Eleven years after destroying the national championship hopes of the Texas Longhorns with a legendary pass to Michael Crabtree, former Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Graham Harrell could quickly become the presumed savior for the Longhorns offense.
Following the reassignment of Texas offensive coordinator Tim Beck on Sunday — Beck will remain the quarterbacks coach for the bowl game — reports surfaced linking Harrell to the Texas job as a top candidate to replace Beck. Currently the offensive coordinator at USC, Harrell’s future in Los Angeles is in question because the current Trojans head coach, Clay Helton, may be on the way out.
Sources told FootballScoop.com in the immediate aftermath of the staff changes at Texas that Harrell would be interested in taking the job at Texas regardless of Helton’s job status. A native of Ennis, Texas, Harrell runs a version of Mike Leach’s Air Raid system with an increased emphasis on the run and influences from his time as a quarterback with the Green Bay Packers running a West Coast offense.
The NFL influence manifests itself as an understanding that simplicity and empowering players to operate with as much confidence and speed as possible is key.
After setting the NCAA record with 134 touchdown passes as the quarterback at Texas Tech, Harrell spent a brief period of time as an offensive quality control coach at Oklahoma State in 2010 before resuming his professional career.
Harrell re-joined Leach at Washington State in 2014, serving as an offensive analyst for one season before joining the on-field coaching staff as an outside receivers coach. Then his Texas Tech connections paid off, as former Red Raiders running back coach Seth Littrell hired Harrell as his offensive coordinator at North Texas, giving Harrell his first big coaching break.
Following Harrell’s arrival in Denton, he turned around the Mean Green’s offense, producing a record-setting quarterback in Mason Fine and elevating one of the nation’s worst offenses to one of the nation’s best in scoring, passing yards per game, and total offense.
When Kliff Kingbury took the head coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals after an extremely brief stint as the offensive coordinator at USC, Helton hired Harrell as his replacement.
Once again, Harrell sparked a significant turnaround despite the season-ending injury to JT Daniels, developing third-string, true freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis into a productive passer who has completed nearly 72 percent of his passes and thrown for 28 touchdowns against only nine interceptions. The rise of Slovis helped the Trojans offense improve from No. 46 nationally in SP+ to a top-10 attack this season.
So if Texas head coach Tom Herman hires Harrell to take over his offense, it would be hard to see it as anything other than the type of home-run hire that Herman didn’t even attempt to make when he arrived in Austin.