Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE
In a move that has been building for years, it appears that Major Applewhite will be the new Texas offensive coordinator.
With former Texas Longhorns co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin set to be named the new head coach at Arkansas State in the afternoon on Wednesday, reports have already emerged in the morning that co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Major Applewhite will be named the new offensive coordinator.
It just makes sense, providing a smooth transition at a time when the program needs stability. Throw in that fact that Major was the quarterback in 1998 to start the Mack Brown era and now appears ready to bookend it, and it just makes more sense.
The expectation at this time is that wide receivers coach Darrell Wyatt will be elevated to a co-offensive coordinator position, a move that has drawn some criticism, but rewards Wyatt for his loyalty sticking with the program for two years and an acknowledgement that he could be an offensive coordinator somewhere with his experience in that position.
It's also an acknowledgement that Applewhite is still relatively unproven and could benefit from someone like Wyatt having an official capacity as a major part of the offensive braintrust because he has coordinated the passing game for multiple teams and has served as a co-offensive coordinator before, in addition to calling plays for one year at Southern Miss.
The moves leave an opening at running backs coach. Along with tight ends, it's the easiest position to coach and is normally filled by an assistant known for their recruiting prowess. Before Bruce Chambers became the tight ends coach, he was the running backs coach before Ken Rucker, who is now in an administrative role.
Whether the Longhorns opt to move Chambers back to that position or not, the odds are high that the coaching move to fill the open position will be one with an eye on recruiting.
Two names are already floating around.
Tim Brewster is one, a coach who will forever be loved by Texas fans for his role in convincing Mack Brown to recruit Vince Young and then closing the deal with the Houston Madison star. The failed Minnesota head coach has been at Mississippi State this year coaching wide receivers, so taking a job at Texas would actually be an advancement, the first time that has been true in the years that fans have been throwing his name around.
The other name is Claude Mathis, the current DeSoto head coach who was briefly the running backs coach at Houston before deciding to head back to high school. It's likely that his ambitions still include coaching at the college level and he would bring strong connections to Texas high school as a former coach, though the fact that Chambers recruits the Metroplex could cause a little bit of overlap. He's also a really good coach -- he benefits from the incredible talent that DeSoto produces, but he also hones that talent into football teams that play hard and execute.
But back to Applewhite -- Texas fans have wanted this for a long time, to know if former quarterback Major Applewhite could bring all those positive qualities that made him an effective quarterback despite being undersized and relatively unathletic to the offensive coordinator position
It was time.
More than Bryan Harsin deciding that his time was up in Austin, it was time to see what Applewhite can do as a playcaller.
The Harsin era was never going to last a particularly long time at Texas with any type of success. Whatever the other reasons, he was successful enough this season in turning the offense around that he became a good enough candidate to get a job like Arkansas State. Fulfilling his three-year contract was always going be something of a surprise.
In some sense, Texas may have simply bought the Boise State offense with his two years in Austin, as well as some time for Applewhite to continue to grow as a coach.
A blank slate upon which Longhorns fans have been writing their hopes and expectations for years, expecting him to once again orchestrate the offense from the booth in the same way that he did from the quarterback position, the expectations are significant for Applewhite.
If there's a cult mentality surrounding Case McCoy, there may be an even bigger one surrounding Applewhite, who was treated as some type of savior when he return to Austin in 2008, despite his limited experience at the highest levels of coaching.
But make no mistake -- this has been in the works ever since Applewhite returned to Texas after leaving Alabama in early 2008 to return home. In 2010, after Greg Davis was forced to resign, head coach Mack Brown didn't believe that Applewhite was ready to take over and he may not have been.
So little was known about his offensive philosophy, about his playcalling ability. So little is known about his playcalling ability.
He had some success at Rice under Todd Graham, but his season under Nick Saban at Alabama was tumultuous enough that he made a backwards move to return back to Texas.
What type of offense will he run? Will he keep Harsin's system?
At least for the Alamo Bowl, there won't be changes to the offense -- there's too little time. What happens in the spring remains to be seen, but the guess here is that Applewhite keeps most if not all of it for continuity reasons. With pressure on Mack Brown higher than it ever has been during his tenure in Austin, Texas can't afford to go into the crucial 2013 season with a new offense.
What is known is that Applewhite will bring his distinctive personality to the coordinator position, one of that has endeared him with prospects as perhaps the best recruiter on the Texas staff and one that has allowed him to stand up to Mack Brown at times in the past.
And the last point remains key. At his worst, Brown's conservatism can creep into the offense. Applewhite has to be willing and able to tell Brown to back off at times and let him run the show. In that respect, the long relationship between Brown and Applewhite may provide Applewhite with more capital in that regard than Bryan Harsin had as a newcomer.
There's just something about Applewhite, an edge to him that shows his toughness, an ability to relate to players, an ability to lead, a relentless energy. There always has been. And whatever "it" is, Texas certainly needs more of it right now.
And if he's successful, he might just end up as the next Texas head coach.