Big 12: Vance Bedford
Don’t like that metaphor? No worries, that’s one of many. Engage the new Texas defensive coordinator in an extended conversation and you’re likely to hear all sorts of comparisons, boasts and tales.
Here’s another: Bedford’s reasoning for why his high-energy personality blends so well with Strong’s even-keeled approach on a coaching staff.
“Now, if you want a German chocolate cake, you put German chocolate in there. Now you’ve got a good mixture. You look at a coaching staff, everybody can’t be the same.”
Maybe that makes Bedford the sugar. Or is he the coconut-pecan frosting? He isn’t vanilla, that’s for sure.
Set aside the antics and anecdotes and restaurant recs -- he likes the St. Louis ribs and creamed corn at Rudy’s -- and you get an unmistakably passionate coach who’s serious about restoring the glory of his alma mater.
This is a dream-come-true opportunity for Bedford, a defensive back for the Longhorns from 1977-81. For as much as he loved what he’d helped build at Louisville, coming home was easy.
“The wind blew and I was here,” Bedford said. “It was a no-brainer for me.”
This is his big moment, but nothing Bedford does at Texas will be a one-man job. He’ll help Chris Vaughn oversee the secondary while also staying involved with Chris Rumph’s defensive linemen and Brian Jean-Mary’s linebackers.
As for the involvement of the head coach, himself a defensive guru, Bedford doesn’t just ask for Strong’s input – he demands it. This is their seventh year coaching together, and that collaboration has brought big results.
“He’s one of the best defensive coordinators in the country with two national championships. Why would you not want him to be part of everything that you do? Of all the game-planning that you do?” Bedford said. “I think that is important. He has great suggestions because the biggest thing that he believes in is keeping it simple. So do I, so we get along just fine. If it is simple, they can play fast. If they play fast, you have a chance to win a lot of games.”
He holds up the record at Louisville -- the 22 wins in their last 25 games -- as proof this process can work at Texas. And if you want to dismiss those results by saying the Cardinals didn’t play anyone, Bedford offers a suggestion: Ask Florida and Miami about that.
Bedford is Texas’ third defensive coordinator in six months, and he and Strong intend to ask things of this group that their predecessors did not. Chief among those changes: Texas will experiment with both the 4-3 and 3-4 base defenses this spring. The personnel will dictate the plan.
“Then we’ll configure, and that’s the beauty of the defense,” said Rumph, who previously coached a 3-4, two-gap scheme at Alabama. “We want those guys to line up, get their cleats in the ground and play fast.”
No matter the scheme, Longhorns defenders are about to learn a thing or two about Bedford’s infectious attitude.
He’s wearing his T-Ring from his college days again and can fire off stories about playing with the likes of Earl Campbell, Johnnie Johnson, Kenneth Sims and Russell Erxleben. Bedford had visited Austin just once since 1984 -- last year, in fact -- but this was always where he wanted to coach.
What can he achieve in Year 1 against these Big 12 offenses? Bedford sees no reason not to be optimistic. He says Mack Brown could have won the league last year if not for injuries, that this program is in far better shape than some might fear.
And nothing would bring Bedford more pride than helping Texas get back where he knows the program belongs.
“We've just got to continue to take it to the next step, to the new millennium,” he said. “Things have changed, kids have changed, and we’ve got to adjust to the change and hopefully we can do some of the things [Brown] did and get this place back to national championship contenders.”
“Next year, 2015, we're coming and we're coming to get everybody,” Bedford told Longhorn Network.
Texas has a lot of catching up to do for that boast to prove true.
Charlie Strong, Bedford and the rest of the staff inherited a tricky situation when they arrived in Austin. The staff was completed just one day before the dead period ended. They hit the recruiting trail hard, but their focus had to be on keeping Texas’ committed recruits on board.
On that front, they survived and succeeded. Texas held onto 17 of its prior pledges and inked six more. The last-second scramble is finally finished, and Strong likes how the Longhorns fared when it was all over.
The next challenge begins immediately: Get rolling with the Class of 2015.
To appreciate what they’re up against, keep this in mind: Has recruiting the state of Texas ever been more challenging than it is right now?
Texas A&M and Baylor are thriving. Texas Tech and TCU are on the way back up. Those four programs are already ahead of the game in 2015, with a combined 18 early pledges. While Texas was still finishing its official visits, A&M, Baylor and TCU all held junior days on Jan. 26.
And those are just the local threats. Five of Texas’ top-eight rated recruits of 2014 signed with out-of-state programs. A total of 19 of the state’s top 50 left the state.
