By Jim Vertuno, AP Sports Writer
AUSTIN — New Texas coach Charlie Strong opened his first Longhorns training camp with a tough message for his players: break the rules and there will be consequences.
Strong announced that three potential starters will miss at least one game for team rules violations and confirmed several other players had been dismissed.
Offensive lineman Desmond Harrison, wide receiver Daje Johnson and safety Josh Turner all will miss at least one game for rules violations but will be allowed to practice. Strong said he hasn’t decided yet if they will miss more than one game.
Texas opens the season Aug. 30 at home against North Texas. The Longhorns play BYU (Sept. 6 in Austin) and UCLA (Sept. 13 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington) the next two weeks in state.
Dismissed from the Longhorns and released from their scholarship were running backs Joe Bergeron and Jalen Overstreet of Tatum, both of whom would have struggled for playing time in a crowded backfield, and safety Chevoski Collins. Bergeron had 1,392 career rushing yards with 25 touchdowns but shared carries with Malcolm Brown and Jonathan Gray last season as his role diminished.
Strong wouldn’t detail the rules violations other than to say the players broke the core values he stresses of honesty, treating women with respect, no guns and no drugs.
“You have 85 guys on scholarship. If 80 of them are doing it the right way, why can’t the rest of them do it the right way?” Strong said. “They knew the first day I took the job, when I laid out the core values in that first team meeting, what the program is all about.”
Strong also said wide receivers Kendall Sanders of Athens and Montrel Meander, who were suspended in July after being arrested on rape charges, will not be allowed to return regardless of how their legal cases turn out. Both are scheduled for court appearances next week.
“They can’t work their way back,” Strong said.
Texas hired Strong away from Louisville to replace Mack Brown after 16 seasons and four straight years without a Big 12 title. He signed a 5-year contract worth more than $25 million.
While player attrition can be a natural part of a coaching change, Strong said he didn’t try to run anyone out of the program.
“We’re not in the business of kicking young men out,” Strong said. “The three that were dismissed were repeat offenders. It was constantly over and over and over. At some point, you have to do something.”
Strong shrugged off the idea that the suspensions would hurt the Longhorns on the field. The roster still has plenty of talent, Strong said.
“It’s not like because we suspended some guys we’re going to walk in without players,” Strong said. “We have players, now it’s about developing them.”
David Ash starts training camp as the projected starter at quarterback despite missing most of last season with concussion symptoms and part of spring with a broken bone in his foot. Strong said Ash has been cleared to fully participate in practice but that he’s talked to Ash about trying to avoid tackles.
Strong called his first seven months on the job exciting and enjoyable but that he’s ready to put a team on the field.
“Now it’s time to go build this football team,” Strong said.