Posted on: January 7, 2011 7:53 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
After several hours of reports corroborating each other, it's all but official : Bryan Harsin of Boise State and current Texas running backs coach Major Applewhite will be co-offensive coordinators next season at Texas.
Though there's nothing out of the official Longhorn camp just yet, Harsin appears to have spent at least 24 hours in Austin visiting and deliberating his offer to replace Greg Davis as -- we believe -- the Longhorns' primary play-caller. Apparently, he's accepted, giving Mack Brown and Co. one of the nation's hottest young offensive minds; at 34 years old and the Broncos' offensive coordinator since 2006, Harsin has already guided Boise to five finishes in the national top 20 for total offense.
As for Applewhite, while it's not entirely clear what his role will be, his promotion ensures that one of the few Longhorn offensive staff members who escaped the team's 2010 implosion with their reputations intact -- witness the rumors Will Muschamp would be taking Applewhite with him to direct the offense at Florida -- will remain in Austin and provide a sense of continuity as Harsin takes over.
As for what the Longhorn offense will look like under the Harsin-Applewhite tag team, if there's anything certain, it's that it'll feature a greater emphasis on the running game after Brown said his offseason focus (for what feels like the 10th straight year) would be on finding someone to instill more toughness (and, you know, success) in the Longhorn ground attack. But as for specifics, if it winds up looking like Harsin's Boise offense, the best place to start is this post at the ever-brilliant Smart Football , which breaks down the Bronco philosophy as one that doesn't stick to a singular scheme, formation, or approach; it simply finds plays that work, whether out of a pro set or spread, and executes them. Or as a Bronco assistant put it: "We run plays, we don’t have an offense."
Ironically, many a Longhorn fan disappointed with Davis's grab-bag of an offense have leveled that same boast as a criticism of the previous offensive regime. But if Harsin can produce an offense in Austin remotely as productive as the one he oversaw in Boise -- if he can turn that lack of identity into the strength of unpredictability rather than the weakness of confusion -- no one in burnt orange will be complaining.
Posted on: January 5, 2011 5:28 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Per the Jackson Clarion-Legder's Kyle Veazey, the speculation surrounding Mississippi State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's possible move to the same position at Texas is over :
In the 36-year-old Diaz, the 'Horns are bringing in one of FBS's most exciting young coordinators, whose hyper-aggressive blitz-heavy schemes gave up the occasional big play but also took a lightly-regarded Bulldog defense all the way to 17th in the country in rushing defense. The last two times Mack Brown was in the market for a defensive coordinator he looked for an up-and-comer in the SEC West and struck gold hiring both Gene Chizik and, later, Will Muschamp away from Auburn; from here it looks like he's done so again.
As for State, losing Diaz this late in the recruiting cycle hurts, but that's life at their level of the college football food chain (and at least they can claim a modicum of sympathy from Auburn fans still bitter over the Longhorns' previous coaching raids). And hey, with Michigan in the market for a coach who could put Denard Robinson's unique talents to their best use -- someone like, say, Dan Mullen -- they may have bigger issues to worry about.
Posted on: December 20, 2010 10:33 am
Edited on: December 20, 2010 10:53 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
There is nothing like adding insult to injury when Texas capped off one of the worst seasons in program history by saying goodbye to their coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp. When Muschamp departed to succeed Urban Meyer at Florida, the Longhorns were left in a deep divot with no long-term exit strategy. The future of the program is certainly a concern for Texas fans everywhere, but first they need to hire a new defensive coordinator.
A report Sunday evening from the Austin American-Statesman noted sources beginning to point to Tennessee defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox as a leading candidate to join Mack Brown's staff in the same position. Wilcox, 34, is in the first year under Derek Dooley at Tennessee, he previously spent three years as the defensive coordinator at Boise State.
Wilcox could supply the youth and energy that Muschamp displayed in his early seasons as defensive coordinator, but he is likely far from ready to take the headset from Brown. Texas does have the challenge of filling four open positions on the staff this offseason, so trying to tab a new coach-in-waiting is likely low on the priority list. Brown was able to overcome major challenges when he first arrived at North Carolina (making the postseason) and at Texas (getting past Oklahoma). Now he will have one last major task for the Texas football program: re-building for the future. Judging by Brown's track record, it would not surprise me if he pulls it off.
Posted on: December 15, 2010 12:53 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Will Muschamp had the pleasure of working under both head coaches from last year's national championship game, serving as Nick Saban's defensive coordinator at LSU (and again with the Miami Dolphins ) and as Mack Brown's DC and coach-in-(not)-waiting-(any longer) at Texas.
