Methinks something has gone terribly awry with the University of Texas football program.
Not mediocrity on the field, mind you. That happens even to the greatest of programs, and the good folks at UT have not been immune of late to the slide that has befallen their beloved Longhorns.
No, this isn’t about wins and losses, at least not for the moment.
This is about wins and losses in the lockerroom, a game which Texas appears to be losing at the moment–and it’s game that head coach Charlie Strong can ill afford to play constant catch-up with going forward.
On Tuesday, ESPN reported that linebacker Cecil Cherry – a true freshman and the lynchpin of Texas’ so-called ‘Florida Five’ 2015 recruiting class – was leaving the team after just three practices.
“It’s just not the right fit for him,” his father, Winston Cherry, told ESPN.com. “Once he gets his [release] papers, we’ll find him a home with someone who needs him. He needs to be somewhere where he’s needed real bad.”
Also on Tuesday, freshman running back Duke Catalon reportedly will transfer as well.
“We always want guys to stay here, but it’s also this: Anything you get in this program, you’re going to earn,” Strong said, according to ESPN. “We have a lot of guys in this program, and let’s focus on our guys that we have here right now.”
Problem is, while it’s all well and good to take that stance – and, really, what other public position can Strong take? – Strong has to know he needs to concentrate not only on the ‘guys that we have here right now’ but the guys who are out there that he wants to bring in down the road.
This is a pivotal moment for Texas football.
Downplay it all you want, but as it pertains to recruiting and the future of the program this team has hit a crossroads. Maybe future recruits aren’t paying attention to the trends, but you can be opposing coaches are.
So far, Strong’s brief career has been highlighted by a 6-7 record and a loss in the Texas Bowl in his first season, which also included several disciplinary issues resulting in loss of players, and now a glut of problems with this recruiting class, including Cherry and Catalon’s transfers, one player who flipped to Auburn after announcing for Texas and another who has yet to qualify.
It’s deeper than that, of course. Starting in 2010, Texas football has won just 36 games in five seasons. Heck, in the three seasons prior to 2010 the Longhorns racked up 35 wins. The Longhorns have had two losing seasons in the last five years; they haven’t had losing seasons twice in a five-year span since 1956.
It’s not in the too distant past that Texas won a national championship (2005) and played for another and lost (2009) when quarterback Colt McCoy went down on the game’s first series against Alabama.
To see such a drastic slide in the program is strange, although certainly not unprecedented.
Like I said, downplay it if you will but this is what opposing coaches are hanging their collective hats on while out on the recruiting trail. It’s a nasty, vicious business, and schools are looking for any advantage they can get.
Texas’ downward spiral has plenty of subplots that certainly have contributed to where we are now. Mack Brown had a couple of clunker recruiting classes. The Longhorns failed to develop a quality quarterback on the heels of Vince Young-Colt McCoy. Defensive whiz Will Muschamp left to coach at the University of Florida. Brown’s departure wasn’t exactly a smooth, nor touchy-feely, experience. And new athletic director Steve Patterson isn’t exactly ingratiating himself with the Texas faithful.
But there’s something going on with the culture of the program right now that Strong has to address. In barely a year there have been too many instances of bad fits, whether that be disciplinary issues or playing time issues.
The university needs to get a hold of this in a hurry.