There’s a big question looming over the Longhorns’ season opener against Notre Dame on Sunday: who will lead the team in the first play of the game? Head coach Charlie Strong has promised that senior Tyrone Swoopes and true freshman Shane Buechele will share quarterback duties against the Fighting Irish, but he’s continually declined to name a starter.
Strong has a lot on his plate heading into the start of his third season as coach. The game will not only debut an untested quarterback, but also a new offensive coordinator, Sterlin Gilbert, who fans are hoping will bolster UT’s sagging scoring offense. It’s hard to blame Strong for not wanting to tip his hand. After all, many are calling the Notre Dame matchup the tipping-point game of a tipping-point season for Strong.
Chuck F’n Strong, however, was willing to walk me through his offensive strategy. At @ChuckFnStrong, the coach’s unsanctioned alter ego offers “unfettered and unfiltered fake Charlie Strong” Twitter commentary for nearly 25,000 followers. The anonymous operator of the account entertains with absurdist game commentary, strategy insight, and plenty of shade for opposing teams—all done with a spectacular handle on the parlance of the Internet. But despite pretty obvious indicators the account isn’t the real Charlie Strong (blatant misspellings of players’ names, the often repeated claim that Chuck F’n Strong is linebacker Malik Jefferson’s dad, a general unawareness of when and/or where games are played), UT recruits sent direct messages to the fake coach this past spring.
To all recruits who DM me your hudl highlights I am not the right person for these pls send to our recruiting intern @Strong_TexasFB
— Chuck F'n Strong (@ChuckFnStrong) March 4, 2016
In a way, it isn’t surprising that recruits or fans would flock to Chuck F’n Strong. The account has stood as a kind of symbol of the Longhorn community’s swagger and confidence, which is pretty hard to maintain after a series of bleak seasons. So while the actual Charlie Strong is guarded about his strategy for turning around the Longhorns, Chuck F’n Strong is more than willing to entertain my preseason queries. If nothing else, UT fans will have something to smile about this season.
*this interview has been edited for “clarity.”
Abby Johnston: Thanks for doing this with me, coach. I really appreciate you taking the time. How was your summer?
Chuck F’n Strong: That’s a great question and I’m glad you asked it. I finally have a QB. I have a pool too. I did a lot of watching other people swim.
AJ: Did you get some good pool time in before the season gets underway, then?
CS: I mainly play with one of those ping-pong paddles where the ball is tied to it so you can’t lose it. Very ingenious. I am afraid of our pool because it has one wall that makes it look like it goes to the edge. They call it an infinity pool. Well, guess what? It isn’t for me. I want to stay on Earth, I don’t want to go traveling through a worm hole. I’m sure you understand.
AJ: I definitely do understand. I saw you tweeting about the Olympics. Did you get to watch much of it? There were a lot of UT athletes to cheer on.
CS: I love the Olympics, but I have no idea how they figure out the winner. Do they take the best boxer and they have to fight the best swimmer or what? How do they come down to the last person? Do the rowers get to fight the gymnasts? I’m just frustrated because I know they don’t do the fighting section until like November.
AJ: I don’t think it’s really like a Hunger Games thing, at least from my understanding.
CS: Are you serious?
AJ: Yeah, but you’ll be pretty busy in November, anyway.
CS: Yeah, bowl games and what not.
I AM NOT GETTING FIRED TONIGHT
— Chuck F'n Strong (@ChuckFnStrong) October 10, 2015
AJ: So what can you tell me coming off of summer practices and scrimmages?
CS: I can tell you a lot. We have the tallest secondary in the league. If you stack Devante on top of Boyd on top of Sherroid on top of Holton on top of PJ Locke on top of Haines on top of Bonney on top of Elliot on top of Jones that stack of players is over 600-feet tall. So, needless to say no one is passing on us.
Also, our linebackers have numbers that are sequential, 45 and 46. That is very confusing to the other players. The offense looks at that and they think, “Why did Charlie give those two linebackers numbers right next to each other?” Well, joke’s on them, because I don’t know either. But that isn’t important, is it?
Our running backs are actually bears. Seriously, we caught some bears near Jackson Holes, Wyoming. Shaved them. Put them in uniforms. D’Onta is a bear. C Warren. Bear. Kyle Porter isn’t a bear. He’s a person. Almost as good as a bear.
AJ: I know you also got a few Baylor Bears in recruiting too. Or at least they left after the whole scandal. How do they compare to, uh, actual bears?
CS: Yes. That’s true but none of those players are actual bears. They are all people except for Hudson. He’s a mammoth. We have to file his tusks down.
AJ: I thought mammoths were extinct, so that is especially impressive.
CS: You know what they say about animals that are extinct: they are only extinct until you find another one. So.
AJ: True. Speaking of hard finds, you managed to wrestle Sterlin Gilbert away from Tulsa. What’d you have to do to get him to come to Texas?
CS: Oh, nothing, that was so easy. The media over-blew that whole thing. A suitcase with $17 million and a gross of black jackets. That’s how we got him, I think we got a good deal.
The guy never wears short sleeves. Know why? He has eel arms. Giblet will electrocute anyone who touches his arms. So you know even though it’s hot out it’s for our protection, and in that respect Giblet is a real gentleman.
AJ: Gilbert, coach.
