AUSTIN, Texas – Charlie Williams could’ve taken another job in the NFL. Clay Jennings could have stayed in the SEC at Arkansas.
Anthony Johnson … well, Anthony Johnson couldn’t turn the job down. This was his alma mater, and he always planned to come home. But he did leave a co-offensive coordinator title at Toledo for his new gig.
Charlie Strong’s newest assistant coaches know they’re walking into some pressure at Texas. They get that the 2016 season is a critical one for the program’s future. They don’t sound too worried, though.
“Can the heat get a little hotter around here? Yeah, because this is Texas,” said Williams, Texas’ new receivers coach. “We realize that. Our bottom line is to win and to put these guys in the best position to win.”
They need to provide some stability, too, for a program that has experienced a revolving door of coaches since Strong arrived. He’s now employed 17 different assistant coaches. Five left this offseason (three were dismissed) and only two coaches remain from his initial staff in 2014.
“It doesn’t bother me one bit,” Strong said. “Now there’s going to be new energy. There’s going to be new passion. Even the players, for them, it’s a new breath of life.”
Fortunately, the new guys are familiar with Texas. Johnson, the new running backs coach, played running back and was a student assistant in the program from 2001 to 2005. Jennings has been competing against the Longhorns for recruits for the past eight years. Williams, the 30-year coaching veteran of the group, said he and Strong go way back.
“You can’t pass this opportunity up,” Williams said. “I used to watch this program from afar. To be here and be a part of it and help make it grow to where it once was is a great opportunity.”
Jennings, Texas’ new defensive backs coach, has witnessed what he called the program’s “slight descent” over recent years from afar. He spent six years with Gary Patterson at TCU before his two-season stint at Arkansas. Now he’s putting his faith in this staff.
“I don’t think the man upstairs would put me in a situation for me to coach out of fear,” he said. “I think you coach, you take a leap of faith and you believe in the man that’s going to be in charge of it. Everything else will take care of itself.”
Johnson looks at the opportunity with effusive pride. He talks of building a “RBU” tradition at Texas. He was around for the Rose Bowl year, the national title year, the heyday.
“I told everybody that I knew at some point that I would be back; I just didn't know when,” Johnson said. “Words can't describe it. It wouldn't do it any justice.”
So you can imagine what getting Texas back on top would mean to Johnson. For his new co-workers, the motivation is a bit simpler. They know why they’ve been brought in. They have to get the program turned around.
“There are two types of coaches: ones that have been hired and ones that have been fired. I don't want to be the latter,” Jennings said. “We know that we’ve got to get this thing going in the right direction and that we have to do it quickly.”