“It's hard to try to keep guys in,” Strong said, “but you have to go recruit them and not be afraid to go battle those Southeastern Conference teams, whomever they may be.”
Texas has six commitments on board for the 2015 class. The previous coaching staff was at one point so far ahead on this class that it held its first-ever sophomore day last spring.
The Longhorns had become the front-runners for more than a dozen of the state’s best recruits. Most of those leads have evaporated with the staff change, and understandably so. Both the recruits and the Texas coaches have a lot to learn about each other in the next few months.
Strong, his coaches and his recruiting staffers have 16 days to prepare for their first junior day event. There’s plenty of work to be done, and after living on the road for weeks they finally have a reprieve to meet as a staff, identify targets and make progress.
Texas will have a chance to sign more than 25 in next year’s class, and perhaps as many as 30. The way Strong sees it, he’d like to stick to his ideals when it comes to filling out the next group.
“You have 25 scholarships to give out. Who are the top 10 players? Let's go get the top 10,” he said. “Who are that next 10, or the guys that just fit your needs where you can build around? Because when you get the second 10, you are going to build around those. You take the other five and see if there is a late bloomer out there. There is going to be someone out there that isn't going to make an early decision. Let's make sure we save a scholarship there.”
Remember, Texas has a chance to capitalize off a common recruiting phenomenon in the next 12 months: The first-year bump.
Tennessee finished with the nation’s No. 5 class on Wednesday following Butch Jones’ first season in Knoxville. Ole Miss did the exact same thing last year under Hugh Freeze.
Texas A&M and Ohio State locked up top-10 classes under new coaches in 2013. Heck, Kentucky lost 10 games and still inked a top-20 class.
These are relatively subjective standards, of course, but the ranking isn’t the point. These first-year boons happen because a new coach and his staff can sell the future.
Kids want to play for programs on the rise. They buy into the hype and hope. And Strong is ready to start selling.
“I love recruiting,” Strong said. “You know the reason why? You have a chance to not only sell your program and sell your university, but you get a chance to build a relationship. And you go out and meet more people. That's the fun part about recruiting, because the players are going to be who they are and then you just try to figure out what they are all about and what their goals are.”
Strong has already revealed his goals. He wants the Longhorns to own this state again. His quest to change the game starts now.
- Sounds like it was a rough day at the Senior Bowl for Baylor guard Cyril Richardson.
- An Iowa State defensive end plans a tribute for Curtis Bray, the Cyclones defensive line coach who passed away last week. Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register has the report.
- Get to know Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford a little better in this Q&A.
- Oklahoma's football team will be honored at a couple of Sooners basketball games in early February.
- Three Super Bowl participants on the Denver Broncos are former Texas Tech standouts.
- TCU landed a couple commitments over the weekend.
- OU center Gabe Ikard has learned some things from watching the Houston Texans.
- West Virginia running back Charles Sims is one of Gil Brandt's under-the-radar prospects.
- Two Sooners are among five players the Detroit Lions might be keeping an eye on, writes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
The staff Strong unveiled on Wednesday appears to have a good helping of both.
Ten days into the job, his staff is finally assembled, and he will hit the road on Thursday to begin selling a school the staff has barely had time to visit.
Strong had to stifle a laugh when asked if he was starting to settle in at Texas. It hasn't been easy. Not after all the work he had to put into interviewing coaches and piecing together a staff that met his standards.
He believes he’s found a group that can get Texas back to its championship standard, and more importantly, he thinks these are the guys UT needs off the field.
“This is a staff that we know what it is all about,” Strong said. “We are teachers, we're role models, we're going to motivate and lead. Just a staff that are family men, and you want that with the players.
“Because you want the players to look at a coach and say how, someday, if they don't end up being an engineer or a doctor but could go and be a coach, [they would] emulate the man standing right there in front of me. I am just so happy that we are aboard and finally completed it.”
It’s a group that touts a combined 232 years of coaching experience and, at least on paper, has a good deal of familiarity both with each other and with this state.
Strong hired four coaches he’d worked with in offensive coordinator Joe Wickline, defensive coordinator Vance Bedford, quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson and linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary.
He hired four assistants who have coached college football in this state: Bedford, receivers coach Les Koenning, running backs coach Tommie Robinson and retained tight ends coach Bruce Chambers.
And he hired guys he’d recruited against in the past, coaches whose passion he respected in defensive line coach Chris Rumph and defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn.
And don’t forget the 10th man, the one he considers just as valuable -- if not more so -- than the rest: Strength and conditioning coach Pat Moorer, who followed him from Louisville and is already putting his new players to the test with workouts this week.
