New DC Vance Bedford on Longhorns’ defense, his relationship with Coach Strong, and returning Texas to prominence
Vance Bedford, the new defensive coordinator for the Longhorns, has a long history with Texas dating back to his playing days at UT as a cornerback and defensive captain. So, speaking as a coach and alumnus, it's no surprise he wishes to see Texas football return to prominence and its rivalry with Texas A&M restored.
Bedford has been in the same coaching staff as Charlie Strong since Strong’s days as the DC at Florida, where Bedford served as the Gators’ defensive backs coach. This long-term work relationship between the two coaches has fielded some of the best defenses in the country. Last year, the Louisville Cardinals ranked 2nd in overall defense, allowing a mere 12.2 points per contest.
With 29 years of coaching experience, including a five year stint as defensive backs coach for the Chicago Bears, it’s fair to say Bedford has seen it all and will bring much experience and leadership to the Horns’ defense.
Bedford sat down with SI.com this past week and answered questions ranging from his opinions of last year’s defense to Texas’ rivalry with A&M.
SI.com: The Texas defense was much maligned at times last season. What did you make of its performance?
Bedford: When we went back and looked at all the games from this past season, they played good defense here and there. People looked at one game, the Brigham Young game, and said they were awful … but that didn’t account for the whole season. That’s just one bad game out of 13. Overall, they played some pretty good defense … I like what we have here. We just have to find some leadership and find out who we are as a defense. We want to be physical. We’re going to practice that way and hopefully you’ll see that when we start the season.
SI.com: What do you think you have inherited?
Bedford: We think that we have a pretty good football team, especially up front on the defensive line. I like some of those guys and the way they’ve worked out for [head strength and conditioning coach Pat Moorer]. They’ve got size, athleticism and pretty good speed. Our corners are going to be pretty good this year just watching those guys run around in the off-season program. Our best linebackers right now have been injured so it’s hard to say what they’re going to be like.
SI.com: You and new head coach Charlie Strong’s trademark is aggressive defense. What’s the plan defensively?
Bedford: We’re going to start off the same way we did [at Louisville] with [a 4-3] and from there we’re going to work some 3-4. We’re going to play what fits our guys. I think that’s what’s important. Play to their strengths … and then go and recruit guys that fit the defense we want to run at the end of the day.
SI.com: You’re a native of Beaumont, Texas, but had only been back to Austin once since your playing days. What is the Texas you remember?
Bedford: It was the university. You talk about Michigan, Notre Dame and USC, those type of schools, Texas was right there with them. Right now, you go around the state and people talk about Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. They don’t talk about Texas in that vein like they did 20, 25 years ago. If you leave the state of Texas, people look at Texas still as the big university, but in the state, they don’t look at it that way, which I don’t understand … We’ve got to get back to that attitude here where people look at this place as where you want to be. Don’t go to Alabama, USC. I want to go to the University of Texas and win a national championship for my home state. That’s how it was when I came out.
SI.com: You’ve expressed a desire for Texas to resume its rivalry with Texas A&M. The Aggies coaching staff hasn’t been as vocal. What gives?
Bedford: I have no idea. You’ve got to understand that I played back in the seventies. That was a big game for us. You look at Clemson-South Carolina, Florida-Florida State. I think it’s just a fun thing for the state of Texas to talk about … The guys that have played in that game had a lot of fun. You had bragging rights for the state of Texas. But otherwise, we have a great schedule already. If A&M is somehow in the near future back on the schedule, that would be great. If not, it’s no big deal. It’s just how things fall sometimes.
SI.com: You’re known for your fiery, colorful demeanor, a stark contrast from Strong’s soft-spoken, calm personality. How does that dynamic work?
Bedford: We work well together. Coach Strong is consistent all the time. He gets after it pretty good because he’s a very intense guy. With me, I’m fiery and running around. That’s just my personality. We play to the strengths of our personalities. I’m a fun-loving guy. I coach that same way. I run around after guys and have a lot of energy. That’s what I expect for the players to have. Coach Strong is intense, but in a different way. It’s been a lot of fun the past six years.