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7 topics I want to hear Charlie Strong talk about at Big 12 Media Days

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The third-year coach will face the media on Tuesday in Dallas.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

For many, July represents a summer month of relaxation, lake trips, and backyard barbeques. In the world of college football, however, July is a month of mind-numbing dullness where recruiting hasn’t quite ramped up and offseason practice details are hard to come by.

College football’s month of purgatory will receive a shot in the arm this week, for fans of teams in the Big 12 at least, when the conference's Media Days begin on Monday in Dallas.

While the madness begins Monday, Texas Longhorns fans will have to wait until Tuesday to hear from head coach Charlie Strong. In his third season, Strong heads into a pivotal year, which will surely determine his future on the Forty Acres. Needless to say, the Longhorns’ headman will face countless questions in Dallas, but here are seven topics I would like to see him discuss.

1. The Quarterback Situation

The biggest topic of this offseason has been a recurring discussion since Colt McCoy departed campus—Who will be the Texas quarterback? After an impressive performance in the spring game, Longhorn faithful everywhere believe/hope early enrollee Shane Buechele is the long awaited answer. Strong has been high on Buechele this offseason, but can he afford to ride the coat tails of a freshman who will surely see his share of ups and downs?

Perhaps the better question is can he afford to start senior Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard, who both struggled mightily during the disastrous 2015 season? The coaching staff maintains it’s a wide-open battle, but most believe Strong knows his plan. I doubt he will tip his hand much during a media day Q/A, but I want to see how Strong addresses the situation.

Will he name a leader at the position? How does Swoopes fit into the offensive game plan? Heck, is there any truth about Jerrod Heard to receiver? If I was a betting man, I suspect the Longhorns will play more than one quarterback during the upcoming season, but there’s little doubt the position needs more stability. Hopefully, Strong will shed some light on the situation on Tuesday.

2. How many wins does it take…

Yes, the question every Longhorn fan and college football pundit is asking — how many wins will it take to save Charlie Strong’s job? Does seven wins make the cut since he's recruiting well? Is it eight wins or better? I want to hear how Charlie Strong will define a 'successful season' for this group.

There seems to be a certain buzz about the team that has been lacking in the past two years, but will that buzz translate into actual results? Going 11-14 in two seasons hasn't earned Strong many friends so far at Texas, so he needs evidence this season on why his system is working. I seriously doubt that Strong gives himself a tangible number he needs to reach this season during a Big 12 Media Days session, however he should be prepared to answer the difficult questions about his job security.

3. Splitting Carries at Running Back

One of the bright spots about last season for the Longhorns is that it featured the unveiling of the ‘Smash Bros,’ the talented running back duo of sophomore Chris Warren and junior D’Onta Foreman. Foreman gashed teams on a routine basis and led the team in rushing last season. Warren, on the other hand, shined in the final two games when Foreman was injured — including a 276-yard performance against the Swiss cheese defense of Texas Tech.

Both runners have the potential to be NFL backs and will see playing time in 2016, but how does the coaching staff intend to split the carries? Sometimes having two elite backs prevents either of them from establishing a rhythm during the game. Will the coaching staff play the hot hand or implement some sort of rotation?

In addition to Foreman and Warren, the Longhorns also have talented sophomore Kirk Johnson — an underrated speedster who could provide a nice change of pace. All of these talented backs deserve touches, so how will the offense handle its embarrassment of riches at the position? It’s up to Strong and new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert to figure it out. Speaking of Gilbert…

4. The Sterlin Gilbert Fit

Having wandered in the wasteland of college offenses for the past two years, Charlie Strong went out and hired Tulsa offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert to right the ship. A native Texan and brilliant offensive mind, Gilbert faces a tall task coming to Texas and repairing an offense that has seen little success lately. According to Football Outsiders, the dismal Longhorns have ranked 75th and 80th in the NCAA S&P+ offensive rankings over the last two years.

In hiring an Art Briles disciple (hopefully without the shady morality), Strong is looking to join the modern age of college football with a high-octane, simplified system that puts up points. Only the season will show if the Gilbert hire will ameliorate the offensive woes Texas has, but I’m interested to hear Strong’s perspective on how the offense is being implemented.

Gilbert’s system will be the fourth that Texas players have learned in the past three years (Watson, Watson 2.0, Norvell, Gilbert), so you wonder how the players are handling it. Are the receivers facing difficulties understanding route combos? Does the offensive line scheme fit the personnel? How will the offense’s tempo affect the speed of practices during fall camp?

Gilbert’s offense certainly seems like it will bring innovation and higher numbers, but Strong needs results immediately. He doesn’t have the luxury of waiting. It will need to be locked and loaded for week one against a stout Notre Dame squad.

5. Can the ‘Horns reinstate DBU?

Earlier this offseason, I wrote a piece about how young, talented, and special the current corps of defensive backs at Texas is. I’m interested to hear Strong’s take about how the group is developing. Sophomore Davante Davis was named to preseason All-Big 12 team and fellow sophomore Holton Hill could easily earn those honors too by season’s end.

At safety, the Longhorns have senior Dylan Haines and junior Jason Hall as the penciled in starters. Both, however, look to be in positional battles against young, elite prospects in sophomore DeShon Elliott and super freshman Brandon Jones. Last season, the group experienced a roller coaster ride of good and bad play. Since the defensive backfield looks to now be one of the more talented positions on the team, it’s now time for the group to step up.

Can the DBs secure the field and prevent big plays? Will the young guns come on at either of the safety spots? Strong should be asked about the expectations he has for his immensely talented players, and if he believes they can reinstate the ‘DBU’ label that has escaped them recently. For the Longhorns to accomplish their goals this season as a defense, they will need a big year from the group in the back.

6. Defensive Tackle Depth

A big question mark one the Texas defense is its lack of depth at defensive line.

Aside from the two starters, Paul Boyetee and Poona Ford, the Longhorns return one defensive tackle with any game experience. The defense will need big help from its five incoming freshmen at the tackles, and a couple will be asked to play immediately against Notre Dame. Notre Dame has the top offensive line in the nation this season according to Pro Football Focus, so it'll be interesting to hear how Strong will use his young defensive line against an experienced, well rounded Notre Dame front.

I also want to hear which freshmen stand out already to Strong, and what he expects from his lone senior, Paul Boyette. I'm a big fan of Boyette's ability and think he could turn into one of the Longhorns' breakout players in 2016. This group has not fully shaped up yet, but I want to hear the current state of a vitally important group for this Texas squad.

7. "The Baylor Scandal" and lack of discipline across college football

Maybe the most important topic I would like to see Charlie Strong address is the Baylor rape scandal that rocked not only the college football world, but also anyone with eyes, ears, and access to any news outlet. In college football, winning isn’t supposed to be everything; it’s important, but not everything. College football is supposed to be a sport that develops young players, educates its students, and produces men of character.

Unfortunately, that seems to not be the case lately, exemplified by Texas’ conference partner north on I-35.

Words cannot describe the disgust I feel for the incomprehensible bureaucratic failures and actions committed by Baylor University and its football program. For a person with family and friends at Baylor, I expect better from a university in this conference and in this state. While Baylor’s situation is certainly not excusable, they are not alone.

Last week during SEC media days, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen made everyone feel slimy when he tried to justify allowing five star defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons to enroll into his school after a cell phone video surfaced of Simmons punching a woman on the ground during an altercation.

Baylor isn’t even alone in this conference. Just two years ago, Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon assaulted a woman in a Norman restaurant and is now starring as a premier back in the Big 12. For an even clearer picture of where college football is headed, check out Pat Forde’s column about the SEC’s lack of discipline against its players.

What I’m trying to say is that college football needs higher standards and sounder disciplinary actions against its players who don’t adhere to the law. Charlie Strong received a lot of grief about his ‘Core Values,’ but maybe he’s the perfect example of where college football needs to start heading.

I’m curious to hear Strong’s comments about how Texas is going to avoid situations like that at Baylor and how he expects his team to be behave. I also want to hear how Strong intends to field teams with quality men, educate them, and still win football games. In the current climate of college football, Strong seems to be going about his business the right way.

As followers of college football, we need to expect better of our players and coaches; we need to demand better. Maybe Strong can use his media days to set an example for the Big 12, and the rest of college football (cough cough SEC), on how teams can head in a more positive direction.