Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Charlie Strong's mark remains on Florida Gators

NEW ORLEANS — About an hour after the announcement that Florida and Louisville would meet in the Sugar Bowl, Charlie Strong was already thinking about the Gators.

Not about what defensive schemes would work best, or how to attack Florida's stingy defense. Instead, the third-year Louisville coach was thinking about the Gator players he once recruited and coached but would now have to face on the opposite side of the field.

"It's funny when you look at that defense, and the team, you just see so many guys that you're so familiar with," Strong said. "Omar (Hunter) and (Jelani) Jenkins, all those players, Frankie Hammond at wide receiver. And Caleb Sturgis, I thought my man was done but he's still kicking there. You look at (Jon) Bostic and how well he's played. Just looking at a lot of those players, I'm very familiar with them. It's really special to see how they've developed."

For six years as defensive coordinator, then associate head coach/defensive coordinator, Strong was one of the most popular coaches on the Florida staff. Many of the players on Florida's roster are there because of Strong.

"He's the main guy who recruited me to come to Florida," Bostic, a senior linebacker, said. "I've had a good relationship with him ever since high school. A lot of coaches try to sell the program when they are recruiting, but he really wanted to form a relationship with me and be more than just a coach. I knew wherever Charlie went he was going to have success. It was just a matter of time before somebody gave him a chance after all the great things he has done."

Many players often talked with Strong after he left to take the Louisville job, but as time went on the contact lessened. The Sugar Bowl will be bittersweet, they said, because their love and respect for Strong remains, but now he stands between them and finishing out their final season with a 12-1 record.

"He'll have his defense ready, no doubt," Hunter, a senior nose tackle, said. "But I'm looking forward to seeing him. I miss Coach Strong. He's a great guy, first and foremost, and a good coach."

Since he arrived at Louisville, Strong, 52, has quickly made an impact, going 24-14 in three seasons. In his first two seasons he led the Cardinals to 7-6 records, consecutive bowl appearances and their first Big East title since 2006. Louisville is playing in its second BCS bowl and its first Sugar Bowl. None of Strong's Gator players are surprised.

"The players that played with him, we all agreed that when he was here he was a winner," senior safety Josh Evans said. "And we know the way he coached and the way he would get after it with his players that he was going to push them and motivate them to be the best they can be. He was a high-energy guy, too, man. He was a funny coach, but he knew when to take it serious and push us to the next level. I'm looking forward to playing him. It will be very fun."

No matter what happens in the Sugar Bowl, Strong said he's proud of the players he helped recruit and how they've developed.

"I recruited a lot of those guys, and you don't ever — anyone that you've ever recruited, wherever you are, you like to watch them and just watch their success and see how well they are doing," he said. "That's why I pay so much attention to that program. Plus I was a part of it, and I know that Will (Muschamp) has done a great job of coming in and making those players better football players and not only that, just making them grow up into top quality men."

Antonya English can be reached at english@tampabay.com.

Charlie Strong's mark remains on Florida Gators 12/29/12 [Last modified: Saturday, December 29, 2012 11:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021

    Bucs

    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals in 2009. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also …

    New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, holds the AFC Championship trophy? as he celebrates with head coach Bill Belichick after the AFC championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots defeated the the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 to advance to the Super Bowl.? (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) FBO247
  2. Sputtering Rays keep falling one run short

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Even going into play against the Angels on Tuesday just a game under .500 at 23-24, the Rays have some issues they have to resolve.

    Rays starter Alex Cobb waits for Mike Trout to finish his trot after homering to give the Angels a 2-0 lead.
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Angels game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb made mistakes on back-to-back pitches to the first two Angels hitters Tuesday, allowing homers to Cameron Maybin and Mike Trout, but otherwise gave the Rays another solid outing, working into the eighth and scattering seven hits.

  4. Rays journal: Brad Miller won't return from DL when eligible

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — 2B Brad Miller (left abdominal strain) will not return from the 10-day disabled list Friday as he hoped. While he took ground balls Tuesday, he has yet to resume running.

    Rays second baseman Brad Miller, left, with infielder Tim Beckham, says he’s letting his left abdominal strain “cool down” before testing it by running.
  5. USF baseball rallies to beat Tulane in AAC tournament opener

    College

    CLEARWATER — With Tulane runners on first and second and two out in the top of the ninth inning Tuesday, USF's dugout watched as burly American Athletic Conference co-player of the year Hunter Williams' fly to left went deep.

    The University of South Florida Bulls take a moment on the field just prior to their game against Tulane in the American Athletic Conference Tuesday, May 23, 2017 in Clearwater.