But the early reports on his tenure and yesterday's introductory news conference left no doubt which of those two coaches Muschamp wants to emulate, whose methods he has the greater respect for, whose program he wants to refashion for himself in Gainesville. We'll give you a hint: it's not the guy whose staff he just abandoned.
No, it's Saban who Muschamp appears to be taking his cues from, starting with Muschamp's attempts to pluck away Saban's current Muschamp-in-training, Kirby Smart. As a Saban-trained coordinator himself, Muschamp could have looked to bring in a coach with a different philosophy and blend the two approaches; instead, he appears to be trying to hire a coach who can impart what he -- and the coordinator, if Smart or another Saban disciple is hired -- learned from the master with the minimum amount of confusion (or dissent) possible.
Even more telling is Muschamp's approach to the Gator offense :
Muschamp also said he wanted his new offensive coordinator to have NFL experience. Despite the overwhelming success of the spread in the current college game -- both of the offenses in this year's BCS title game will be helmed by spread gurus who, far from being NFL veterans, were a New Hampshire assistant and a high school coach just a few short years ago -- it may be a good time to move towards a pro-style set, as those offenses become rarer and enjoy some of the change-of-pace aspect the spread utilized in the past.
That doesn't mean it'll be easy, however. The current Gators were recruited exclusively for Urban Meyer's/Dan Mullen's spread-option attack, and the offensive staff will have to be completely overhauled. But the Saban-taught philosophy Muschamp is trying to instill requires a run-heavy, clock-killing, two-tight-end-power approach to give the hypothetically-overpowering defense its opportunity win the game (not to mention appeal to NFL-hungry recruits), and so that's what the Gators will do.
These are all good ideas, of course. There's a reason Saban has been as overwhelmingly successful as he's been at every stop of his college career, and even the reasons that go beyond his X's-and-O's or administrative prowess -- his inhuman work rate, his ability to close the deal with recruits, his detail-focused willingness to control every aspect of his program -- are traits that Muschamp would seem to share. There's no reason to blame Jeremy Foley for asking Muschamp to provide a second Crimson Tide in Gator colors, especially since the odds appear so good that Muschamp's going to give it to them.
But what if he doesn't? Part of what has made Florida Florida over the past two decades has been their unorthodox thinking under two coaching mavericks in Steve Spurrier and Meyer. Both of them arrived with offenses derided as effeminate jokes that would never work in the SEC, then departed with national title rings and new Heismans in the school's trophy case. Gator fans have been accustomed not only to winning, but of winning in a uniquely identifiable, Florida-first fashion.
That's not to say they won't accept victories as a kind of SEC East edition of the current Tide; if what we might call Alabama-Gainesville winds up with a championship or two under Muschamp, you could probably sell them officially-licensed UAG t-shirts. But if Muschamp can't deliver the goods, if it turns out Foley hasn't hired the new Saban but only the Nutrasweet facsimile of the real thing, Florida fans may wonder (and wonder quickly, and vocally ) if they shouldn't have found another coach -- like Spurrier, like Meyer -- willing to build the Gators in his own image rather than someone else's.
Posted on: December 14, 2010 3:32 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Two offseasons ago, Auburn and Iowa State made a kind of coaching swap, as ISU head coach Gene Chizik went to the Plains and Tiger defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads became the new Iowa State head man.
If this report from the usually-reliable Orangebloods.com is accurate, Florida and Texas will be hoping for similar success after a similar swap of their 2010 defensive coordinators. You already know previous Longhorn DC Will Muschamp has gone to Gainesville as the Gators' new head coach, and now it turns out the guy who'll replace Muschamp in Austin is the guy left out of a job by Muschamp's arrival:
So much for the Randy Shannon talk.
As fallback plans to Muschamp go, Teryl Austin appears to be a good one, even besides the happy coincidence of his surname; the Gators finished ninth in the country in total defense and many weeks were forced to carry a Florida team devoid of any kind of offensive spark. Much like Muschamp's under-fire defense in Texas, you can't pin losses like the 10-7 debacle vs. Mississippi State on Austin's unit.
An argument could be made that Austin was blessed with an abundance of top-shelf talent and only had to maintain the previous good work done by Charlie Strong, but between his one successful season in Gainesville and always-handy-when-recruiting NFL ties, Mack Brown probably could have done worse.
Posted on: December 14, 2010 11:48 am
Edited on: December 14, 2010 12:51 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The time between the announcement that Will Muschamp had become the new Florida head coach and the rumor that he'd be bringing fellow Texas staff member and former Alabama offensive coordinator Major Applewhite along as his offensive coordinator was so small you'd have to measure it in nanoseconds.
