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Showing improvement in 2016 is the biggest goal of them all

A closing thought is given before the season begins in the final post of the “15 Days, 15 Thoughts” series

Oklahoma v Texas Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

As I sat here this morning brainstorming how to describe the feel of this game and what this season means for Texas and Charlie Strong, I kept coming back to one main theme: Show an upward trend.

That’s nothing ground-breaking. We all know improvements need to be shown. But the hope is that the stock that is Texas football crashed last season and that now the only direction from that sobering valley is up.

The more I think about this Charlie Strong era, the more I feel like we really are in the middle of almost a full 5-year rebuild. And that’s not an excuse for any of Texas’ struggles since Strong took over. But let’s be real, Texas football had some serious football issues when Coach Strong arrived on campus before the 2014 season.

Whether it was big question marks at quarterback, a lack of talent on the roster, or a poor culture inside the locker room that led to the team losing more than a handful of players to transfers and dismissals (including nearly an entire starting offensive line), Texas football was in a bad place.

To add to all of those struggles that existed from the start, the rebuild hasn’t been the perfect model or “how-to” of how-to’s either. We’re just now heading into year three yet coaches on both sides of the ball have been fired already. Hell, Strong has almost an entirely new offensive staff different from the staff he first brought to Austin just a few years ago.

That’s not ideally how any coach would want to do it but changes had to be made.

Throw in the fact that Texas, as an athletic department, had a “look-in-the-mirror” moment with its hiring and firing of former Athletic Director Steve Patterson, and all of that should make you really appreciate the steadiness of what DeLoss Dodds and Mack Brown did for so long, even if you still are frustrated with those final years of the Brown era.

As we head into the 2016 season, season number three of Charlie Strong as head coach of the Texas Longhorns, it finally looks like the stock is primed to rise. Texas knows who it wants to be on offense, there’s promising talent across the roster, and the football program and athletic department as a whole is getting its footing back.

And If we’re being real, the stock has to rise. It has to begin trending upwards. Any other direction will be the beginning of the end of another era in Texas football history - an era that won’t have the happy ending fans are hoping for.

Tomorrow evening, the Longhorns aren’t favored to beat Notre Dame. And we could easily be talking about another Texas loss by the beginning of next week. But the type of dialogue and conversations from the game that will start late Sunday evening, win or lose, will say a lot about Coach Strong, where this program is, and where it looks to be headed in the near future.

Regardless of the outcome of this first game, the ‘Horns have to show improvement. Charlie Strong has to show everyone that his plan, even if it is taking longer than many would like, is finally coming around and that this program is trending upwards. There really aren’t any other options. The time is now, against Notre Dame, tomorrow night.

As a reminder, I’m posting one thought per day in a series of 15 posts over the course of 15 days until we get to game day.

With one day left until kickoff, this is the 15th post of the series.

If you missed the other posts, the links are below

Post #1 - “The Youth Movement Continues”

Post #2 - “The Quarterbacks”

Post #3 - “Texas Needs To Score More”

Post #4 - “Offense Part 1: The Trenches”

Post #5 - “Offense Part 2: The Supporting Cast”

Post #6 - “Can the Texas defense improve enough?

Post #7 - “Where will Texas land in the final B12 standings?”

Post #8 - “Texas is set to get a great quarterback in 2017 in Sam Ehlinger”

Post #9 - “Seven questions for the 2016 Longhorns football team”

Post #10 - “Ten predictions for the Texas Longhorns 2016 season.”

Post #11 - “Comparing the Texas & Notre Dame offenses”

Post #12 - “Comparing the Texas & Notre Dame defenses”

Post #13 - “Five keys for Texas and Notre Dame”

Post #14 - “Texas must improve mid-game issues”