Charlie Strong calls the opportunity to work under Urban Meyer again 'a perfect storm'
Charlie Strong started laying the groundwork for a reunion with Urban Meyer during a conversation the two had last summer.
"We were talking and I told him, 'we have one more run in us,'" Strong said, referring to the five years at the University of Florida from 2005-09 when Meyer was the Gators coach and Strong the defensive coordinator for two national championship teams. "He said, 'don't ask me to do that.' I told him, 'I know you want to do it ... it's still in you.'"
Strong got his wish. They're together again.
Strong, who has 38 years of college coaching experience but, like Meyer, is an NFL novice, was formally announced on Thursday as Meyer's assistant head coach and inside linebacker coach for the Jaguars.
Meyer said Strong will be "my right-hand man," and was his first choice when he began filling his staff after being hired on Jan. 14.
"He was my first hire ... arguably, one of the most, if not the most important hire," Meyer said. "He's going to be the No. 2. He'll be in front of the team ... as he's been many, many times during our time at Florida."
Meyer went further with his belief in Strong.
"The chances of us winning those two national championships [at UF], without Charlie would not have happened," Meyer said, referring to the aggressive, suffocating defenses the Gators put on the field. "He's a high-character guy with a great family, someone I trust implicitly."
There's a long history between the two men, dating back to when they were Notre Dame assistants for Lou Holtz.
And this isn't the first time Meyer has put tremendous trust in Strong. When he was hired at Florida to replace Ron Zook, Strong was the only assistant coach Meyer retained, keeping him at defensive coordinator.
When Strong was running the defense at Florida from 2003-09, the Gators gave up an average of 17.6 points per game and from 2006-2009, gave up less than two touchdowns per game in three of four seasons.
Strong's defenses finished among the top-10 in the NCAA in total defense four times in seven years and among the top-10 in scoring defense three times. Florida led the NCAA with 81 turnovers during a five-year period from 2005-09 and led the SEC in turnovers three times.
The Gators also averaged more than 31 sacks per season under Strong. He produced 11 first-team All-SEC defensive players and four consensus All-Americans, Keiwan Ratliff, Reggie Nelson, Joe Haden and Brandon Spikes.
Nelson, Derrick Harvey and Jarvis Moss were first-round NFL draft picks who played for Strong.
Strong said the combination works because of the trust the two men have in each other.
"We can have a conversation, bring things to each other and even if one of us disagrees, we don't take it personally," Strong said.
After leaving Florida, Strong's head coaching experience in college was mixed.
He posted a 37-15 record at Louisville and beat the Gators 33-23 in the 2013 Sugar Bowl to cap an 11-2 season.
Strong was then hired at Texas but posted a 16-21 record in three seasons. After he was fired in Austin, he took over for Willie Taggart at South Florida and went 10-2 in his first season in Tampa, in 2017. But the Bulls then dipped to 7-6 and 4-8 and after getting fired following the 2019 season, Strong worked for Nick Saban as a defensive analyst at Alabama.
Strong said he has already talked with the Jaguars' two veteran linebackers, Myles Jack and Joe Schobert, and anticipates they'll continue being part of a defense that will have multiple looks, according to new coordinator Joe Cullen.
"Myles Jack is very fluid, gets downhill, very athletic, very good in open space," Strong said. "These are two backers kind of in the prime of their careers. They can make plays and become the staple of our defense. If you're not good at linebacker don't have much of a chance to play good defense. They want to learn and they want to get better."
Strong had NFL internships during training camps at New Orleans, Detroit and Tampa Bay, but said the opportunity for an NFL job never came at the right time.
Until now. Until Meyer called.
"This is a perfect opportunity, the perfect storm," Strong said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge."