- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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AUSTIN, Texas -- If Charlie Strong is a freight train barreling down a straight line at full speed, Vance Bedford likens himself to a roller coaster.
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.
“If you were making a cake, you don’t want all eggs, do you?” Bedford said. “All you’re going to make is scrambled eggs. If you want a cake, you want flour, sugar, you want baking soda in there.
“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.”
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