Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Can Strong handle the Louisville fan Hype?

When Charlie Strong was hired on as Louisville's head coach there were cheers heard all through the city. Steve Kragthorpe, the coach who had taken a once tough program down the tubes, was gone and a new Sheriff was in town.

There were reasons for excitement. Strong was coming from Florida, a team where he orchestrated the defenses for a multi-time national champion and had recruited names like Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes. Louisville fans were looking to Strong to rebuild their once illustrious (this adjective can be argued) football program.

In year one the hype was big but subdued. Strong had a lot of seniors coming back, including two at quarterback and one big time senior running back, and had an easy schedule in the Big East. Fans expected a win in the first game against the Wildcats but were disheartened as the Cats took some of the shine off of Strong's suit of armor and defeated him in his first game as head coach.

As the season went on Louisville lost to every team that they were supposed to lose to, beat the teams they were supposed to beat, but they did not upset or surprise anybody. They were mediocre and eked out a come behind bowl victory against the Mighty Southern Miss Eagles in the illustrious Beef O'Brady's Bowl. The swagger was back in Duh Ville.

One would think that after the so-so season that the Cards had, and the loss of about 30 seniors, that Louisville fans would bring their expectations down a bit. Not so fast my friend. The fan base is more talkative than ever despite the fact that the Cards have no offensive line to speak of, 2 foot tall Will Stein at QB, questions on defense, and a young receiver core.

Many fans are pointing to Strong's recruits to become stars. Look, this is college football, not college basketball. It is much more difficult for a rookie to come in and make an impact on a team in football than it is in basketball unless that player is all world like Bo Jackson. Teddy Bridgewater is not going to be all world this year and not even next year. Please start him at Commonwealth stadium on September 17th. That would be a great idea.

As I look at the Cardinal football schedule I see them going 5-7 and missing out on a bowl game as well as losing to UK for a fifth straight year. The fact is that I do not see Strong as that great of a head coach. He made very questionable calls last year, like running the Wildcard even though they did not have the personell to do it and continuing to stick with Adam Froman despite the fact that he sucked awfully bad.

The question is, how will the Louisville fan base react when Strong's second year is a step back rather than a step forward? Their braggadocio will not be hindered, we all know that much. But will they continue to hype Strong as Lombardi, Bryant and Paterno all rolled into one? Will they still think he can walk on water?

The answer is no. Nobody will be calling for his job but many will start to question the man's invincibility. Strong will be given a pass this season because he is still "playing with Kragthorpe's guys." But time will be running out for using Kragthorpe as the whipping boy, something the fans love to do.

Even Strong's tough stance on academics and player conduct policies have already been tarnished. Louisville football was put on probation because of a horrendous grade report in the classroom. Of course that was Kragthorpe's fault even though he is no longer there.

We were also given the examples of Darius Ashley being arrested for a DUI twice under Strong's watch and being allowed to stay on the team in both cases as well as brothers Isaac Geffrad and Jacob Geffrad being charged with assault in November of 2010 for beating up a fellow teammate in the Louisville locker room. Looks like Strong's Cardinal Virtues are not taking effect like he wants them too.

This is not an indictment on Charlie Strong. I like him, he is a great recruiter, a great motivator, a great coordinator, and I think one day he might be a good coach. But Louisville fans have put some lofty expectations on him and I just don't see him delivering what they want to see.

This will be the year that the Charlie Strong Love parade will be rained on a little bit. If he does not produce what the fans think he can produce in year three, then watch for it to be rained out completely.

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