- Carter Strickland, Reporter, HornsNation
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Bryan Harsin knows what he faces now -- a tougher schedule, bigger stadiums, louder crowds, better athletes, more expectations and plenty of pressure.
Maybe more importantly he knows with whom he faces it -- a coach that understands the pressures of being a quarterback at Texas (Major Applewhite), a coach that delegates and does not dictate (Mack Brown), a head coach who thinks wide receivers should block first, second and third, then think about pass patterns (Darrell Wyatt), and a throwback with more grunts than glad handing (Stacy Searels). And that is just on the offensive side of the ball.
In all, six members of Texas’ staff are sophomores now. They have lived the life for a year. And, after being 8-5 together, they have lived to see another.
“Now we understand what we’re doing,” said Harsin, the co-offensive coordinator along with Applewhite. “We understand the details. We understand how each of us operates. And what the expectations of each positions are.”
"Even at our coaches' retreat a couple of weeks ago, the guys were all on the same page and it went so much smoother,” Brown said. “Last year they were talking about what are you doing in pregame warmups. They were talking about where we stay the night before the game.
“Now all of those things they know. We are so much further along than we were, and that leads to more excitement as we start the season as well.”
That progress is not just owed to those position coaches. Included among those six is strength and conditioning coach Bennie Wylie. The backbone of the program, Wylie is the one who has pushed the players to stand tall, and at the same time, turned the head of Brown as to what expectations a cohesive staff can put on these players.
It’s that work that has Brown talking about Texas being a tougher football team. And everybody knows a fist is much tougher to defend against than a slap. A fist is what Texas considers itself now that it has come together.
“Now we all know what is expected of everyone else,” junior offensive guard Mason Walters said.
That’s from the coaches straight on down the line. But, like everything else, it starts at the top. In this case, that means with the coaching staff.
Now that the staff is together, the coaches can be more calculating in their approaches.
“When you have had more time together, you have identified who you are, what you want to do, this is what we can major in and now from a personnel standpoint, whether it is recruiting or on the field, this is how we’re going to place people to do these certain things,” Harsin said. “Everybody has got that in their minds in the staff now and that makes it easier on all of us as a staff now. Instead of one guy trying to figure out who needs to go where, everybody knows where guys need to go and what’s the best group to have on the field.”
That means Applewhite and Harsin, who now know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, have more efficiently been able to work to find the strengths and weaknesses in the two quarterbacks, fix those problems and find solutions. Similarly, the pair is more comfortable putting their heads together on just how to deploy the three-headed backfield that is Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray.
“This time last year we were talking about a Boise offense and Mississippi State defense and what flavor will Georgia have with their offense and what about [co-recruiting coordinator/wide receivers coach] Darrell Wyatt and his travels and how much will that change what we do offensively,” Mack Brown said. “And now we have a Texas offense that we are working toward and the players believe in, and the same thing defensively. So very little talk about anything other than Texas and us moving forward.’’
That means moving forward as one instead of many.