Texas Longhorns: Bryan Harsin

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Breaking down spring camp: Texas

February, 20, 2013
As spring camps begin, we'll offer up a preview and let you know what to watch for in each team's 15 practices over the next couple of months. Texas will start spring practice first, so today we start with the Longhorns.

Schedule: The Longhorns begin spring practice on Thursday and will host a spring game on March 30.

What's new: Offensive playcalling duties have fallen to co-coordinator Major Applewhite now, who was promoted when partner Bryan Harsin left to become Arkansas State's head coach. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz mulled a move after the season, but ultimately stuck around to help revive a defense that struggled in 2012.

On the mend: Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat will likely be limited after undergoing surgery on a torn pectoral, but linebacker Jordan Hicks should return following a hip injury that cost him his 2012 season and a sexual assault charge that was eventually dropped stemming from an incident during the Longhorns' bowl trip.

Stepping up: Kenny Vaccaro's versatility will be tough to replace, but figuring out who will try and fill his role at safety will be huge for Texas' defense during the spring. My money is on Mykkele Thompson, but don't rule out junior Josh Turner or even a position move for physical junior cornerback Quandre Diggs.

New faces: Texas is welcoming a handful of early enrollees this spring, headlined by quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. Offensive lineman Jake Raulerson, the 2013 class' first commit, is also enrolled along with linebacker Deoundrei Davis and tight end Geoff Swaim, the nation's No. 4 junior college player at the position.

Breaking out: Linebacker Peter Jinkens already made an impact as a true freshman, but don't be surprised if he leaves spring practice with a starting gig, beating out a few older players like Steve Edmond and Kendall Thompson. Jinkens earned a start against Iowa State and snagged an interception in Texas' Alamo Bowl win over Oregon State, but the 6-foot-1, 213-pounder from Dallas could be a budding star in a linebacking corps that needs help after a disappointing 2012.

Under the radar: Texas struggled in the kicking game throughout 2012, making just 11 of 19 attempts, the lowest percentage of any Big 12 team. Nick Jordan had to carry the load as a freshman while Penn State transfer Anthony Fera battled a groin injury. They'll be back to battle this spring, and though it won't get much attention in a camp loaded with intrigue, its importance can't be overstated for a team that doesn't hang points by the buckets and played in six games decided by one possession a year ago.

All eyes on: Quarterback David Ash. Being just OK is no longer acceptable. He was reasonably efficient last season with a passer rating of over 153, but faltered late in the season and struggled with inconsistency. If Texas is going to be great, he has to be great, and most importantly, consistent. No more well-deserved benchings in favor of Case McCoy. Ash limited his interceptions and was fifth in the league in passer rating, but he's got to be even better as a junior.

Offseason to-do list: Texas Longhorns

January, 25, 2013
Every year, there's lots of turnover and change for every college program. What do the Big 12 teams need to do before next fall? Let's continue our look with the Longhorns down in Austin.

1. Figure out the offensive identity. Bryan Harsin is gone, and he's probably taking most of his pre-snap shifts with him. Will Major Applewhite still look to run a power offense? Texas has recruited and developed its offensive line really well lately, but David Ash has matured, and even with a wealth of backs in Malcolm Brown, Johnathan Gray, Joe Bergeron and Daje Johnson, Texas hasn't been able to keep them healthy or get consistent production out of one for an entire season. Will Applewhite put more responsibility in Ash's hands? He was good at times last season, but the rising junior was inconsistent. His ceiling is probably a legitimate Heisman campaign. His floor is probably getting benched in favor Connor Brewer or Jalen Overstreet -- or maybe even incoming freshman Tyrone Swoopes. Where will he fall on the spectrum? Will Texas continue to try to pound the trenches?

2. Plug up the middle of the defense. Texas' defense made no sense last season. The personnel is absolutely there to be great up front. The defensive tackles are deep and talented, led by guys like Malcom Brown, Ashton Dorsey, Desmond Jackson and Chris Whaley. The linebackers were solid, even without Jordan Hicks, who should be back next season. Peter Jinkens is a rising star and a few others have potential. Coordinator Manny Diaz didn't take another job, electing to stay in Austin and attempt fix the most underwhelming unit in the Big 12. It all starts with the ability to stop the run, something Texas never did consistently last season. Fix that, and the rest of this defense comes around, I say.

