Major: expect little change
Applewhite says his offensive approach is similar to Harsin’s.
email@example.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.”
Major Applewhite said the Longhorns’ definition of balance ‘is being able to win the game both ways (running and passing).’