Texas Longhorns: Tommie Robinson

This week, we’re taking a closer look at the members of the new Texas coaching staff under Charlie Strong. The second part of our two-a-days series focuses on two new hires on the offensive staff and what they’ll bring to their respective position groups.

Tommie Robinson
Running backs


Robinson won’t tell this story to his new Texas running backs, but it’s one Malcolm Brown, Johnathan Gray, Joe Bergeron and the rest of the gang ought to know.

[+] EnlargeTommie Robinson
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsNew Texas running backs coach Tommie Robinson wants to start fresh and encourage open competition.
Their new position coach is taking a different approach to planning for 2014. Robinson is not watching film of his running backs: He doesn’t need to.

“I don’t know what to expect because, on purpose, I didn’t study them at all,” Robinson said. “I didn’t want to study them on tape. I want to go out and see these guys perform.”

He’s chatted with former running backs coach Larry Porter, but Robinson isn’t interested in analyzing what his players have done in the past. He wants a clean slate, a fresh start. He has a good reason why.

When Robinson arrived at USC last year, leaving his NFL gig with the Arizona Cardinals to return to the college game, he knew the expectations. Penn State transfer Silas Redd led the Trojans in rushing in 2012, and they’d signed ESPN 300 backs Justin Davis and Ty Isaac. Those were the options.

Robinson didn’t watch the film. He didn’t want any biases. He kept the competition going and used five different backs last fall. The standout of the group was a surprise: Javorius Allen.

When Robinson first joined the program, he says he was told he didn’t need to worry about Allen. The staff didn’t think the sophomore, a former ESPN 150 recruit with six career carries, would amount to much.

“They didn’t want him around, wanted to let him go,” Robinson said. “I learned a very valuable lesson: Had I listened to what I was told, that kid would’ve never got a chance to play football at USC. But I didn’t listen to what I was told about him. I wanted to formulate my own opinion about the kid, and the kid ended up leading us in rushing.

“This is a kid that wasn’t supposed to be on the team, that I was told, ‘Don’t worry about him, he won’t amount to anything,’ and he ended up leading the team in rushing. So who knows?”

That’s why, when Texas begins spring practice next week, Robinson intends to treat his rushers like true freshmen. They’ll have to convince him they’re his best option.

“I’ve made that point crystal clear,” Robinson said. “Everybody has an opportunity.”

Les Koenning
Wide receivers


Koenning and Vance Bedford both arrived at the University of Texas in 1977. They could tell you all sorts of stories about their college days, but they won’t.

“They might be R-rated,” Bedford said. “We had our day in the sun. It’s amazing some of the things we did, that we’re still here today. That’s all I can tell you.”

No doubt Koenning has done plenty of reminiscing during his first two months back on campus since joining Charlie Strong’s coaching staff. After more than three decades coaching elsewhere, this is his homecoming.

“The one thing that’s been really nice for myself is to come back and see what it’s like, having the opportunity to play in the stadium, going back through campus,” Koenning said. “Things have changed a little bit since I was last here. It’s gotten a lot nicer.”

Koenning’s 33-year career has seen him make stops at Alabama, Louisiana-Lafayette, Mississippi State, Rice, Duke, Texas A&M, the Miami Dolphins, back to Duke, Houston, TCU, back to Alabama, back to A&M, South Alabama and Mississippi State. Finally, the road led him back to Austin.

You won’t get him to talk badly about his time at Texas A&M, Alabama or anywhere else. Koenning says he’s been fortunate throughout and given the chance to coach at some great programs.

Getting back to Texas, at a time when the program is in transition and in need of coaches with Longhorns roots, was too good an opportunity to pass up.

“I’m excited about it, and I think also the opportunity to come with Coach Strong is really nice,” Koenning said. “His background and what he’s done in the past has been really impressive to me. It’s an opportunity to win.”

The son of a longtime Texas high school football coach, Koenning hit the road to recruit right when he was hired and ran into folks he knew all over the place. He’s looking forward to recruiting a state he knows well alongside coaches he trusts.

His offenses at Alabama and Mississippi State faced Strong’s South Carolina and Florida defenses. He knows what Texas is getting in its new head man, and Bedford is happy to vouch for what Koenning brings to the group.

“He’s one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever known,” Bedford said. “You watched him as a player, and the same tenacity you saw as a player, you see as a coach. He’s going to get the best out of his players.”
AUSTIN, Texas -- Charlie Strong says he had a fairly good idea of what he wanted from his Texas coaching staff before the hunt began.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesNew Texas coach Charlie Strong has put together an experienced staff he's familiar with.
He wanted coaches he knew and coaches who know the state of Texas.

The staff Strong unveiled on Wednesday appears to have a good helping of both.

Ten days into the job, his staff is finally assembled, and he will hit the road on Thursday to begin selling a school the staff has barely had time to visit.

Strong had to stifle a laugh when asked if he was starting to settle in at Texas. It hasn't been easy. Not after all the work he had to put into interviewing coaches and piecing together a staff that met his standards.