3. Discover and develop leadership. Texas was still a pretty young team last season after rebooting on both sides of the ball after the 2010 season. The freshmen and sophomores who contributed in 2011 are juniors and seniors now, but the team is losing guys like Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro, players who had been around awhile and served as role models for younger guys. Look for Jackson Jeffcoat and David to fill the role this year, but other players, like Malcolm Brown or Jaxon Shipley, might emerge, too. We'll see who steps up in the spring.

More offseason to-do lists:
Ah, decisions. Coaches make them and then everyone criticizes them. Of course, not all of them are bad. Many are celebrated. For Texas this year it a little bit of both. This week HornsNation will take a look at the top five critical decisions made by Texas and the result of each of those decisions. Today, at No. 3, Major Applewhite stepping up to call plays in the Alamo Bowl.

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AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas has changed its play-caller.

But it will not change the plays Major Applewhite calls.

"I don't see a lot changing before the bowl game because they were already into the game plan and so we will be pretty much who we have been all year in the bowl game," said Texas coach Mack Brown.

[+] EnlargeBrown/Applewhite
John Rivera/Icon SMIMajor Applewhite's vision on offense will likely take greater affect in 2013.
Yep, the offense it had under former co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin is good enough for Oregon State and the Valero Alamo Bowl. So take a seat D.J. Monroe. Grab a spot on the sideline Daje Johnson. And find a place to put that helmet down Malcolm Brown.

OK, it probably won’t be that extreme despite the fact that, for weeks at a time, it was that extreme under Harsin. When Harsin ran what he liked to call a multiple attack it really translated into the myopic singling out of players for time and touches. One week Johnson wouldn’t get a touch, questions would be asked, and suddenly there he was featured prominently the next. Ditto for Jaxon Shipley and others.

Eventually Harsin just gave up the fight and allowed that there was only one ball to go around. The fifth-grade talent show juggling act was over. Or at least the guise that Harsin was attempting to or even knew how to juggle was finally over.

Now Applewhite has been left to pick up the pieces. Texas doesn’t want to mess with where Applewhite place those pieces too much given that practice time is limited as is this team’s capacity for adroitly adapting to change. It will be spring before offensive changes will be implemented.

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AUSTIN, Texas -- Bryan Harsin was the rebound.

Yep, after the coaching relationship between Texas coach Mack Brown and his former offensive coordinator Greg Davis over those oh so many years, wins and a national title, there had to be one. It was only natural.

[+] EnlargeMajor Applewhite
John Albright/Icon SMIMajor Applewhite will take over play-calling duties for the Longhorns and coach the quarterbacks.
Naturally that is not the way Brown explained it when given the opportunity to talk about the departure of his most recently departed co-offensive coordinator, Harsin, and the promoting of another, Major Applewhite.

"I told Major two years ago that I felt like it would be unfair to put him in the [offensive coordinator] position right after Greg Davis," Brown said. "He played for Greg. He coached with Greg and I didn’t think he would ever have a chance for it to be Major’s input. It would always be, 'Well, he’s still doing what Greg did.' And that’s not fair to him or Greg, very honestly.

"When [Applewhite] and I really thought about it -- and I didn’t know it would be two years -- but I thought probably whoever we brought in if we had some success, usually our guys get head jobs around here pretty quickly if they want them," he continued. "Bryan was a guy who came here to get a head coaching job. It’s the only reason he left Boise. I told Major you need to put yourself in the position of play caller every day because that day is going to come and it’s gong to come fast."

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HornsNation is counting down the top five moments of Texas’ 2012 season this week.

[+] EnlargeTexas Longhorns
Brett Davis/US PresswireTexas opened in the wishbone vs. Iowa State, a tribute to former coach Darrell K Royal, who introduced the formation in 1968.
Play No. 1

The game: Days before the Iowa State game, