With three holes in the coaching staff after National Signing Day, Texas head coach Charlie Strong looked to fill the vacancies with coaches that all had a common thread — a Texas connection.
Wide receivers coach Charlie Williams and defensive backs coach Clay Jennings each spent time at TCU, while running backs coach Anthony Johnson was a running back for the Longhorns’ 2005 National Championship team.
“We [got] three vet coaches that [have] been in this state, that [have] been around Texas high school coaches and understand what we’re doing and what we’re all about,” Strong said.
For the three new coaches, home is where the heart is. Each knows about the tradition Texas football brings and is eager to flip the script of the 2015 Longhorns’ 5–7 finish.
With over 30 years of coaching under his belt, Williams has the most experience of all the new hires. He worked with some of the best talent the NFL has ever seen at the wide receiver position, including Reggie Wayne and Keyshawn Johnson.
Williams said he left the NFL because he was especially intrigued by the challenge the Texas job brings and wants to make Texas great again.
“First and foremost, you have to win every place you are at,” Williams said. “That’s the bottom line. Can the heat get a little hotter around here? Yes, ’cause this is Texas, and we realize that. We want to put these guys in the best position to win, and we can’t worry about anything else.”
Seven of Jennings’ defensive backs finished among the top 10 on the team in tackles in his second season as the defensive backs coach at Arkansas. But he had to sleep “with one eye open” because of the number of times he referenced Texas.
“I had a great opportunity and great time while I was coaching in Fayetteville,” Jennings said. “But to have an opportunity to come home and work with these kids and work with this staff and try to take this program to the next level with coach Strong, it was too good to pass up.”
For Johnson, who helped Toledo’s running game average over 200 yards per game, being able to coach back in the state of Texas is more than a dream come true.
“Words can’t even describe how I feel right now having the opportunity to come back [to Texas] and coach,” Johnson said. “I knew at some point I would be back. I just didn’t know when. Words wouldn’t do it any justice.”
The coaching carousel at Texas has taken spins in many directions this offseason with a total of five new hires in the past three months. But Strong said he doesn’t have a problem with the constant change because it will force Texas to stay focused on winning.
“It doesn’t bother me one bit because there’s going to be new energy; there’s going to be new passion.” Strong said. “Even the players, for them, it’s a new breath of life. Their slate is clean. Now they get to start all over again.”