He believes he’s found a group that can get Texas back to its championship standard, and more importantly, he thinks these are the guys UT needs off the field.

“This is a staff that we know what it is all about,” Strong said. “We are teachers, we're role models, we're going to motivate and lead. Just a staff that are family men, and you want that with the players.

“Because you want the players to look at a coach and say how, someday, if they don't end up being an engineer or a doctor but could go and be a coach, [they would] emulate the man standing right there in front of me. I am just so happy that we are aboard and finally completed it.”

It’s a group that touts a combined 232 years of coaching experience and, at least on paper, has a good deal of familiarity both with each other and with this state.

Strong hired four coaches he’d worked with in offensive coordinator Joe Wickline, defensive coordinator Vance Bedford, quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson and linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary.

He hired four assistants who have coached college football in this state: Bedford, receivers coach Les Koenning, running backs coach Tommie Robinson and retained tight ends coach Bruce Chambers.

And he hired guys he’d recruited against in the past, coaches whose passion he respected in defensive line coach Chris Rumph and defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn.

And don’t forget the 10th man, the one he considers just as valuable -- if not more so -- than the rest: Strength and conditioning coach Pat Moorer, who followed him from Louisville and is already putting his new players to the test with workouts this week.

All in all, it’s a haul that has industry experts impressed. Is this the blank-check dream team that Texas fans envisioned when Strong took the job? No, maybe not. But he’s found puzzle pieces that, thanks to all the familiarity, ought to fit together well and do so quickly.

Those fans fantasized about reeling in a big fish for an offensive coordinator, no doubt Strong’s most important hire of the nine. They wanted Strong to swing for the fences with someone like Clemson's Chad Morris or Ohio State's Tom Herman.

They might not realize what they’ve got in Wickline, one of the nation’s top offensive line coaches at Oklahoma State. He and Strong were grad assistants together at Florida in 1983 and met again in Gainesville from 2002 to 2004. He knew he was handing the keys to his offense to an underappreciated gem.

“Guys pay their dues, and guys have been around great systems, and if you look at the system he has been around at Oklahoma State for nine years, they have moved the ball very well on offense,” Strong said. “When the guys have put in their time, it's like me: I have put in my time and want to be rewarded. So he has put in his time, and he is being rewarded.”

What sold him on Wickline, and so many other members of the new staff, was a mandatory trait: Toughness. His offenses and players played. Strong is surrounding himself with hard-nosed leaders because that’s what Texas needs right now.

Just as this group comes together, it’s time to split up again. The new Longhorns coaches begin their recruiting quest on Thursday, and they’ve got plenty of catching up to do on that front.

Over the next few weeks, Strong will find out just what kind of recruiters he’s hired. And then the real job -- putting the pieces back together at Texas -- will begin.

It’s a familiar challenge for Strong. To pull this off, he’s surrounded himself with familiar allies.

“I told them right from the start that this is going to be a coaching staff with no egos,” Strong said. “We are here to work together, and it is all about success. We are here to win and whatever we have to do to go win a football game, that is what we have to do.”

Meet the Texas coaching staff

January, 15, 2014
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New Texas head coach Charlie Strong completed and announced his coaching staff on Wednesday. A closer look at who will join him in his first season of leading the Longhorns:

Offensive coordinator/offensive line: Joe Wickline
Age:
55 Alma mater: Florida
Previously: Oklahoma State offensive line coach
Past stops: Florida, Middle Tennessee State, Baylor, Southwest Mississippi C.C., Pearl River C.C., Ole Miss, Delta State, Tennessee
Coached up: Oklahoma State T Russell Okung, Oklahoma State OT Levy Adcock, Florida OT Max Starks
Stat: During Wickline’s nine seasons at OSU, the Cowboys averaged 37.7 points per game, which ranked third-best in FBS behind Oregon and Boise State.
In short: The longtime Oklahoma State assistant is considered one of the nation’s best line coaches and was a significant steal for Strong’s first staff. He inherits plenty of young talent up front.

Assistant head coach/quarterbacks: Shawn Watson
Age:
54 Alma mater: Southern Illinois
Previously: Louisville offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach
Past stops: Nebraska, Colorado, Northwestern, Southern Illinois, Miami (Ohio), Illinois
Coached up: Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater, Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez, Colorado QB Joel Klatt
Stat: Bridgewater ranked No. 3 in FBS in raw QBR during the 2013 season at 84.5.
In short: Texas is getting an offensive mind that Strong trusts and who proved, with his coaching of Bridgewater, that he has what the Longhorns desperately need: The ability to develop a quarterback.

Running backs: Tommie Robinson
Age:
50 Alma mater: Troy State
Previously: USC pass game coordinator/running backs coach
Past stops: Arizona Cardinals, Miami, Memphis, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, Dallas Cowboys, TCU, Utah State, Arkansas
Coached up: Cowboys WR Michael Irvin, Cardinals RB Beanie Wells, Oklahoma State RB Tatum Bell
Stat: Four USC running backs combined for 2,225 rushing yards in 2013, with two surpassing 700 yards.
In short: Robinson comes to Austin after a year at Southern Cal, where he was a respected recruiter and position coach with a wide range of experience.

