The coaching carousel is still spinning around the country and it could finally have an impact in Austin, as Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports is reporting that co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin may have a big interview in the near future:
Been told that Texas OC Bryan Harsin is expected to interview for the ARK St head coaching job.— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) December 11, 2012
About this time last year, the college football world was wondering why Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn would leave Auburn a year removed from a national championship to head to Jonesboro to take over the Arkansas State program.
The plan worked for Malzahn, as he escaped a Tiger program that was headed for disaster with Gene Chizik at the helm. Instead of having to negotiate being on the staff of a fired head coach, Malzahn was able to return to Auburn and be heralded as a savior.
Could the same type of plan be in the works for Harsin, who sees a similar fate for the Texas program?
It's hardly out of the realm of possibilities at this point.
Over at Barking Carnival, Nickel Rover laid out the three most likely reasons why Harsin would be interested in leaving Texas for a Sun Belt gig:
1) He would prefer to be in a school with a smaller spotlight than Texas.
2) Harsin feels ready to become a Head Coach and wants to make that vision a reality rather than stepping from OC to HC at a major university from Texas or in another 2 years or more.
3) He's trying to get the hell out of Dodge. Mack's management of the team bothers him, he's trying to protect his resume from disaster, or he fears that he'll be made a scapegoat for an impending disaster.
Nickel Rover believes that the final scenario is the most likely and it makes sense -- there have been rumors that Harsin and Mack Brown have clashed at times this season, especially in regards to which quarterback to play, with Harsin apparently falling in David Ash's corner, wanting to give him the time to develop, and Brown reflexively calling for Case McCoy's moxie.
The emphasis on running the football with an extra offensive lineman against West Virginia -- a tactic that didn't work -- was another move that smacked of Brown's conservatism.
Interestingly enough, however, Texas finished the regular season as the 24th offense nationally by S&P+, one spot ahead of Malzahn and Arkansas State. Harsin has orchestrated an impressive turnaround from the 2010 and 2011 seasons in his second year as the playcaller for the Longhorns, as Texas was able to create many more explosive plays in the passing game, convert in the redzone, and limit negative plays.
Harsin hasn't been perfect, of course, drawing some criticism for his reluctance to use speedy threats like DJ Monroe and Daje Johnson, but on the whole, he's lived up to his billing at Texas, helping Ash make a big leap and for the most part maximizing McCoy's abilities in his only start this season.
Obviously, if Harsin leaves, it would be a shock to see anyone other than Major Applewhite take over as the full-time offensive coordinator. The same concerns remain about Applewhite -- while he has been an incredible recruiter for the Longhorns, so little is known about his offensive philosophy and his abilities as a playcaller.
This is an offense that could make another leap under Harsin next year and become one of the best in the country with more consistent quarterback play. Or the team could completely implode and Harsin's head coaching stock could take a serious hit.
Is Harsin looking for a way out? Taking the Arkansas State job could be a sign that things in the Texas program are even more rotten than they appear from the outside.