Monday, August 11, 2014
Back in dorms, Texas coaches forge bonds
By Max Olson
AUSTIN, Texas -- Vance Bedford moved out of the dorms at Jester East in 1981 after a five-year stay. Now that Texas Longhorns' defensive coordinator is roaming those halls again, he's not so sure they're ideal for 55-year-olds.
"I tell you what, that bed is not what my bed is at home," he said. "Want you to know that. That bed is wearing me out."
Defensive line coach Chris Rumph had to agree: "I miss my Tempur-Pedic."
But if that's what Charlie Strong demands, they're all for it. The first-year head coach moved all of his coaches and players into the dorms one week ago for the start of fall practice, in a concerted effort to further bond them together.
This is an annual Strong tradition, dating back to at least his Florida years. Last August, Louisville players slept in a hotel during fall camp. This year called for more humble accommodations.
"It's about teamwork and being together and just getting guys together where they can find out who one another really is, because we don't really get that opportunity," Strong said. "A lot of older guys don't get a chance to know who the freshmen are, and now the freshmen can feel comfortable where they can walk into an upperclassman's room and feel good about it."
Offensive players on one floor, defensive players on another. And yes, the $5 million head coach is staying in the same 200-square-foot rooms as everyone else.
"You guys don't think I'd stay in the dorm?" Strong said. "There's no suite over there. Our room is just the same as the players' room. Two beds and a bathroom down the hall."
Defensive end Cedric Reed said moving to the dorms had made this first week of fall ball feel like a true NFL-style training camp. The 6-foot-6 lineman barely fits in his bed, and said he's almost rolled out a few times, but he's not complaining.
Neither is Kent Perkins, the sophomore guard who's trying to earn a starting spot. Having offensive coordinator and line coach Joe Wickline on his floor has proved valuable both for his development and their relationship.
"It's different, very different," Perkins said. "But when you're in the playbook in your room, it's really good if you have a question. You can go down the hall and talk to your coach about it. It's all right to me."
So far, no stories of hallway hijinks or pranks have emerged. There's been no time for that.
"I'll be quite honest with you: When we get there after meetings for curfew, there's not a lot of funny going on," Wickline said. "We've been going since 6 o'clock that morning. They pretty much hit the sack, get up the next morning and go."
That lights-out curfew, usually 10:30 or 11 p.m., hasn't been a problem for players, either. Reed said a curfew is almost pointless; most of his teammates are exhausted and asleep well before the deadline.
"You go to the dorms to sleep," quarterback David Ash said. "Pretty much all the other hours of the day, you're meeting, eating, working, studying. So you might pass them in the hallway on the way to bed or see them in the dining hall, but it's not like it's a ping pong party on the ninth floor with the coaches."
What about the coaches' wives and kids? Strong said his assistants didn't object to the dorm plan. They'll stop by their homes from time to time if necessary, but once August hits, they all know it's time to go to work.
This routine is nothing new for running backs coach Tommie Robinson. He's coached in six NFL training camps and lived out of a hotel last year while an assistant at USC. His family knows not to wait around for him during this hectic month.
"The wives know that once camp comes, most of them go out of town. Most of them aren't here," Robinson said. "The families are gone. They're on their vacation. They take advantage and get out of here."
Wickline said Texas coaches will check out of the dorms this Sunday. So will the upperclassmen. But if you aren't a junior or senior, you're staying in Jester this year. There are few better ways to build up the kind of camaraderie these Longhorns need.
"We're just trying to make sure the team chemistry and the togetherness is there," Strong said.