Receivers: Les Koenning
Age:
54 Alma mater: Texas
Previously: Mississippi State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach
Past stops: South Alabama, Texas A&M, Alabama, TCU, Houston, Duke, Miami Dolphins, Rice, Louisiana-Lafayette
Coached up: Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee, Texas A&M QB Reggie McNeal, Texas A&M WR Albert Connell
Stat: Mississippi State’s offense set school records for passing yards, total yards and completion percentage in 2013.
In short: Koenning has coached all over Texas and is leaving an SEC coordinator job to return home. Strong needed assistants with ties to this state and Koenning is plenty of that.

Tight ends: Bruce Chambers
Alma mater: North Texas
Previously: Same role
Past stops: Dallas Carter High School
Coached up: Texas RB Ricky Williams, Texas TE Jermichael Finley, Texas RB Cedric Benson
Stat: Texas tight ends Geoff Swaim and Greg Daniels combined for six receptions last season.
In short: The only assistant retained from Mack Brown’s staff, Chambers has been at Texas since 1998 and can help with this staff transition, especially in recruiting.

Defensive coordinator/secondary: Vance Bedford
Age:
55 Alma mater: Texas
Previously: Louisville defensive coordinator/secondary coach
Past stops: Florida, Oklahoma State, Chicago Bears, Michigan, Colorado State, Navarro J.C.
Coached up: Michigan CB Charles Woodson, Florida CB Joe Haden, Louisville DE Marcus Smith
Stat: Since the start of the 2012 season, the Cardinal defense ranks No. 4 in FBS in total defense and No. 5 in pass defense.
In short: Strong brought Bedford with him to Austin, and the former Longhorn defensive back brings a lot to the table. Known for being fiery and passionate in his time at Louisville.

Assistant head coach/defensive line: Chris Rumph
Age:
42 Alma mater: South Carolina
Previously: Alabama defensive line coach
Past stops: Clemson, Memphis, South Carolina State
Coached up: Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson DE Gaines Adams, Alabama DT Jesse Williams
Stat: In his stints at Clemson and Alabama, Rumph coached at least nine NFL Draft picks.
In short: Like Wickline, Rumph is considered one of the best of the best at what he does. Doesn’t have much experience in Texas but does have a history of signing and developing elite linemen.

Linebackers/recruiting coordinator: Brian Jean-Mary
Age:
38 Alma mater: Appalachian State
Previously: Louisville linebackers coach
Past stops: Georgia Tech, North Alabama, South Carolina
Coached up: Georgia Tech LB Phillip Wheeler, Louisville LB Preston Brown, Georgia Tech LB Gerris Wilkinson
Stat: Under Jean-Mary’s tutelage, Brown recorded 301 career tackles and twice earned all-conference honors.
In short: Jean-Mary was assistant head coach of the Louisville defense and followed Bedford and Strong. He’ll be Texas’ third linebackers coach in the past 12 months.

Defensive backs/special teams: Chris Vaughn
Age:
37 Alma mater: Murray State
Previously: Memphis cornerbacks coach
Past stops: Ole Miss, Arkansas
Coached up: Ole Miss CB Marshay Green, Ole Miss CB Cassius Vaughn, Arkansas LB Tony Bua
Stat: At Memphis, Vaughn inherited the second-worst pass defense in FBS in 2011. In his two seasons, the Tigers ranked 26th-best in the country in yards per completion allowed.
In short: The youngest member of the new staff, Vaughn already has eight years as an SEC recruiting coordinator on his resume.

Early Offer: OU going back to Cali 

October, 2, 2013
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Oklahoma hopes its talent pipeline to California hasn’t dried up, ESPN 2 and ESPNU have Friday night broadcasts that feature around 10 ESPN 300 prospects; and even without a head coach USC remains active on the recruiting trail.

#WeekendoftheWest
Bob Stoops has never shied away from bringing in prospects for game weekends, and Saturday’s Big 12 Conference matchup against TCU is another opportunity for the Sooners to impress. Five-star cornerback Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), four-star running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom), four-star linebacker Dwight Williams (Gardena, Calif./Serra), four-star athlete Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./East), four-star receiver Dallis Todd and four-star defensive tackle Ainuu Taua (Lompoc, Calif./Lompoc) will be in town for official visits. The Sooners have had a lot of success out West in the past and hope to keep their Golden State pipeline open. “California is right there with Oklahoma and Texas as far as importance to us,” one Sooner insider said. “We believe we can go into California and compete with Pac-12 schools because we have a lot to offer, and we have been quite successful attracting talented players to come to OU.” The Sooners currently have nine California players on its roster, including impact players like running back Brennan Clay, receiver Jalen Saunders and running back Damien Williams.

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