All in all, it’s a haul that has industry experts impressed. Is this the blank-check dream team that Texas fans envisioned when Strong took the job? No, maybe not. But he’s found puzzle pieces that, thanks to all the familiarity, ought to fit together well and do so quickly.
Those fans fantasized about reeling in a big fish for an offensive coordinator, no doubt Strong’s most important hire of the nine. They wanted Strong to swing for the fences with someone like Clemson's Chad Morris or Ohio State's Tom Herman.
They might not realize what they’ve got in Wickline, one of the nation’s top offensive line coaches at Oklahoma State. He and Strong were grad assistants together at Florida in 1983 and met again in Gainesville from 2002 to 2004. He knew he was handing the keys to his offense to an underappreciated gem.
“Guys pay their dues, and guys have been around great systems, and if you look at the system he has been around at Oklahoma State for nine years, they have moved the ball very well on offense,” Strong said. “When the guys have put in their time, it's like me: I have put in my time and want to be rewarded. So he has put in his time, and he is being rewarded.”
What sold him on Wickline, and so many other members of the new staff, was a mandatory trait: Toughness. His offenses and players played. Strong is surrounding himself with hard-nosed leaders because that’s what Texas needs right now.
Just as this group comes together, it’s time to split up again. The new Longhorns coaches begin their recruiting quest on Thursday, and they’ve got plenty of catching up to do on that front.
Over the next few weeks, Strong will find out just what kind of recruiters he’s hired. And then the real job -- putting the pieces back together at Texas -- will begin.
It’s a familiar challenge for Strong. To pull this off, he’s surrounded himself with familiar allies.
“I told them right from the start that this is going to be a coaching staff with no egos,” Strong said. “We are here to work together, and it is all about success. We are here to win and whatever we have to do to go win a football game, that is what we have to do.”
Offensive coordinator/offensive line: Joe Wickline
Age: 55 Alma mater: Florida
Previously: Oklahoma State offensive line coach
Past stops: Florida, Middle Tennessee State, Baylor, Southwest Mississippi C.C., Pearl River C.C., Ole Miss, Delta State, Tennessee
Coached up: Oklahoma State T Russell Okung, Oklahoma State OT Levy Adcock, Florida OT Max Starks
Stat: During Wickline’s nine seasons at OSU, the Cowboys averaged 37.7 points per game, which ranked third-best in FBS behind Oregon and Boise State.
In short: The longtime Oklahoma State assistant is considered one of the nation’s best line coaches and was a significant steal for Strong’s first staff. He inherits plenty of young talent up front.
Assistant head coach/quarterbacks: Shawn Watson
Age: 54 Alma mater: Southern Illinois
Previously: Louisville offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach
Past stops: Nebraska, Colorado, Northwestern, Southern Illinois, Miami (Ohio), Illinois
Coached up: Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater, Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez, Colorado QB Joel Klatt
Stat: Bridgewater ranked No. 3 in FBS in raw QBR during the 2013 season at 84.5.
In short: Texas is getting an offensive mind that Strong trusts and who proved, with his coaching of Bridgewater, that he has what the Longhorns desperately need: The ability to develop a quarterback.
Running backs: Tommie Robinson
Age: 50 Alma mater: Troy State
Previously: USC pass game coordinator/running backs coach
Past stops: Arizona Cardinals, Miami, Memphis, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, Dallas Cowboys, TCU, Utah State, Arkansas
Coached up: Cowboys WR Michael Irvin, Cardinals RB Beanie Wells, Oklahoma State RB Tatum Bell
Stat: Four USC running backs combined for 2,225 rushing yards in 2013, with two surpassing 700 yards.
In short: Robinson comes to Austin after a year at Southern Cal, where he was a respected recruiter and position coach with a wide range of experience.
Receivers: Les Koenning
Age: 54 Alma mater: Texas
Previously: Mississippi State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach
Past stops: South Alabama, Texas A&M, Alabama, TCU, Houston, Duke, Miami Dolphins, Rice, Louisiana-Lafayette
Coached up: Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee, Texas A&M QB Reggie McNeal, Texas A&M WR Albert Connell
Stat: Mississippi State’s offense set school records for passing yards, total yards and completion percentage in 2013.
In short: Koenning has coached all over Texas and is leaving an SEC coordinator job to return home. Strong needed assistants with ties to this state and Koenning is plenty of that.
