Things went sideways for Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong soon after his arrival in Austin, according to one Texas high school football coach who said Strong alienated his colleagues in the space of a week.
“Charlie was a great man but a horrible hire,” South Grand Prairie coach Brent Whitson told Landof10.com. “You get here and the first thing you do is go to Florida for recruits. … All it did was cost him about 2,500 head coaches at Texas high schools.”
In fact, Strong did offer a number of players after his arrival from Florida, eventually landing the signature of defensive tackle Chris Nelson, a former Louisville commit.
However, it wasn’t because Strong didn’t want players from the state of Texas — instead, it was because several recruits from the state decommitted from his class and he didn’t have relationships with other in-state players since he didn’t recruit the Lone Star State at Louisville.
Going to Florida was one of the few ways that Strong believed he could find last-minute commitments to fill out the 2014 class within a space of several weeks.
And it wasn’t like Strong’s successor, Mack Brown, didn’t spend time down in Florida, securing a commitment from Tampa Plant linebacker Andrew Beck and spending some of his last moments as a head coach in the Sunshine State in a futile attempt to land eventual Florida State star running back Dalvin Cook.
So in some significant ways the criticism of Whitson is rather unwarranted — Strong didn’t fail to recruit Texas players to the class, notably landing Edwin Freeman out of Arlington Bowie, he merely went after players with whom he had pre-existing relationships.
Shockingly enough, that’s exactly what new head coach Tom Herman and his staff have done since arriving in Austin, it just so happens that since they coached at Houston last year, many of the players that they’ve targeted have been from the state.
It’s not like they haven’t looked elsewhere, either, offering several players from the state of Oklahoma.
The difference is that those offers don’t bother in-state coaches because they already have relationships with Herman and his staff, in addition to the numerous in-state offers in the class and multiple shout outs they received from Herman during his introductory press conference.
Of course, Strong did that, too.
“Nationally, the Texas high school coaches are king,” he said. “My staff and I will be committed to closing the borders on this great state and making them realize that this is their program. We'll recruit with fire, and we'll recruit with passion. We're devoted to making Austin the state capitol for college football as well as the state capitol of this state.
“I want to thank the great high school coaches in this state. It will be an honor to represent them, and represent this great university.”
If Strong truly failed, it’s in how he and his staff were able to communicate to the in-state coaches that they were king.
In fact, the initial period after Strong’s hire wasn’t the only time that the former Longhorns head coach ran afoul of coaches in the state — a an infamous speech at the San Angelo Coaches Clinic in 2014 also incited a minor revolt.
"I think everyone was shocked. It was that bad," one coach told ESPN’s Travis Haney.
Another told the writer, "He obviously didn't want to be here. If he did, he sure as [heck] didn't show it."
In 2015, coaches complained about Strong and his staff cutting them out of the communication process:
The other coach told me that when Texas recruited one of his players, Strong's assistants funneled their communications through the recruit rather than the coach. This was the case even when the Texas assistants came to watch the recruit at high school practice — entering the high school coach's domain, as it were.
The recruitment of Ryan Newsome was similar — Aledo head coach Tim Buchanan said that he never talked to Strong at any point, ultimately resulting in a scheduling mistake by Newsome and the staff.
And that was after the hire of former Gilmer head coach Jeff Traylor, whose addition was supposed to bolster relationships with head coaches throughout the state.
Perhaps the greatest takeaways in all of this?
While Whitson undoubtedly knows the feelings of his fellow coaches, feeling unappreciated because Strong went after recruits with whom he had previous relationships was rather unfair to the former head coach, even if those feelings were valid.
However, as subsequent incidents elucidated, Strong just didn’t quite know how to talk to the Texas high school football coaches and made a serious error in judgement in leaving them out of the recruiting process.
Despite those issues, Strong still managed to recruit at a high level with the Longhorns, a testament to his ability to build relationships with the recruits and their families.
With a new staff now in place, all that matters now is that Herman and his staff know how to talk to Texas high school football coaches after spending 108 combined years recruiting the state, in addition to the 17 collective years spent as head coaches.