Head Coach Mack Brown drove his Texas Longhorn football team to a nine win and four loss record in 2012. This season he is hoping for better results. Whatever the record, Brown hopes that new (read as exclusive) offensive coordinator Major Applewhite can do it at a higher speed.
Brown and Applewhite have made a commitment to up-tempo offense, as displayed in the second half of the Longhorns’ 31 – 27 win over the then 13th ranked Oregon State Beavers. Repeatedly this offseason, Texas’ coaches have pounded home the need to go faster, and to get more offensive plays per game.
The Big 12 evolved this direction in the last few years and the University of Texas is following the likes of the Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Texas Tech Red Raiders and the majority of the conference. Hoping this change will jump start an under-performing offensive squad, Brown has given the reigns of this offense to former Longhorn QB and local hero, Applewhite.
Applewhite’s involvement at the university has been one of conjecture and promise. Most Longhorn fans are ready for Applewhite to share some magic with this offense, magic that marked his quarterbacking career at Texas. His Longhorn coaching career has not flashed much magic thus far, but may have been stunted by the long road he has taken to offensive coordinator. During coaching stints with Syracuse University, Rice University and Alabama, Applewhite moved up the offensive coaching ladder from quarterback coach to offensive coordinator. In 2008, Applewhite returned to Austin as running backs coach and assistant head coach; seemingly a demotion to return to his alma mater. By 2012, Applewhite was promoted to co-offensive coordinator with former Boise State offensive guru Bryan Harsin, who has since moved to the Arkansas State head coaching position. Now on his own, Applewhite is leading the push towards the up-tempo style that he hopes will provide success for his offense.
A fast, break style offense may be just what is needed to solidify David Ash as the QB to bring Texas back into the national stage. Now a junior and listed on the 2013 Manning Award watch list, Ash is spoken of as a playmaker with tendencies to make more plays in a freewheeling style of play than in a conservative controlled environment. Texas needs Ash to perform, as thus far backups have proven ineffective, or transferred away from the program.
Also advantaged by this up-tempo style, the Longhorn defense. Practicing against the quickened pace should better prepare defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s squad for Big 12 opponents. Diaz’s squad was embarrassed in games against West Virginia and Baylor, giving up 48 and 56 points respectively; not to mention the 63 point, nearly “Mackovician” performance, against Oklahoma (John Mackovic was the Texas head coach whose team lost to UCLA 66-3 in 1997, leading to his eventual firing). Texas fans can only hope that the extra training against an up-tempo offense will pay dividends against the Sooners this year.
If you listen to Longhorn coaches, the change in offensive style seems to be a win-win situation. The Longhorn faithful will enjoy watching the high-powered offense, but only if it leads to on the field wins.