Football

Schedule Challenges: Jeff Scott, not Charlie Strong, heads to Austin on Sept. 5

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The 2020 season is still too far away, but each part of Texas’ schedule has obstacles that are easily identifiable this far out. This series will serve to identify a specific challenge each opponent on the 2020 schedule provides.

The first game of the Jeff Scott Era at South Florida will take place versus the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium on September 5th.

Scott replaces Charlie Strong, who after going 16-21 at Texas went 21-16 at USF. Each stop lasted three seasons. The idea of one of the two Longhorn football coaches to finish their UT careers under .500 returning to the stadium where he won 10 home games in three years did offer the potential for juicy storylines, but the decision makers in Tampa decided to look for new leadership for their football program.

In Scott, they found a member of Dabo Swinney’s original staff at Clemson. Scott played for Tommy Bowden at Clemson and was hired to be the Tigers’ wide receiver coach in 2008. Bowden retired during the season, and when Swinney was handed the reins he kept Scott as wide receivers coach.

Swinney eventually promoted Scott to co-offensive coordinator after Chad Morris took the SMU job in late 2014. He shared responsibilities with Tony Elliott, and the duo helped the Tigers enter college football’s stratosphere. Clemson won the ACC and made the College Football Playoff each year Scott was co-OC, winning two national championships during that run.

Scott, Swinney, and Elliott did the typical dance coaches do when it comes to publicly declaring who called plays, but now Scott is able to run his own program after several years under the tutelage of one of the game’s elite coaches. In addition, one of his Scott’s first moves was to hire rising star Charlie Weis Jr. as offensive coordinator.

Per the release announcing his hire, Weis Jr.’s 2019 FAU offense ranked 14th nationally in scoring (36.4 ppg) and 27th in total offense (448.6 ypg). Quarterback Chris Robinson ranked 6th nationally in passing yards and 16th in passing touchdowns while throwing just six interceptions. Robinson set FAU season records with 3,701 yards passing and 291 completions, adding 28 touchdown passes. FAU tight end Harrison Bryant won the Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end was a unanimous first team All-American after posting 65 receptions for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns.

It brings a sense of mystery to what the Bulls will bring to Austin. What exactly will a Weis Jr. offense look like with their talent? Will one of the hottest names in the coaching profession be able to give the Longhorns fits in their first game utilizing Chris Ash’s system?

Scott brings a championship coaching acumen that Strong struggled to reclaim while at South Florida. Any Texas fan could tell you the details that were seemingly overlooked week after week by Strong’s staff. Most South Florida fans would repeat that complaint. After a 10-2 year one and a 7-0 start to year two, Strong proceeded to lose 14 out of his next 18 games.

The Longhorns should be able to utilize superior talent, but they assuredly are facing a coaching staff that is much more familiar with the details needed to field a successful football team than the one exiting Tampa. Strong was an integral part of Florida’s two national championships, but that was in the 2000s. All of Scott’s major successes have been in the last five years.

South Florida has upgraded it’s coaching at the top, though the “Strong Returns” storyline would have been wildly entertaining. That makes the “medium difficulty” game of Texas’ 2020 non-conference schedule slightly more treacherous to navigate.