One thing that has become prevalent in college football is the on-going, never stopping, always looming coaching carousel that occurs all around the nation. Texas fans should already be familiar with this situation on an even larger scale when the University of Texas lost their “Head-Coach-In-Waiting”, Will Muschamp, to the University of Florida. Now it’s another coordinator that will be moving on by following an interest to be a head coach. After just two seasons at Texas, Co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin will be the head coach at Arkansas State.
Some fans may not know anything about Arkansas State or let alone ever seen a Red Wolf (Ark. St. mascot) before, but if recent history tells you anything then it’s clear why Harsin would want a shot to be head coach at this stepping stone program. After each of the past two consecutive seasons at Arkansas State, the head coach of the Red Wolves’ has left for much bigger head-coaching jobs and both coaches have found landing spots in the SEC. After the 2011 season, Hugh Freeze left for Ole Miss after just one year as head coach at Arkansas State and after the 2012 season, Gus Malzahn left for Auburn just 1 year after he was named the head coach in Jonesboro. Both Freeze and Malzahn were offensive minds, like Harsin. With that knowledge alone it’s easy to see why Bryan Harsin is ready to give head coaching a shot at Arkansas State.
Regardless of the fact that Harsin wants to take the gig as the head coach at a stepping stone school, we cannot shy away from the fact that Texas still has a big question mark at the quarterback position; a position Bryan Harsin had been coaching. The fact that Harsin is leaving may explain why the Juco QB’s UT expressed interest in hadn’t received a Texas offer yet. On top of this, it will also be interesting to see if Harsin’s move plays a role in the decision of any quarterbacks (or any offensive players) to stay or leave the 40 acres. Fellow HornSports contributor Johnny Whisenant (@Texas0205) will shed more light into this subject and give more insight into how the players felt about Harsin, not just as a play-caller, but as someone they worked with daily. It’s definitely something you will want to read. But even with the question marks still floating around at the quarterback position, I believe this move for Harsin had more to do with the chance to be a head coach at a school that has recently catapulted previous head coaches into a top football conference, than any other reason.
Whether you liked Harsin’s play calling or not, he has now moved on. This means Texas must move on and move forward with a new play caller. Co-offensive coordinator and beloved lifetime longhorn Major Applewhite is now taking over as the play caller during games. He will still be a co-offensive coordinator, as wide receiver’s coach Darrell Wyatt has been promoted to co-offensive coordinator, but Applewhite will take charge of the offensive strategy and insert his own direction into the squad.
The excitement over Major Applewhite’s promotion is understandable. The guy worked his magic as a player, when he was doubted most: especially by his own head coach (Mack Brown). Now many fans and even players, seem excited to see if Major can carry that magic into his play calling.
As an offensive coordinator and playcaller, Major has had just 2 seasons in that position. His first was at Rice in 2006 and his second opportunity was with Nick Saban at Alabama in 2007. Below are the offense’s respective stats those years.
And Harsin’s past season at Texas:
The numbers in Applewhite’s two seasons as OC are lower than what Texas did last season but we really shouldn’t even compare those two seasons to the Longhorns’ offense of last season. The style of offense and talent on offense at Rice and Alabama are much different that what Texas currently has. Texas is faster and has multiple players than can take it to the house on any given play. Rice’s talent isn’t up to that par, and we all know about the offenses Alabama has run in the past. Right now Applewhite has a Mustang (it’s not a Porsche yet) of an offense sitting in the driveway. If he can find a quarterback who can consistently drive this offense then he could very well shatter his own past offensive stats as a coordinator and keep this offense performing at a high level like it did in many games last season.
There’s no question the Harsin move is an unexpected change. But what has almost been more unexpected is the reaction the fans, and even players, have displayed when learning knowledge of Harsin’s exit. Many fans don’t seem nearly as disappointed or as upset as I would have thought. I’m not sure if fans A) expect Major to come in and keep the offense rolling with out skipping a beat. And/Or B) don’t realize that almost all of the play calling from last year was from Bryan Harsin. And Harsin’s play calling improved this offense significantly all across the board in the two seasons he was here, specifically in points per game (28.1 in 2011, 36.1 in 2012). Bryan Harsin did help improve this offense, there’s no denying that. But the underlying story many of us may not have known is what his relationship was like with the players. As I stated earlier, Johnny Whisenant will shed light on this. But if you’re curious, go read some of the tweets from the players. They too don’t seem that disappointed Harsin is gone. And as a matter of fact, like the fans, they seem excited about Major Applewhite taking over the play calling.
I, myself, am looking forward to seeing how Major does with the plays and how the team plays under his increased leadership. He is a very likeable guy and usually works well with the players, and recruits. But if you think about it, this next season could essentially be an entire season long job interview. Though it’s my opinion, I believe Mack will leave after next season. And if he does leave and a new head coach is brought in, then that head coach will most likely bring his own offensive coordinator. So the ‘Major Applewhite experiment’ may only last 1 season (unless he does an incredible job and gets promoted to Head Coach at UT… But I’m not ready to go there yet).
It will be very interesting to watch how Major performs next season. Though we all may be excited to see what he can do, we need to remember the offense may have a different look to it (rumblings are it may have a faster tempo at times). I also really hope he utilizes guys like Daje Johnson more, something Harsin shied away from in certain games. The offense, most likely built on the same basics of last year, will certainly have a different look under Applewhite. It’s fun to be excited about Major taking over but whether or not his style of offense works for UT has yet to be seen.