But like so many other assumptions made during the coaching carousel's silly season, it turns out a gun was being jumped , as the Gainesville Sun is reporting that Applewhite has either decided to turn Muschamp down -- with the departure of Greg Davis at Texas, he could be in line for a promotion in Austin -- or Muschamp has decided to go in a different direction. Either way, Applewhite won't be coming to Gainesville.
If that's despite overtures from Muschamp, the Gators might be receiving a blessing the disguise. Though Florida has enough raw offensive talent that virtually anyone who isn't Steve Addazio could turn them into a functional attack, Gator fans spoiled by the Steve Spurrier and Tim Tebow years likely won't settle for "functional," and unless Muschamp's defense is truly terrifying, "functional" won't win the championships the Gators have become accustomed to, either. Applewhite already has a long and promising career as a position coach, but his turn at the Tide's wheel was anything but revelatory, as Alabama limped in at 75th in total offense that season and (by most accounts out of Tuscaloosa) was only saved from demotion by his move to a lower-rung position in Austin.
Though Applewhite may have learned enough from his one season as a play-caller and his last couple of years under Mack Brown to succeed in his next attempt in the coordinator's chair, there's no question he'd be something of an unknown quantity. This being Florida, the Gators likely don't have to settle for an unknown quantity. Though Dana Holgorsen may be looking elsewhere and Auburn has probably wrapped up Gus Malzahn for at least this offseason, Muschamp should just about have his pick of the rest of the nation's OC's. Applewhite may, in fact, be a good choice ... but from here, it still seems the Gators can do better.
Posted on: December 13, 2010 11:28 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Plenty of reasons have been offered in the wake of Will Muschamp's surprising departure for the Florida head coaching job: the chance to take over a program as ready-built as the Gators', his hometown ties to Gainesville, the chance to build his own handpicked staff from scratch rather than inherit Mack Brown's choices, and maybe most prominently, fatigue from waiting for Brown to hand over the Texas head coaching chair Muschamp had been promised.
That last reason may have picked up a little extra steam this morning, as columnist Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman claims that Muschamp had already been promised a date to take over the Longhorns ... and that Brown had blown the deadline off :
At least one source told me Brown had decided in the offseason to step down at the end of the 2010 season, but he changed his mind after his first losing season at Texas, worried that his legacy had been tarnished.If that's the case, Brown (somewhat ironically) may very well wind up tarnishing his legacy even further. If Muschamp goes on to success at Florida and Brown fails to revive the 'Horns under his overhauled staff , Brown won't just be the coach who went 5-7; he'll be the coach who drove away the coach that would have gotten the 'Horns back from 5-7.
Even that shouldn't be enough to dent Brown's remarkable tenure in Austin, given his laundry list of accomplishments and national championship ring. But there's also no question that it will if that's how things play out. As Bohls points out, the coach-in-waiting scheme embarked on by Brown, Muschamp, and Texas comes with a number of inherent risks. But it's not really the scheme that's been the risk for Brown -- it'll be agreeing to it without a firm date for the baton exchange ... and, if Bohls is right, not living up to a date that Muschamp must have expected was firm enough.
Posted on: December 13, 2010 10:22 am
Edited on: December 13, 2010 10:28 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
The weekend full of college football awards had very little surprises this year. Cam Newton's runaway Heisman nod, Oregon's LaMichael James picking up the rest of the awards Newton could not technically win, and LSU's Patrick Peterson raking in most of the major defensive awards. The biggest surprise of the weekend came out of Gainesville, with Florida announcing the hiring of former Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp as the new head coach of the Gators.
Muschamp's ascension to the head coaching ranks is certainly no surprise, but the departure of Mack Brown's appointed successor is giving Longhorn fans reason to worry in Austin. Even before Texas' disappointing 5-7 season, many had suggested that Muschamp's time to take over for Brown was rapidly approaching. Now, after the worst season in the Mack Brown era at Texas, the Longhorns have to start over building for the future.
Replacing Muschamp is an immediate concern for Brown, writes Lake Litman from the Dallas Morning News. Muschamp was a crucial piece of the recruiting at Texas, and any passing time without a new defensive coordinator could cause recruits (or even current players) to panic. It is being suggested that Brown may look to former Miami head coach Randy Shannon to come fill the open position.
Brown reportedly had Shannon high on his wish-list before the defensive coordinator was promoted to head coach at Miami in 2007. He is a proven recruiter, but had difficulty translating high-ranking classes into the conference title contention that was expected in Coral Gables. It would be a big move geographically for Shannon, who spent his entire playing and coaching career in Miami.
It would also be a big move for Texas, who could use the help of a recognizable name to replace Muschamp. It is true that hiring Shannon would not provide the immediate answer for the future of Texas football. But with the current state of the program, Brown cannot afford to spend his final years on the sideline rebuilding from the disastrous 2010 season.