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Charlie Strong sends clear message with wave of player dismissals

Charlie Strong sends clear message with wave of player dismissals Photo: Darren Carroll for Sports Illustrated

The news coming out of Austin over the last week has played out like Texas’ very own version of the Red Wedding (okay, a Burnt Orange Wedding, if you will). Two players – wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander – suspended after being charged with sexual assault. Three more players – running backs Jalen Overstreet and Joe Bergeron and defensive back Chevoski Collins – dismissed from the program, Overstreet and Collins for repeated violations of team rules. The reason behind Bergeron's dismissal is currently unclear. There appear to be more dismissals coming, too. According to Chip Brown of Horns Digest, safety Josh Turner has been sent packing, as well.

New coach Charlie Strong tried to temper expectations when he took the Texas job, saying outright that his team wasn’t going to win the national title in year one. It looks like he did that for good reason: The Longhorns program has work to do, and Strong doesn’t seem to have any intentions of putting winning right away ahead of getting Texas cleaned up.

When Strong was at Louisville he had a list of rules posted. They seemed like basic, common sense things, and it was easy to poke a little fun at the fact some of those things had to be written down at all.

They were as follows:

  1. Honesty
  2. Treat Women With Respect
  3. No Drugs
  4. No Stealing
  5. No Guns

The reality is every program deals with malcontents, and those things especially crop up in the offseason. It doesn’t take much filtering, even through the haze of media days, to find felony charges, burglaries, drug arrests, sexual assaults and batteries from players at major schools across the country.

Texas is one of the most prestigious jobs in the country, and Mack Brown had a big hand in that in his 16 years as coach of the Longhorns. But things were trending down for a few seasons, starting after the 2009 team that lost that BCS national title game. Whether it was a matter of recruiting or a culture shift, Brown's final years were marked by Texas teams that weren't playing the type of football that led the Longhorns to 10 or more wins for nine straight seasons in the 2000s. And it wasn’t just people outside the program who noticed.

Earlier this week at Big 12 media days, senior cornerback Quandre Diggs held nothing back in discussing what he felt was wrong with the Longhorns.

"I told Coach Strong that I just feel like we had guys on the team that just didn't love football the way they should,” Diggs said via Max Olson of ESPN.com. That's something that I've always sensed since I've been here: We had guys that just didn't love football," Diggs said. "If you don't love football, you don't need to be a part of this university or a part of this team. That's just something I feel greatly and strong about.

“I want to weed guys out,” Diggs added. That's just me. I'm an up-front person. All my teammates know me. I'm going to tell you how I feel. I'm not going to jab at anything. I'm going to take an uppercut, take the hardest swing I can take, and I'll try to knock you out.”

Disciplined Texas Players' 2013 stats
 
Player stats
Kendall Sanders, WR 37 receptions, 361 yards, 1 touchdown
Montrel Meander, WR Redshirted
Jalen Overstreet, RB 20 carries, 102 yards, 2 touchdowns
Joe Bergeron, RB 73 carries, 362 yards, 4 touchdowns 12 receptions, 116 yards
Chevoski Collins, DB Redshirted
Josh Turner, S 37 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 fumble recovery

Strong might not be intending to “weed guys out,” and it’s very well likely those players are doing it themselves, but the message is clear: Charlie Strong’s tenure will not resemble the end of Mack Brown’s at Texas.

Discipline and establishing a baseline of expectations is important, and Texas fans need to show patience – something they’ve had trouble doing in the past – but Strong won’t get an unlimited amount of time to make things work. These are the Longhorns, after all, and winning matters.

In year one, with three players already gone and two more potentially with one foot out the door, the team’s depth has already taken a hit before the grind of camp has had a chance to knock that depth down further due to injury. Strong’s already got big problems to figure out. But you know what they say – everything’s bigger in Texas.

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