Ma­jor: ex­pect lit­tle change

Applewhite says his of­fen­sive ap­proach is sim­i­lar to Harsin’s.

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ByRandyRiggs

rriggs@states­man.com San an­to­nio — Don’t ex­pect the Longhorns’ of­fen­sive play­call­ing to be much dif­fer­ent Satur­day than it was be­fore Bryan Harsin left to be­come the head coach at Arkansas State.

That, es­sen­tially, was the mes­sage Wed­nes­day from the new play-caller.

Ma­jor Applewhite, mov­ing from his spot on the side­line to the press box, said no sig­nif­i­cant changes should be ex­pected in Texas’ of­fen­sive game plan or play-call­ing philoso­phies when the Horns face Ore­gon State on Satur­day in the Alamo Bowl. Those tweaks might come in the spring. But now, he said, isn’t the time.

In fact, in his first pub­lic com­ments af­ter be­ing pro­moted to the pri­mary co-co­or­di­na­tor po­si­tion on Dec. 12, Applewhite in­di­cated his philoso­phies aren’t that much dif­fer­ent than Harsin’s.

“I think some­times peo­ple want to paint you white or black, and I think we (he and Harsin) are a lot more the same than we are dif­fer­ent,” Ap­ple- Get com­plete Longhorns cov­er­age lead­ing up to the alamo Bowl, in­clud­ing pregame press con­fer­ence video, pho­tos and stats, at states­man.com/ game­week.

white said at a bowl news con­fer­ence.

“In terms of play call­ing, we want to be balanced,” he added. “Of course we’d love to be 5050 at the end of the night, but our def­i­ni­tion of balanced is be­ing able to win the game both ways.”

Ex­actly what Texas’ of­fen­sive iden­tity is, and will be now that Applewhite’s in charge, is open to de­bate. A spread team? A power run­ning team? Applewhite prefers to think of the style as be­ing more pro-set than spread.

“We’re more pro style,” he said. “It’s not like we’re spread (like) Bay­lor or spread (like) Ok­la­homa State. We’re prob­a­bly a lot more sim­i­lar to Alabama than we are a true spread team.”

Ore­gon State de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mark Banker said Wed­nes­day he’s im­pressed with the Longhorns’ run­ning game. But what really catches his eye is Texas’ abil­ity to use its speed to ex­ploit the perime­ter on jet sweeps.

“Then again,” Banker noted, “they’re very deep at the run­ning back po­si­tion with a good of­fen­sive line. I mean, they can down­hill run at you, so they present a pretty good chal­lenge, and this isn’t coach­s­peak.”

Banker said he doesn’t ex­pect the Longhorns’ play call­ing to be much dif­fer­ent un­der Applewhite.

“Texas has a sys­tem in place,” he said.

In his new role, Applewhite has moved from coach­ing run­ning backs to coach­ing quar­ter­backs — the po­si­tion he played for the Longhorns from 1998 to 2001. One of his first ex­ec­u­tive de­ci­sions was nam­ing David Ash to start in the bowl game af­ter he missed the reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale at Kansas State with a rib in­jury.

Applewhite strongly en­dorsed Ash on Wed­nes­day while ac­knowl­edg­ing, “Has there been a game or two he wants back? Ab­so­lutely. That’s usu­ally the case for most play­ers.”

“He’s done some great things for our team, and made some great plays in clutch sit­u­a­tions,” he added. “The last thing I want to do is scratch the hard drive and try to change a lot of things that have really been in­grained in him over the last two years.”

Ash noted last week that dur­ing the sea­son Applewhite oc­ca­sion­ally would of­fer a bit of ad­vice. “I’ve re­al­ized that ev­ery sin­gle thing he’s ever told me has been spot-on,” Ash said. “Work­ing with him has been awe­some. I love the guy.”

In­deed, be­cause of his days as a player, Applewhite is beloved by most of the Texas fan base. But will that be the case now that he’s the play-caller? Harsin came in for crit­i­cism, and his pre­de­ces­sor, Applewhite’s men­tor Greg Davis, was vil­i­fied in his later years be­fore leav­ing af­ter the 2010 sea­son.

“You know what? Life is short. So what?” Applewhite said of the heat that ac­com­pa­nies his new as­sign­ment. “When I moved to Texas, I was told any male in Texas can do two things — call plays on of­fense and coach base­ball. I’m not too con­cerned with it. I know there’s crit­i­cism in this job.”

RI­CARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN 2011

Ma­jor Applewhite said the Longhorns’ def­i­ni­tion of bal­ance ‘is be­ing able to win the game both ways (run­ning and pass­ing).’

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