Preview 2017: Did USF Upgrade With Charlie Strong?
Charlie Strong was a great get for USF. Did the program just improve its coaching situation?
Did South Florida just come up with a coaching upgrade?
As good as Willie Taggart was to turn the USF program into a major player in the American Athletic Conference in four years, he didn’t win a conference title.
Charlie Strong won two Big East championships at Louisville.
There’s was a reason Strong was able to get the Texas gig. He put the wheels in motion to make Louisville the power it currently is, went 23-3 in his final two years – with a Sugar Bowl win – and became a star in the first place as one of the nation’s elite defensive coordinators, doing his best work during Urban Meyer’s run at Florida.
No, his run in Austin didn’t work, mainly because he had to rebuild the powerhouse that fell flat late in the Mack Brown era. His teams weren’t totally miserable, but three straight seven-loss seasons – bottoming out last season with a loss to Kansas – isn’t going to cut it.
So he was replaced by an American Athletic Conference coach in Tom Herman, whose team failed last season when it mattered in league play.
Strong can recruit, he can crank up the intensity, and yes, despite the problems at Texas, he can put together a killer defense.
This was supposed to be the year that Texas had the talent in place to turn the corner – Herman is walking into a heater. The upside for Strong is that he’s taking over a loaded team, too.
Quinton Flowers is one of the league’s best all-around quarterbacks, six AAC all-stars are back, and there’s experience to burn on both sides of the ball.
16 starters and both kickers are back from the team that went 11-2, was fourth in the nation in scoring, 11th in total offense, and managed to win close game after close game late in the season. Four of the last five games were decided by eight points of fewer – all wins.
Can Strong win those tight battles? Texas won the double-overtime opener against Notre Dame, but was 2-5 in all other games decided by eight points or fewer. Flip that around, and Strong is still a Longhorn.
Can Strong’s defense find its nasty pop again? It didn’t have it at Texas, and he’s going to need to take the nine returning starters and improve on a group with the seventh-worst pass defense in the country and was 120th overall.
Can Strong improve on what Taggart help set in motion? USF had four straight losing seasons before turning things around in 2015. Again, there’s no need for a rebuild for its new head man.
Can Strong rehabilitate his career and his reputation as a top-shelf head coach?
Sometimes situations just don’t work out – it doesn’t mean the coach isn’t any good. Texas was always going to be tough from the start, but with this team, this school, and with all the upside of a place that could and should be in the expansion and realignment mix – wake up, Big 12 – there’s a chance to do something great.
There’s a chance to win a championship right away.
South Florida might have gotten itself the right coach at the right moment to get it done.