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USF Bulls

Zemek- sad If Charlie Strong’s head coaching career is done

Matt Zemek

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Charlie Strong very likely coached his last game as a major college football head coach on Friday night. South Florida was easily handled by the UCF Knights, concluding another bowl-less season in Tampa. South Florida’s defense played quite respectably.

USF’s offense had very little to offer, a microcosm of a season in which USF’s defense delivered very competent performances against the elite teams in the American Athletic Conference.

USF contained Temple. It stymied Cincinnati. It didn’t let Memphis run wild, though the Tigers – in line to be the champions of the Group of Five, a very strong team in 2019 – eventually figured things out on offense.

On Friday, USF fans privately worried that UCF would hang 50 or more points and humiliate the Bulls. That did not happen. Holding UCF to 34 points in Orlando is a decent showing not just for USF, but any UCF opponent. Ask Memphis from the past two AAC Championship Games.

Charlie Strong hasn’t lost his touch coaching defense, but when fielding an offense, he struggles profoundly, which explains why his head coaching career has likely ended. A decision hasn’t yet been made on his job status at the time this article is being written – Saturday morning, Nov. 30 – but it figures to be in the near future.

When the head coaching career of Charlie Strong is viewed in full, the first chapter will contain this fundamental thesis: If Strong didn’t have a great quarterback to cover the limitations of his offensive staff, he struggled. That is the most central reality of Strong’s existence as a head coach, when he had to be accountable for his offense, not just his defense.

Teddy Bridgewater enabled Strong’s Louisville tenure to be a success. Bridgewater made so many spectacular plays and rescued UL in its most urgent moments that Strong felt he could bring offensive coordinator Shawn Watson to Texas. We could all see that Bridgewater thrived in spite of Watson at Louisville, instead of Watson doing unique things to unlock Teddy’s talents. This is why Strong didn’t thrive at Texas (in addition to having a problem with the locker room culture he inherited from Mack Brown).

Strong’s most embarrassing moment at Texas was a forced march to Tulsa to beg and plead for the services of Sterlin Gilbert, then on the Golden Hurricane’s staff, to make him the new offensive coordinator after Watson and Jay Norvell didn’t work out. Gilbert did improve Strong’s Texas offense, enough to warrant a retained job when Strong moved to South Florida.

Yet, in the bigger picture, the same refrain remained true: The quarterbacks, more than the offensive coordinators, enabled Strong’s offenses to become great on the rare occasions Strong fielded a formidable offense.

It was clear in 2017 that Quinton Flowers was the main reason USF’s offense was special. Those Bulls – which Strong inherited from Willie Taggart – were loaded at the skill positions. Elite quarterback, running back, and wide receiver play mattered more than any scheme or design.

Why can we say this so confidently, you might ask?

When, in 2018, Sterlin Gilbert took over an offense without the 2017 stable of talent in Tampa, he flopped. Gilbert never understood how to adjust to changing circumstances. Late in the 2018 season – against a UCF team which lost star quarterback McKenzie Milton in the first half – South Florida had a real chance to win if its offense could make timely plays in big situations.

Gilbert’s third-down and red-zone play-calling, however, were shockingly conservative and unimaginative Gilbert’s worst game of the 2018 season came in the most high-profile moment against the opponent USF fans wanted to beat more than any other.

Strong was once again shopping for a new offensive coordinator before his third year at a program, just like Texas. Kerwin Bell was his choice. Clearly, as we have seen in 2019, the former Florida Gator quarterback could not turn the tide in Tampa.

We are left with a basic reality that Strong knows how to coach defense, but can’t find the right formula on offense. This does not make Strong unique.

What is sad about the likely end of Charlie Strong’s head coaching career is that it started so late. For reasons not related to football (let’s put it that way), Strong wasn’t able to be a head coach until age 50, despite decades (plural) as an accomplished position coach and defensive coordinator. He didn’t coach his first game as a head coach – with Louisville in the late summer of 2010 – until he was 50.

That was – and is, and will remain – an outrage.

Imagine if Strong had gotten his first head coaching job at age 40 instead of 50. He would be 49 right now, not 59. He could go to a Sun Belt or Conference USA program and start over. Three or four years of good work might put him in the mix for an AAC job in his mid-50s. However, because he was allowed inside the head coaching game at a later age, it is hard to see an athletic director picking up the phone.

I could be wrong, but a lot of people inside the industry doubt this.

Yes, being a great defensive coordinator – Strong will have his choice of job if he wants back into the coordinator game – is a good life. There is no shame in being a mediocre head coach and a great coordinator. However, Charlie Strong wasn’t given the same chances to succeed in head coaching that others were. Race was undeniably an element of his story, and that is a black mark on college football, in more ways than one.