CS: Giblet, now that’s a guy who knows how to call an offense. At practice I don’t even know what’s going on any more. I stand there in my baby tiger den under a little tent with some misters and we talk about life, backgammon. But seriously, we will be good on offense. One thousand yards per half or I quit.
AJ: That’s a tall order. How’s Gilbert going to get there?
CS: Well, you see, I am an optimist. And I also round up to the nearest 1,000, ask anyone. 501 yards = 1,000 yards. Pretty simple math.
AJ: So with Gilbert in place, is it safe to say we have a plan for the QB situation going into the Notre Dame game?
CS: Yes, I mean you have to play a quarterback, it’s in the NCAA rules, so we will follow the rules of football and play one. I’m sure you want to know the rotation.
AJ: I do, yes.
CS: Well, see, we are going to confuse Notra Dame. I’m sure you heard that scientists just discovered a new potentially habitable planet near Proxima Centauri. It’s all over the news. Anyway, everyone knows that Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf. Well, guess who else are dwarves? LEPRECHAUNS. So, that’s pretty much the plan.
AJ: Wait. Coach, can you back up? I’m not sure I follow.
CS: The star is four light years away. It’s a red dwarf. It’s called Proxima Centauri which means “a wolf close by.” Do you read me?
AJ: I understand the planet. But not what it has to do with the opener against Notre Dame. And leprechauns.
CS: Let me try to explain. How do you see a star that is four light years away? Well, you need a telescope. Guess who has a great telescope? Buechele.
AJ: So then does this mean that Shane Buechele will be leading us against Notre Dame?
CS: What? No. I would never play a true freshman at any position ever. Check my record.
AJ: Coach, that is definitely not true. So will Buechele be scouting for Swoopes?
CS: Oh, he’s not using the telescope to look at stuff. I’ve instructed him to use it as a weapon, but only in a sportsmanlike fashion. So we’ll send him out every fourth play with his telescope. He’s gonna kneecap whoever gets near him. You get it.
AJ: Uh, sorta.
CS: Exactly. But seriously, I have no idea who we are playing at QB. Giblet doesn’t even talk to me.
AJ: So then how are you feeling going into Notre Dame? That’s a pretty big opener for your third season as a coach.
CS: I feel great going into the game. If you think about it Notra Dame is a mixture of two very unimportant countries, those being France and Ireland. One of them is always drunk and the other one is Ireland.
Hahahah, get it? Because you thought I meant Ireland was the drunk one. Anyway, Kevin Sumblin is Irish.
AJ: Is he? I thought Kevin Sumlin was from Alabama
CS: Uh, no. Nothing about Sumblin is from Alabama. He’s from the tree in Ireland where Lucky Charms come from. It’s on Wikipedia.
.@CoachSumlin Hey sumblin remember that time when my offense was better than your offense I do it's now
— Chuck F'n Strong (@ChuckFnStrong) October 26, 2015
AJ: I’ll look for it later in fact checking, for sure. But you’ve got to be at least a little nervous about Sunday. Last year you lost to Notre Dame 38-3, and many people are saying that set the tone for the rest of the season. People are also saying that this season is kind of your make or break year. Are you feeling the heat?
CS: I’m not feeling the heat, because I have a rare condition where all of my nerve endings were clipped in an accident. I don’t want to talk about it. See, what happened was, I was swimming in an infinity pool and Bedford’s VCR slipped off his inner tube. I was electrocuted. It turned me into a bit of a superhero in a way. I have a roofing nail in my spine, but it’s like I can’t feel it at all. But yeah, also I don’t want to get fired. Don’t worry though, please see the plan I unveiled for you that we are employing against the Irish. How can that not work?
AJ: I guess we’ll see, that’s a pretty ambitious plan. Well your nerve condition must explain how you keep your cool in the high-stakes games. Last season you upset Baylor and OU. So how can you translate that energy to the, say, Iowa States of the college football world?
CS: Well I’m excited that we finally get to play Iowa Steak for the first time in my tenure here. They are always feisty, but we should pretty clearly win that walking away.
AJ: Coach, quick note for the fact check, that’s not true.
CS: What’s not true? That Iowa Steak is feisty? They are always feisty. That goes in the fact notebook.
AJ: I’m pretty sure they shut us out last year.
CS: Are you serious?
AJ: I am, coach. It might be a side effect of your nerve condition, but they shut us out 24-0.
CS: What? Did we participate?
AJ: Seemingly, no.
CS: Abby Johnston that is cold. But I respect it.
AJ: But coach, with a feisty Iowa State on our schedule and other seemingly low-stakes games, how do you think we’re going to show up this year when the games aren’t against historic rivals?
I hate football
— Chuck F'n Strong (@ChuckFnStrong) October 3, 2015
CS: We’re going to go at least 18-2, 17-3 at the worst. Good enough for a super regional.
AJ: I thought that super regionals were for baseball.
CS: No, they have one in the Big 12, for sure. FACT CHECK.
AJ: Alright, coach, I appreciate your time, but I have one last question: The Malik rumor. Is he really your son?
CS: Is this on or off the record?
AJ: On, coach.
CS: JUST KIDDING, YES HE IS MY SON. I LOVE HIM BECAUSE HES SO HONEST AND SMART AND STRONG AND HE TRIES TO KEEP HIS PREDATOR KILLING TO A MINIMUM. He’s trying to find the guy who threw the rocks off I-35.