Alamo Bowl: Major Applewhite speaks for first time as Texas playcaller

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

New Texas playcaller Major Applewhite met with the media on Wednesday night for the first time since his promotion.

On the strong Oregon State defense...

"They are big up front. [Defensive tackle] Castro Masaniai is a big guy inside. They do a great job on the edge in pass rush. They have good linebacker play. They can run well. Their safeties are good. They're in position a lot. You don't see them out of position a whole bunch. You don't see busted coverages. These guys do a great job of flying to the football as many interceptions as they had this year, a lot of eyes back on the quarterback. [Jordan] Poyer obviously has allowed them to do some things in some nickel packages, but they've done a great job. But the thing that stands out to me is how hard they play. You're going to see some of the same coverages, the same blitzes throughout a 13 game season and it's not going to be anything new to you, but what usually flashes on tape is the tempo which they play with. The passion which they play with, and that's something that jumps off from a coach, because a scheme is a scheme but how you do what you do is more important."

The Oregon State defense actually presents a significant challenge for Texas -- their defensive coordinator will use that big front try to keep his speedy outside linebackers clean and able to flow to plays, while avoiding committing too many resources to stopping the running game in terms of how he uses his safeties.

Poyer especially is a player to watch, as David Ash will have to be aware of him at all times to avoid making crucial mistakes, as Poyer is one of the best playmaker cornerbacks.

This is a top-30 defense nationally that is excellent at stopping the pass and elite on passing downs -- Texas can't afford to get behind the chains. Fortunately, the Beavers are pretty average at creating sacks and tackles for loss, ranking in the 40s nationally in both categories.

On changing things up for David Ash...

"Well, going into the situation not having coached a quarterback the whole season until the final game, the last thing I want to do is make a lot of changes. I don't want to change a lot of the ways he's been coached. I think he's done a great job this year. Has there been a game or two he wants back? Absolutely. That's usually the case for most players. But I think he's improved from last season. I look at some of the mistakes he made as a true freshman and then now he's doing it as a true sophomore, big win on the road in Oxford, big win on the road in Stillwater. He's done some great things for our football team and made some great plays in clutch situations. The last thing I want to do is scratch the hard drive and try to change a lot of things that he's really been ingrained in him over the last two years."

In other words, it's been business as usual for Ash, who is mostly just hearing a different voice right now, but a voice that isn't exactly telling him a lot of different things from what Harsin had been doing. And, as Applewhite said, that's probably just as well for right now.

On his definition of balance...

"In terms of play calling, we want to be balanced. Of course we'd love to be 50-50 at the end of the night, but our definition of balanced is being able to win the game both ways. If we need to throw the ball for 400 yards [like we did] against Ole Miss to be in it, then that's what we have to do. If we need to run the ball for 400 yards [like we did] against Texas Tech in 2011, then that's what we need to do. Our definition of balance is being able to win the game both ways."

Interestingly enough, that's a rather different definition of balance than the one normally provided by Mack Brown, who always brings up the 2005 team and how they ran for about 250 yards and passed for about 250 yards per game on the season.

On the necessity of a "margin of error"...

"Outside of that you want to have a scheme that allows you to take care of the ball, put it in the best players' hands. That has a larger margin for error, so to speak. You don't want to be in such a system that you're pigeonholed and you've got to be perfect all the time."

Obviously, taking care of the football is something that every offensive coordinator talks about and was something that Harsin especially emphasized, though he liked to talk about it in terms of reserving the right to kick the football to end a possession.

What's interesting about Applewhite's statement is that Harsin did rely on a superior level of execution, which was perhaps the most difficult transition that he faced from Boise State to the Big 12 -- he didn't have quite the same advantage in talent offensively in Austin that he had in Boise, especially in regards to the quality of defenses that he faced.

And asking the tight ends to make so many one-on-one blocks against defensive ends, especially the base blocks in the critical pin-and-pull game, asked for a high level of execution. Throw in the fact that Harsin often liked the try to establish the run

It won't happen to any great extent in the Alamo Bowl, but moving forward, Applewhite may not want to force the issue as much and as for such a high level of execution against stacked defenses, but rather respond more often to what the defense is giving the offense, something that David Ash will be capable of orchestrating as a junior.

On changes to the offense...

"Well, I think the guys for the most part did a great job all season on offense, and I think we've got a good system in place that we want to keep in place. Obviously, just like any other offense, you'll make some changes in the offseason, and those were things that Bryan [Harsin], [co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach] Darrell [Wyatt] and I had already talked about; and [assistant head coach/offensive line] Coach [Stacy] Searels, as well. Things we wanted to look at in the spring. So we'll obviously make the minor changes that you make to an offense on a normal annual basis."

In other words, don't look for any changes, either substantive or fairly minimal, until the spring. As with Ash, Applewhite will mostly roll with what's in place. However, that doesn't mean that his playcalling and personnel decisions won't have a major impact on the game, just that he'll be calling the same plays from the same formations as Harsin.

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