An edge that cuts
Most programs that lose a coordinator before a bowl game are hardly considered to be making progress, especially a program coming off a disappointing regular season.
But there could be some major changes going on behind the scenes in the Texas program. Well, maybe just call them Major changes, with apologies for the terrible pun.
There's a growing sense around the program that Applewhite is having a tremendous impact on the day-to-day operations in practice, drawing on the capital that he's earned from his long relationship with Mack Brown to institute some changes -- more physical practices, a greater emphasis on accountability.
If Brown wasn't willing to let Bryan Harsin come in and completely change things, preferring instead to add another viewpoint that could easily be squashed, if necessary, then perhaps Applewhite has the chance to put his own significant mark on this Texas team.
It won't happen in the sense of a dramatically difference offense for the Alamo Bowl, Brown made that much clear, and common sense holds that such changes will have to wait for the offseason. However, it could happen in those subtle changes that hone a team in practice, the changes that sharpen that edge. An edge that Applewhite can bring to an extent that Brown could see as the final chapter in his legacy at Texas.
A legacy that is currently under serious threat.
Besides the coaching carousel and any attrition that may happen before or after the bowl game, it's also time to talk about some position changes.
There weren't a lot of names mentioned by Brown, though he did say that redshirting tight end Caleb Bluiett, who was initially brought in as a defensive end, could fill in there if necessary. With Jake Raulerson starting there and several young players in Bryce Cottrell, Torshiro Davis, and a potential swing guy in Hassan Ridgeway, the need may not be there to move to Bluiett.
In fact, it may be a long-term positive for the 'Horns is Bluiett doesn't move. A do-everything athlete in high school who earned the nickname, The Weapon, for his versatility, he has the athleticism and ability to learn quickly that could translate well into eventually becoming a dual-threat tight end.
Brown also spoke about moving a walk-on defensive end to fullback -- a wake-up call to Chet Moss and Alex De La Torre more than anything else, most likely -- and talked about cross-training players like Quandre Diggs, who has been seeing some time at safety. The latter move is likely more a result of finals keeping players from attending practice more than a move that will result in actual changes to the depth chart and rotation when gameday rolls around.
Applewhite as playcaller has been brewing for some time
At the risk of sounding redundant, it's important to further emphasize the fact that Brown has been grooming Applewhite for his moment for some time:
Yes for two years, or four years. We have been working on this for a long time and we have a master plan offensively, and I really feel good that all four guys in the room are on the same page moving forward, and they are excited about that challenge and moving forward.
Yet, many have wondered why it took so long. If Applewhite has such upside, why wasn't he given the job when Greg Davis was forced to resign? Brown provided an answer for that on Monday:
I told Major two years ago, that I felt like it would be unfair to put him in the position right after [former offensive coordinator] Greg Davis. He played for Greg, he coached with Greg and I didn't think he would ever have a chance for it to be Major's input. It would always be, "Well, he's still doing what Greg did," and that's not fair to him or Greg very honestly.
So when he and I really thought about it, and I didn't know it would be two years, but I thought probably whoever we brought in, we had some success, usually our guys get jobs around here pretty quickly if they want them, and Bryan was a guy that he came here to get a head coaching job.
That's the only reason he left Boise. We knew that. He and I discussed that. I told Major, "You need to put yourself in position as the play caller every day, because that day is going to come fast, and when it comes, you need to be ready."
Now two years removed from the Greg Davis era and with a run-heavy offense that Brown seems to prefer to a more pass-heavy spread attack, it's finally time for Applewhite, who had a chance to share ideas with Bryan Harsin and can craft an offense that features the best of what he has learned in his time at Texas, Rice, and Alabama.
And Applewhite certainly won't be considered a Greg Davis protege.
The quarterback decision belonged to Applewhite
The first major decision of the Major Applewhite era came down on Monday, when the new Texas playcaller and the rest of the offensive braintrust decided to name David Ash the starting quarterback for the Alamo Bowl:
I have my opinion, but I asked their opinion first. I said, 'You've got to make a decision. You can decide if you want to announce it now or wait until you get to San Antonio.'
Major and the staff talked about it yesterday. They came in this morning, talked to both kids and they told me about an hour ago, it's of their opinion, they'd like to announce it today and move forward. And the final decision would be Major's. I would ask the proper questions, but he's got to make that decision.
The decisiveness of the action provides a stark contrast to the shenanigans last season leading into the bowl game and heading into this season, when the coaching staff seemed to decide that competition was more favorable than using practice time to prepare one quarterback.
Is it a sign that Applewhite favors Ash? It probably isn't as complicated as that -- he probably just believes that the most physically talented quarterback on the roster has the best chance of leading the Longhorns to a victory in San Antonio.
James Clark may be the answer at wide receiver
Unlike most of the other wide receiver prospects targeted in the last several months, interest in New Smyrna Beach (FL)'s James Clark may be the most intense. Still no offer yet for the speedster who could fill a role similar to Marquise Goodwin, but there is talk of a visit in January and the competition still isn't particularly fierce for his services with Florida .
The coaches still haven't gone all-in on another wideout for the 2013 class, which is understandable to the extent that it's not a huge need, it's just not clear what exactly they are waiting for to make a move. Since it is attrition season and John Harris has hardly seen any playing time this year, perhaps it's a defection the coaches want before extending another offer.