I didn't let out a Backstreet Boys scream over the news, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited when I saw the reports that there are legs to a Major Applewhite hire... this year. Last Wednesday I noted that, though the rumors appeared not to be baseless, I found it hard to believe there was a place on the staff for Applewhite right now.
The story took a turn this evening, however, as the Tuscaloosa News reported that Texas has made contact with Applewhite, and the Statesman reported that a source close to Applewhite thought the deal was imminent.
While we wait and see how things play out, let's take a minute to review Applewhite's green - but busy - coaching career.
Graduate Assistant, University of Texas - 2003-04 After a celebrated, but controversial, career at Texas as a record-setting quarterback, Applewhite joined the Texas staff as a graduate assistant for his first on-the-job training in the coaching ranks. Working with Greg Davis to help develop Vince Young, Applewhite was quickly pegged as a future coach with a bright future.
Quarterbacks Coach, Syracuse University - 2005 Applewhite went with former Texas defensive coordinator Greg Robinson to Syracuse for his first experience as a full-time coach. Whatever his coaching abilities, the Orangemen were awful offensively in 2005, averaging 14 points per game and finishing 107th nationally in passing yards per game. Junior quarterback Perry Patterson was miserable, finishing with a 93.1 QB rating, with only 6 touchdowns to his 11 interceptions.
Offensive Coordinator, Rice University - 2006 Syracuse's terrible 2005 offense didn't retard Applewhite's rapid ascent, however, as Rice snatched him up, promoted him to offensive coordinator, and made him the youngest coordinator in Division 1 football. The Owls did improve under Applewhite during his first year, increasing their total yards per game and finishing the season with a 1,000 yard receiver, rusher, and passer for the first time in school history. Rice also made it to a bowl game for the first time in 35 years.
Offensive Coordinator, University of Alabama - 2007 After one year at Rice, Nick Saban plucked Applewhite from Rice to make him an offensive coordinator in a whole different universe: the SEC. Under Applewhite, the Crimson Tide offense performed more or less at the same rate as it did the year before:
National rankings in parentheses.
What's this track record mean for the current situation? That's what's so odd about all this: it means nothing. Major Applewhite has been a graduate assistant at Texas for two years, a quarterbacks coach for one year, and an offensive coordinator at two schools for one season apiece. That's more or less the smallest sample size imaginable. There's just no meaningful data set to evaluate.
Does that make a potential move a bad hire? A good one? Is there anything we can say at all?
If we frame the question in terms of evaluating Major's performance record, we're probably barking up the wrong tree. He's not God's second child, as some Texas fans would like to believe. But he's bright enough to be where he is right now, which lends ample support that there's plenty to like about his potential.
What I keep coming back to, though, is that he's a young, fresh, eager offensive coach interviewing to step in and assist an offensive staff which - everyone agrees - has long been in need of an injection. Major Applewhite doesn't need to be a Football Coaching Genius to be useful to this staff. By definition, he - as a young, bright coach with a fresh perspective - is exactly what Texas Longhorn football fans have asked for to assist Greg Davis.
If Mack Brown hires Major Applewhite, the question is not whether Major himself is some sort of savior. It's whether Mack has made the kind of move that Texas fans would want their coach to make.
Thumbs way, way up in that regard.
(And now... fingers crossed.)