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Strong's done it all at Louisville...except coach a game

The following will run in this week's edition of the LEO. Get a copy of the LEO. Buy a frame. Forge my signature. Frame copy of LEO with forged signature. Hang frame of LEO with forged signature above bed. Get Laid.

Psychologist Benjamin Beck said there are two types of people in this world: talkers and doers.

When I was in sixth grade we were asked to deliver two oral book reports. For one, I put on my model student face and did everything the teacher asked of me. For the other, I made up everything; the characters, the plot, the title of the book (Hardwood Dreams), everything. The fabricated report earned me an A, the future Harvard law student report netted just a B minus.

Psychologist Benjamin Beck would say that I’m a talker.

The University of Louisville’s last head football coach, like myself, was a talker. Unlike myself, he was given $2.2 million to take his talking  - and lack of doing – elsewhere.

Before he was hired, one of the knocks on new head coach Charlie Strong was his lack of ability as a public speaker.  But when Strong spoke to the fan base at last week’s kickoff luncheon downtown, he drew the largest crowd in the event’s history. Not a small feat considering the Cardinal football program has produced less wins than the year before in three consecutive seasons for the first time since the 1973-1975 stretch.

The luncheon crowd wasn’t an anomaly. In the eight months since he accepted the job, Strong’s doing has re-energized the Louisville fan base.

"Things aren’t where they should be in terms of wins and losses, but we are doing things the right way."

Strong inherited a group of players who had spent their Cardinal careers failing in the classroom every bit as much as they’d failed on the field. Last winter, during one of those "honoring Cardinal student athletes" segments at U of L basketball games that no one really pays attention to, just three (I think, I wasn’t really paying attention) Louisville football players stood at center court, a number dwarfed by the contingent from every other fall sport.

In his first talk with his new team, Strong made it clear that this wouldn’t be the case under his watch, a message that apparently resonated. Last spring, a record 39 Louisville football players earned a GPA of 3.0 or better, seven freshmen posted perfect 4.0s, and the average team GPA was 2.7.

The right way.

"I’m the captain of this ship, and whatever happens falls on me."

Steve Kragthorpe never truly accepted the blame for anything that went wrong with the football program under his watch. He would make a statement like the one above and then follow it up with a vague comment about "inheriting unforeseen problems" two minutes later.

The fact of the matter is that in just two offseasons Kragthorpe lost or sent packing 12 different assistant coaches.  He fired two offensive coordinators and a defensive coordinator, and saw another two defensive coordinators accept positions elsewhere. All signs of a desperate front man looking to deflect blame.

Strong has never left any room for doubt when it comes to the issue of who’s in charge. This is his staff, these are his players, and things are being done his way. All anyone looking for proof of this had to do was show up to one of the three open practices in early August.

"The fact that we haven’t won the last two years, I don’t know if that adds anything from our side other than we know that it’s an important game and we want to win it."

From day one, Strong has made no effort to hide how badly he wants to beat Kentucky. Last year’s 31-27 loss in Lexington has been playing on a constant loop throughout the football training room all summer, and player’s have consistently stressed the importance placed on "taking back the state."

"Recruiting’s going well. We’ve got a couple of guys who I think are real diamonds in the rough."

Recruiting during the Kragthorpe era was defined by losing sub-par football talent to sub-par football schools, and by the head coach labeling the two-star recruits he did manage to woo as "diamonds in the rough."

With very little time to work, Strong managed to put together a 2010 recruiting class that was unanimously ranked higher than his predecessor’s three efforts. He landed two four-star recruits  - the first since Bobby Petrino’s final U of L class - and quickly locked up arguably the two top players in the Louisville area in Seneca quarterback DaMarcus Smith and Ballard wide receiver DeVante Parker.

"I’m very disappointed with where we’re at programmatically right now."

Between the A and the T on grammar street is never a good place for a program to be…programmatically.

"I don't judge games by the score, I judge them by what I see on film."

This is almost certainly one of, if not the least talented team that Louisville has fielded in the past decade, but earlier this month Strong made the type of genuine promise that the fan base was always looking for and never getting from the last guy.

"I can't make any promises here," Strong said. "I can't say how many games we're going to win or what we're actually going to do. But I can say this to you: we will be an exciting football team. We will play hard. We will play hard. Guys, understand that. We will play hard."

In eight short months, Charlie Strong has done everything Louisville fans want their football coach to do…except win a game.