It’s time for Major Applewhite

by Travis Normand

Major Applewhite - 11KMajor Applewhite has to be one of the most loyal and dedicated former players turned coach.  Applewhite either has a passion for the game that is amplified by coaching at the University of Texas, or he has seen the writing on the wall since his return in 2008 and is hoping for a shot at the big-job.

It has to be one or the other (or a combination of the two), right?  How else would you explain Applewhite being able to put up with the abuse he has been getting from Mack Brown since day one?

Applewhite was a standout quarterback at the University of Texas and now has enough coaching experience under his belt to demand an offensive coordinator position at a major program (if not a head coaching position).  Yet, he has stayed at the University of Texas under head coach Mack Brown.

Brian Harsin’s recent departure has led to Brown promoting Applewhite to the position of offensive coordinator.  Actually, the “co” still remains in front of Applewhite’s title and therefore he is still a “co-offensive coordinator” as he was with Brian Harsin.  However, Brown has stated that Applewhite will get the play calling duties for the Alamo Bowl against Oregon State.

Other staff members had their titles changed as well: [emphasis added]

With the departure of Harsin, who arrived at Texas two years ago after coaching at his alma mater Boise State since 2001, Brown reshuffled several coaching titles among members of his offensive staff.  In addition to Applewhite, Texas announced wide receivers coach Darrell Wyatt will be promoted to co-coordinator, and offensive line coach Stacy Searels was elevated to assistant head coach for offense.

See entire article HERE

In other words, Applewhite is still a co-offensive coordinator yet now shares the position with former wide receivers coach Darrell Wyatt.  It’s almost as if Brown refuses to give Applewhite the title of offensive coordinator.

This entire episode reminds me of when Applewhite played quarterback at the University of Texas.  While, at least in my opinion, Applewhite was clearly the better quarterback on the Longhorn roster, Mack Brown insisted on putting him on the bench in order to make way for Chris Simms.  Again, it was as if Brown was simply refusing to give the starting job to Applewhite for reasons unknown to the rest of us.

* * * *

Applewhite finished his playing career and became a graduate assistant under Mack Brown until 2005.  In 2005 he followed Texas’ defensive coordinator, Greg Robinson,  to Syracuse where he was named quarterbacks coach.  Applewhite’s tenure at Syracuse was a relative disaster, as the Orange went 1-10 that season.  However, the move for Applewhite was a solid one, as he was destined to coach offense and quarterbacks, and Robinson gave him that chance at Syracuse.  Staying at Texas and moving up the ladder, probably didn’t seem like a realistic opportunity at the time considering long time offensive coordinator Greg Davis held the position by himself and didn’t appear to be going anywhere soon.

In 2006, Applewhite was named offensive coordinator (and QB coach) at Rice by new head coach Todd Graham.  Applewhite changed the offense at Rice from the wishbone to a more modern spread attack with a one-running-back formation.  He was at Rice for only one season, but helped the team to a 7-6 record and their first bowl game in over 40 years.

Applewhite’s name was gaining momentum as one of the newer up-and-coming offensive coaches.  Further, he was well-known in the State of Texas and would be a valuable addition to anyone’s coaching staff (especially in terms of recruiting).

Applewhite only spent one season at Rice as he was hired by Nick Saban in 2007 to be Alabama’s offensive coordinator.  The Alabama offense saw improvement during Applewhite’s tenure however all was not perfect with the Crimson Tide.

So, in January 2008, Applewhite accepted an offer to return to the University of Texas.  However, the job was not to be the offensive coordinator (see Greg Davis above), nor was it to be the quarterbacks coach.  Instead, he became the running backs coach while also serving as an assistant head coach to Mack Brown.

Applewhite served in this position from 2008 until 2010.  After the 2010 season, Greg Davis left the program and Applewhite was elevated to co-offensive coordinator (and running backs coach).  Bryan Harsin was hired (from Boise State) as the other co-offensive coordinator (and quarterbacks coach), and was named the primary play caller.

Harsin and Applewhite had some tension. Both believed they should be the primary coordinator of the offense. Only one was – Harsin. Both are roughly the same age, bright, highly opinionated, and neither felt they should take the backseat to the other. Applewhite was forced to be the junior man in the relationship and he resented Mack’s imposition of training wheels. Particularly with a guy he considers his coaching peer.
See entire article HERE

* * * *

With Brian Harsin moving on to become the Head Coach at Arkansas State, one would think that it was finally Applewhite’s time to assume the position of offensive coordinator, by himself.

However, as I stated earlier, Mack Brown has other ideas.  Brown has given Applewhite the primary play calling duties for the bowl game, but who knows how long he gets to keep this job.  Will it last into the 2013 season?

Brown also kept Applewhite as a co-offensive coordinator, but at least he finally gave him the job of coaching the quarterbacks.

This is like a bad father-son relationship where the dad won’t give the son any room to grow or make his own mistakes.  How long will Applewhite put up with the stuff that Brown is serving before he takes a job somewhere else, and Longhorn fans are again forced to watch as the talents of Applewhite go completely wasted — for a second time by Coach Brown.

* * * *

Just as a point of reference, there are plenty of coaches that are 35 and successful (and in similar positions as Applewhite).

Josh Heupel is about the same age as Applewhite and is currently serving as co-offensive coordinator at the University of Oklahoma (where he played QB and won a National Championship in 2000).

Brian Harsin is the same age as Applewhite and has served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at his alma mater (Boise State, 2006-2010) and co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Texas (2011-2012).  Harsin was recently named the head coach at Arkansas State.

Kliff Kingsbury, a few years younger than Applewhite, was just named the head coach at Texas Tech (where he played quarterback for Mike Leach).  Kingsbury was named head coach after serving as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Houston (2010-2011) and the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M in 2012.

Will Muschamp, a few years older than Applewhite, Muschamp was the defensive coordinator and “head coach in waiting” at the University of Texas from 2008-2010.  However, being named the successor to Mack Brown was not enough to keep him from leaving the program in 2011 to take the head coaching job at the University of Florida.  (Was this another situation of being named 2nd-place?).

Isn’t it time for Mack to turn loose of Applewhite and see what he can do?  I think so.  In fact, I think it is imperative to the Longhorn’s survival that Mack does this, less we see the Longhorn program fall back to where it was under David McWilliams and John Mackovic.

“That’s what I’ve told him. I said that the day may come and, it may come quickly. … It just depends on whether you’re prepared for it or not.”

     – Mack Brown, December 2012, on Applewhite being prepared for the job of calling plays in the Alamo Bowl (CollegeSportsBlog.DallasNews.com)

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