If you think race has nothing to do with Strong’s story, let me offer with this very simple concluding note: On the same day that Strong very likely coached his last college game as a head coach, Tom Herman ended a hugely disappointing 7-5 season at the University of Texas, Strong’s previous employer.

Herman completed his third season at Texas in humiliating fashion. Herman has been better than Strong, but hardly by a large and significant margin. Herman will get the fourth season in Austin Strong never received.

Does this mean Strong shouldn’t have been fired? One can make a reasonable argument that Texas had to let Strong go after the Longhorns lost to Kansas. Herman merely allowed 48 points to Kansas this season, winning 50-48. Yes, Herman was and is better… but not by much. He, however, gets the benefit of the doubt. Not Strong.

One can simultaneously say that Charlie Strong didn’t measure up as a head coach, that he was wronged by the industry in which he has worked, and that he can still make a very good life as a defensive coordinator in the years ahead.

This story isn’t a happy one, and yet it is also a story of first-world problems. It is a story which is immensely complicated. Charlie Strong didn’t seek out these complications; they found him, more than anything else.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

USF Bulls

Report- Alabama will hire Charlie Strong as consultant

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Former USF coach Charlie Strong has decided on a new role for the upcoming 2020 season, and it won’t be in Gainesville.

ESPN college football insider Chris Low reported Tuesday morning that Strong has agreed to join Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama as a defensive “consultant” for this season

As we wrote last week, Strong had visited Saban and the Tide about the possible position on his staff, while considering a similar opportunity to join either Dan Mullen’s Gators staff or a couple of others in a consulting role. None of this will affect the nearly $3 million that USF still owes him as the buyout on the final two years of his contract.

Strong was fired after the Bulls collapsed losing their final four games to finish 4 – 8 this season. They were beaten by 27 or more points five times this year, including the last two losses to Memphis and rival UCF. This combined with the Bulls having lost their final six games, including their bowl game last year, meant that Strong had lost 14 of his final 18 games.

USF hired Clemson Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott earlier about a week later and gave him a 5-year, $12 million deal to become a first-time head coach in FBS football.

There had been some debate about Strong’s buyout being the amount of compensation that was remaining on his original five-year contract that he signed when he took the job in December of 2016 after being fired by the University of Texas. That contract called for Strong to be paid to $2. 5 million on average for 2020 and 2021.

However, USF informed Strong in his termination letter that the amount would be approximately $3 million under clauses in his deal.

Saban has a history of taking in former head coaches to come to Bama and observe and assist as a consultant with either his offense or defense. He’s done this for the last two years with former Tennessee coach Butch Jones and obviously, took in both Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian both of whom had been fired as coaches by USC at different stages.

Strong is known is an outstanding defensive coach from his previous days, as the Gators defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer. He later went on to success at the University of Louisville before taking The the Texas head coaching job in 2014.

Strong was fired after three seasons in Austin in 2016, but immediately hired by USF to replace Willie Taggart.

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USF Bulls

Former USF coach Strong to be consultant for Alabama?

Florida Football Insiders

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Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

And intriguing item popped up Friday morning involving former USF head coach Charlie Strong and him visiting Nick Saban the Alabama football program.

According to Alabama Insider and radio host, Aaron Suttles, Strong, who was dismissed last December after his third season with the Bulls, was in Tuscaloosa Thursday meeting with Saban and his staff:

Strong had also been reportedly talking with the University of Florida about a possible consultant role, which likely would not affect the nearly $3 million that USF still owes him as the buyout on the final two years of his contract.

Strong was fired after the Bulls collapsed losing their final four games to finish 4 – 8 this season. They were beaten by 27 or more points five times this year, including the last two losses to Memphis and rival UCF. This combined with the Bulls having lost their final six games, including their bowl game last year, meant that Strong had lost 14 of his final 18 games.

USF hired Clemson Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott earlier about a week later and gave him a 5-year, $12 million deal to become a first-time head coach in FBS football.

There had been some debate about Strong’s buyout being the amount of compensation that was remaining on his original five-year contract that he signed when he took the job in December of 2016 after being fired by the University of Texas. That contract called for Strong to be paid to $2. 5 million on average for 2020 and 2021.

However, USF informed Strong in his termination letter that the amount would be approximately $3 million under clauses in his deal.

Saban has a history of taking in former head coaches to come to Bama and observe and assist as a consultant with either his offense or defense. He’s done this for the last two years with former Tennessee coach Butch Jones and obviously, took in both Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian both of whom had been fired as coaches by USC at different stages.

Strong is known is an outstanding defensive coach from his previous days, as the Gators defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer. He later went on to success at the University of Louisville before taking The the Texas head coaching job in 2014.

Strong was fired after three seasons in Austin in 2016, but immediately hired by USF to replace Willie Taggart

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