Texas fans will get their first real visual of the Charlie Strong era on Saturday during the Longhorns spring game.
While no one is sure how the team will look, one thing seems more certain: There's going to be a lot more intensity.
Like most storylines, the focus starts on offense. Earlier this week, Texas announced in an email statement that quarterback David Ash suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot and would miss the rest of spring. Though Strong hasn't been ready to name Ash the starter, he's still the presumed front-runner.
That is, unless sophomore Tyrone Swoopes can show up in a big way on Saturday. Here's what Strong had to say about Swoopes earlier this week, via B/R's Taylor Gaspar:
I told Tyrone: "The key for you is all about confidence. It is all about doing everything we ask you to do and playing within yourself." I said, "Now that you are the quarterback, just take the field and know this is your team and it is up to you to go lead it."
We need everyone to perform and when you do lose a quarterback, whomever you lose, someone else will have to step up. Now it is Swoopes' job to step up.
With Ash sidelined with a concussion for most of last season, fans were anxious to see what Swoopes could do, but he only saw limited playing time behind Case McCoy.
Texas' offense may not look exactly how it will in the fall personnel-wise. In addition to Ash, running backs Johnathan Gray (Achilles) and Joe Bergeron (personal reasons) also won't play. Even though the Horns should have one of the best backfields in the Big 12 in 2014, it won't be on display this weekend much beyond senior Malcolm Brown.
So, like any team facing these issues, spring games are about the next guys up who can make a name for themselves. With a new-look offensive line, Strong will likely keep it simple from a play-calling perspective. You don't want to throw too much at Swoopes; at the same time, you'd like to see him show some command of the offense.
Expect lots of running plays and easy-read passes for Swoopes. In many ways, Texas is going to have that smashmouth style of offense this fall because it caters to its strengths.
Defensively, Strong is all about bringing intensity and edge, something that has been lacking for the Horns on that side of the ball in recent years. With three-fourths of the starting defensive line returning, expect the defense to have the edge in the trenches.
As B/R's Michael Felder pointed out last month, there's a lot less concern about talent on defense. This is a veteran group that's been through it all, and new defensive coordinator Vance Bedford is going to reap the benefits:
The roster boasts quality at all three levels, and the returning players bring leadership along with the ability to get on the field and make plays. That will pay dividends for Bedford's unit as he breaks down a Texas defense that was too complex, at times, for the players to run to the football and just make plays.
Ideally, fans should see a defense that's fast, that flies to the ball and tackles with a little extra attitude. Those were signature qualities for Strong's Louisville Cardinals the past two seasons.
And, of course, Bedford wants his players to have fun doing it.
From the moment he was hired, Strong has been bent on instilling a tougher attitude with his players. Whether it's earning the right to throw up the "Hook 'em, Horns" or restarting practice halfway through because of poor effort, he's content on whipping his team into shape.
"They're searching for that. They want discipline," Strong told David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest. "They've heard so much about what they haven't done. Now, they want to prove to everyone that they can do it."
They'll get their first chance to do so in front of their fans on Saturday.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand.
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