Longhorn football preview
The Texas Longhorns will be wearing the familiar burnt orange and white uniforms, but that may be the only thing resembling the 2010 team. After a melt down of nuclear proportions last season, relative to Longhorn nation expectations of course, Head coach Mack Brown did some deep introspection.
No, the CEO was staying, and that meant damn near everyone else had to go.
Clearly the CEO was not going to be leaving. Brown led the Longhorns to the promised land twice in 5 years, winning one national championship and losing another in the most heart-wrenching awful way you can lose — with an injury to your best player early in the game. Brown admitted that loss to Alabama on January 7th, 2010, cut him deeply, and he was not the same come September.
No, the CEO was staying, and that meant damn near everyone else had to go. Brown did what any self-reflective, humble coach would do. He hired smart, aggressive, young coaches who bring more in style and imagination than in pedigree. Coaches he could count on to reinvigorate the boss. Those who stayed would be those who also could be counted on to imagine a new way of winning football games.
Those who stayed:
Major Applewhite – Co-Offensive Coordinator
It would be hard to find a more beloved and respected Texas Ex than this former QB. Major Applewhite never had NFL level skills, but he controlled a game with football IQ that was off the charts, and he knew how to win.
Brown promoted Applewhite from running backs coach (can’t say we saw much success there last year) to his current position. And, I believe Applewhite is the heir apparent to Brown’s throne.
Applewhite brings major college experience as Offensive coordinator for Rice and then for Nick Saban at Alabama before coming back to Texas. He knows the turf here and he knows how to run an offense. “I’m going to be here. This is my university. I want to help get this fixed, and I’m taking the same approach as Coach Brown. As soon as we decided what we were going to do, we got our feet to the ground and started working hard to assemble the best staff we could.”
Duane Akina – Defensive backfield Coach
Akina actually left before he stayed, taking a job at Arizona for what seemed like just a few days, then backing out for personal reasons and returning to Austin. Duane Akina can coach. He’s put more Texas Longhorns in the NFL than any other position coach. He’s brilliant in the backfield, teaching coverage skills and how to be in the right place at the right time. God knows we need his skill in the backfield this year.
The new Longhorn staff:
Bryan Harsin – Co-Offensive coordinator
Harsin is of the new breed. He’s young and he’s creative with the football. Harsin left Boise State, hardly a small-time football school, to come coach at Texas. The Texas Longhorns still offer one of the best coaching opportunities in the nation, even at 5-7.
Despite having a reputation as a wide open passing offense, under Harsin, Boise State also averaged over 200 yards per game running the ball. Texas had trouble gaining 200 yards in three games, let alone one. “We want to run the football,” Harsin said, “and if we know we can do that then we can open up the rest of it from there.”
Texas MUST be able to run the ball this season to have any chance of success. If opposing defenses can count on Garrett Gilbert (or God help us someone else back there) throwing 50 times each game, Texas will be cooked before ever entering the oven. Want evidence of that? Look at last year. You don’t need stats to see what happened without a go-to running back.
Harsin is creative, he knows how to run the ball. You might not recognize his name, but he’s likely the right guy for Texas.
Manny Diaz – Defensive coordinator
Here’s a wild card frankly. Diaz came in because Will Muschamp went out voluntarily. Muschamp took the head coaching job at Florida. It’s one of those jobs that come around once in a lifetime.
Manny Diaz didn’t even start out as a coach. He was a production assistant at ESPN after graduating from Florida State. But decided he wanted to coach, went back to Florida State as a graduate assistant (as did Applewhite at Texas). He rose through the ranks fast and ended up spending a year as defensive coordinator at Mississippi State before getting the call from Mack Brown. “Everywhere I called Manny Diaz’s name came up. He’s a very bright, young coach,” said Brown when introducing Diaz to the Longhorn faithful.
Diaz is different like Will Muschanp was different. He believes in an attack first, dictate the play-calling kind of defense. “We're going to play like we're in a bad mood,” he explained. “It's hard for me to understand how you can [work so hard] all year round and not act like your hair is on fire on 12 straight Saturdays in the fall.”
'Hair on fire', that's cool!
“We'll sum it up in two simple terms: we're going to stop the run and we're going to hit the quarterback. If we could do those two things generally speaking, everything else works out for itself.”
These five coaches leading the 2011 Texas Longhorn football team need more than good ideas. They need a way to re-instill pride in these football players. Pride was lost in a messy 2010 season and with that pride goes confidence. The Texas Longhorns need to believe they can win every game. They must believe they can dominate every play against every team. Coaching is more than just teaching players to play. Great coaches teach players to win and that takes more than execution, it takes passion, something the team lost back in November.
If you want to have hope, listen to Bryan Harsin. “There’s a lot of fun things and variety and movement and those types of things. But I believe this, it’s how we go about it – the process. How we teach these kids. How we prepare these kids. What these kids believe in. How they train. There’s so much more to it than just going Xs and Os. It’s a process and that’s what we have to try to establish is this process, this culture that we want to have, these expectations that we’re going to have for this offense. When we do that, the Xs and Os, the multiple formations, all those things are going to come together.”
Burnt Orange nation sure hopes so.
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at this year’s Longhorn schedule which may be setting up just right.