Just a few impressions before going on vacation for a week. Today at Champions Sports Bar & Grill at the Downtown Marriott you had perhaps the city’s largest press conference ever held in honor of a sandwich.
We media types all showed up because it was a chance to talk to U of L football coach Charlie Strong, who has been laying low lately.
There wasn’t yet much football news to report. He couldn’t comment on 4-star cornerback prospect Demar Dorsey, because contrary to published reports Dorsey has not signed with U of L and is not a student there. Johnny Patrick, a defensive back facing assault charges, is another hot topic, but Strong told U of L beat writer C.L. Brown that he wants to let that case play out. (What he didn’t say, likely, is that he wants to wait to see of Patrick completes whatever has been asked of him in the way of team sanctions.)
And when he was asked about whether a quarterback has been named yet, he said that he’ll sit down with his offensive staff when they return from vacation on July 26 and they will hash out a decision. His description of that process, though, was the interesting thing to me.
“What you really want to do is give everybody an opportunity. . . . But I’m going to sit down with our offensive staff and just see what their ideas are and see what what they are talking about and just put it on the table and let guys say who they feel like the starters should be and their reasons why.”
In other words, the quarterback could be determined by the big picture of what exactly the staff wants this offense to be, rather than on which is the most talented overall. And when you have three guys of fairly even abilities, that’s probably as good a way to go as any. It still wouldn’t surprise me to see any or all of them get time in the first few games of the season.
I asked Strong some questions about things he’s doing differently — requiring every player to complete five hours of community service, for instance. “It’s so critical to give back,” he said. “They will realize that people appreciate them. But they have to appreciate people.”
Strong also said, “I’m very happy with the way our guys have embraced the program. There hasn’t been much resentment, and usually when you take over a program you get some resentment. But there’s been none of that.
What you won’t hear much from Strong, however, are these things:
— Hype for the upcoming season. Don’t expect coaches to fan the flames of expectation.
— Downgrading the old staff. There’s a high level of sensitivity to not run down the preceding regime.
Just because you change the culture of a program doesn’t mean you change results right away. But it’ll be interesting to see just what all these changes will translate to on the field.
POSTSCRIPT: Meant to include this, but forgot on the original posting. When Michael Howerton, Downtown Marriott V.P. and general manager, first mentioned Charlie Strong, he said instead, “Charlie Brown.” He didn’t even realize he’d done it, but there were some chuckles, and Strong couldn’t let it pass without having a laugh at it when it was his turn at the microphone. Howerton was shaking his head afterward and Strong told him not to worry about it. The two got to know each other while Strong was living and working out of the downtown Marriott when he first came to town. That’s when Howerton first hatched the idea of putting together a barbeque chicken sandwich in Strong’s name.