Tight ends: Bruce Chambers
Alma mater: North Texas
Previously: Same role
Past stops: Dallas Carter High School
Coached up: Texas RB Ricky Williams, Texas TE Jermichael Finley, Texas RB Cedric Benson
Stat: Texas tight ends Geoff Swaim and Greg Daniels combined for six receptions last season.
In short: The only assistant retained from Mack Brown’s staff, Chambers has been at Texas since 1998 and can help with this staff transition, especially in recruiting.
Defensive coordinator/secondary: Vance Bedford
Age: 55 Alma mater: Texas
Previously: Louisville defensive coordinator/secondary coach
Past stops: Florida, Oklahoma State, Chicago Bears, Michigan, Colorado State, Navarro J.C.
Coached up: Michigan CB Charles Woodson, Florida CB Joe Haden, Louisville DE Marcus Smith
Stat: Since the start of the 2012 season, the Cardinal defense ranks No. 4 in FBS in total defense and No. 5 in pass defense.
In short: Strong brought Bedford with him to Austin, and the former Longhorn defensive back brings a lot to the table. Known for being fiery and passionate in his time at Louisville.
Assistant head coach/defensive line: Chris Rumph
Age: 42 Alma mater: South Carolina
Previously: Alabama defensive line coach
Past stops: Clemson, Memphis, South Carolina State
Coached up: Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson DE Gaines Adams, Alabama DT Jesse Williams
Stat: In his stints at Clemson and Alabama, Rumph coached at least nine NFL Draft picks.
In short: Like Wickline, Rumph is considered one of the best of the best at what he does. Doesn’t have much experience in Texas but does have a history of signing and developing elite linemen.
Linebackers/recruiting coordinator: Brian Jean-Mary
Age: 38 Alma mater: Appalachian State
Previously: Louisville linebackers coach
Past stops: Georgia Tech, North Alabama, South Carolina
Coached up: Georgia Tech LB Phillip Wheeler, Louisville LB Preston Brown, Georgia Tech LB Gerris Wilkinson
Stat: Under Jean-Mary’s tutelage, Brown recorded 301 career tackles and twice earned all-conference honors.
In short: Jean-Mary was assistant head coach of the Louisville defense and followed Bedford and Strong. He’ll be Texas’ third linebackers coach in the past 12 months.
Defensive backs/special teams: Chris Vaughn
Age: 37 Alma mater: Murray State
Previously: Memphis cornerbacks coach
Past stops: Ole Miss, Arkansas
Coached up: Ole Miss CB Marshay Green, Ole Miss CB Cassius Vaughn, Arkansas LB Tony Bua
Stat: At Memphis, Vaughn inherited the second-worst pass defense in FBS in 2011. In his two seasons, the Tigers ranked 26th-best in the country in yards per completion allowed.
In short: The youngest member of the new staff, Vaughn already has eight years as an SEC recruiting coordinator on his resume.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
STILLWATER, Okla. -- Bill Young feels like he's finally back home again.
|Sean Meyers/Icon SMI|
|Bill Young is excited about returning to his alma mater.|
The veteran defensive coach remembers when attending Oklahoma State more than 40 years ago that Stillwater was "pretty barren." It was long before the chain restaurants starting flocking there and even before venerable local institution Eskimo Joe's opened for business.
But coming back to his old stomping grounds has other benefits for the 62-year-old Young other than reconnecting with his past. His wife has family in the area. Young says he's long felt most comfortable here after a nomadic experience that has taken him to nine programs and one NFL franchise since starting his college coaching career with the Cowboys in 1976.
"This is a great opportunity to come back," said Young, who was hired after a year as defensive coordinator on Randy Shannon's staff at Miami. "There were a lot of reasons I considered, but one of them is that this program looks like it's really ready to explode."
Young saw the recent improvements to facilities at his alma mater as a big attraction. And OSU's impressive 9-4 record last season caught his eye, too.
"When you win nine games, that's a fantastic season," Young said. "And after having played them over the years, I always thought it was a heck of place with a lot of potential. It was a no-brainer for me."
The wily veteran coordinator will have his work cut out as he attempts to transform a defensive unit that allowed at least 400 yards in eight games last season and ranked 93rd nationally in total defense and 109th in pass defense.
With a strong returning offensive nucleus, it will be up to Young's defense to provide the improvement that could boost the Cowboys into contention for the program's first Big 12 South title and first BCS bowl berth.
"I don't think there's any question we have the talent to win here," Young said. "We've got a tremendous offense and we're much better on defense that people want to give us credit for. I've only been here a couple of months, but as an outsider coming it, it's a neat situation."