AStateNation.com is reporting that Texas Longhorns offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin has accepted an offer to become, and will be announced at a Wednesday press conference as, the next head coach of the Arkansas State Red Wolves. Each of Arkansas State's previous two head coaches -- Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss) and Gus Malzahn (Auburn), both offensive minds like Harsin -- were hired for the top job at an SEC school after just a single season in Jonesboro, with each leading the Red Wolves to 9-3, Sun Belt-winning seasons.
Bryan Harsin came to Texas from Boise State two years ago, joining Mack Brown's revamped staff after the calamitous 2010 season that finally forced the Longhorns head coach to part ways with his longtime offensive coordinator Greg Davis. After a challenging first year calling shots for one of the youngest and most inexperienced offenses in the country, Harsin's unit improved substantially in year two, pretty much across the board (national ranks in parentheses):
|Points Per Game||36.1 (24)
|Rush YPC||4.67 (45)||4.47 (39)|
|Rush TD||31 (20)||24 (40)|
|Pass YPA||8.6 (12)||6.9 (64)|
|QB Rating||155.4 (12)||122.1 (89)|
|Total Offense YPP||6.41 (21)||5.39 (70)|
|3rd Down Convert||50.3% (8)||43.7% (34)|
|Red Zone Attempts||60 (20)||53 (39)|
|Red Zone Score%||85% (37)||72% (110)|
|Red Zone TD%||70% (23)||51% (104)|
The numbers support what was obvious with our eyes, as well. Quarter to quarter, game to game, season to season, Bryan Harsin had a plan, and he was good at teaching his players how to execute what he wanted them to do. The Longhorns offense was still young this year, and still had a ways to go personnel-wise, but they were a consistently strong unit -- very good, not quite strong enough a running team to be great.
Assuming the report out of Jonesboro is accurate, Texas will lose one of the strongest assets on this young staff, the devastating impact of which is mitigated only by the presence of co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, who presumably will remain and take over the OC position all on his own.
After another so-so year which saw the program tread water while regional rivals shot up, it will be difficult for UT fans not to view the loss of Harsin as another sign that the Texas program has stalled under Mack Brown, who appears to be digging in his heels for at least one more year, desperate to see things come together for him and his team one more time before he retires.
Most Texas fans are resigned to that fact, knowing there isn't much to be done about it, and generally grateful for the job Mack Brown did reviving the program in the 2000s. But as the program mires in mediocrity that got John Mackovic fired without any fans, Mack Brown appears willing to wage more and more of his legacy on one more run to glory.
He'd better win big next year, because he's running out of chips. And tonight he appears to have lost one of his aces.