a quick start to the Charlie Strong era might end up massively disappointed and the road game against Kansas State could be difficult to win, as Texas hasn't won a game in Manhattan since 2002, a 17-14 victory keyed by a late field goal made by Dusty Mangum, followed by a blocked field goal by Marcus Tubbs.

The Cowboys might be an easier opponent to face, as head coach Mike Gundy lost most of his defense, his starting quarterback, and his top receiver.

The Horns are also one of only two teams in the Big 12 that won't play an FCS opponent.

Horns_bullet_mediumWill experience help Texas? One possible advantage Texas may have over the rest of the conference is experience -- the Horns return the most starts in the conference by a significant margin, leading the way on both offense and defense.

But while experience can often correlate to success, it didn't last year for Texas when the team boasted 627 career starts, though there may be numerous reasons for that, mostly related to injuries, with the loss of starting quarterback David Ash the most significant.

If he isn't healthy again and if the offensive line doesn't come together, all the rest of that experience may not account for much, especially against the league's toughest schedule.

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