In 2008, Major Applewhite's return to Austin was treated like that of the prodigal son. Revered as a hero after his playing days as a quarterback, Applewhite was a graduate assistant at Texas for three years before departing for Syracuse to become the quarterbacks coach underin 2005. The following year, Todd Graham lured him to Rice to take over the offensive coordinator position there. A year later, Applewhite was in Tuscaloosa working for Nick Saban, but the relationship quickly soured as Saban limited his control over the offense.
As a result, Applewhite took the job as running backs coach at Texas to fill in for the departed Ken Rucker. Before the announcement of Will Muschamp as the eventual replacement to, there was speculation about whether Applewhite would end up as the next Longhorn head coach.
That isn't likely to happen unless Muschamp leaves for another head coaching position (fingers crossed), but the path is now open for Applewhite to take control of the Texas offense. Only a day after the name of Bryan Harson, the Boise State offensive coordinator, was on the tip of every tongue discussing the open job, the rumor mill is now spitting out Applewhite's name.
It began with Kirk Bohls on Monday evening, who cited sources close to the program when declaring Applewhite "the clear front-runner." Then, Recruitocosm weighed in this afternoon without really confirming or denying the rumors, rather pointing out the oddity of Applewhite emerging as the choice after being overruled by Brown on several recruiting evaluations over the last several years, most notably Brandon Williams. ESPN is reporting (scroll down) that HookEm247 has heard those rumors as well, but Bobby Burton has been unable to confirm or deny them, while Orangebloods is echoing Bohls' report that Applewhite is the front-runner.
Longhorn fans all have a soft spot in their heart for Applewhite and there's no question that his rise through the coaching ranks has been spectacularly fast.
However, there are several concerns. The obvious is his lack of experience calling plays -- he did so for one year at Rice with some success, where he helped the team led by Chase Clement, Jarrett Dillard, and Quenton Smith to a rare bowl games. Secondly, while Rice did run a spread offense, it's still not clear what exactly Applewhite's true philosophy is as a coordinator.
The second concern leads to another. The attempted switch to a power-running game was an absolute disaster during the off-season and it bears the marks of Mack Brown more than. If Applewhite becomes the offensive coodinator, will Brown try to meddle with the same type of outdated thinking that led to his choice of Chris Whaley over Christine Michael? If he did, would Applewhite give in to another unimaginative offense? Brown seems about 40 years behind the curve in his offensive philosophy and there are no guarantees that Applewhite has a developed enough offensive philosophy to install a comprehensive system. He certainly didn't learn such a system from Greg Davis.
If the entire offensive culture surrounding the team is a corrupt as it appears to be at times, despite all his energy, Applewhite may not be able to enact a seismic shift in the mentality of this team. Clearing out much of the offensive staff should help inject new energy, of course, but Applewhite feels like almost a complete unknown and he's not necessarily the new voice that this team might need. As the offensive coordinator, his voice would become much more important and perhaps different outside of the shadow of Greg Davis, but would that be enough to enact major short-term improvements?
What say you, Longhorn fans?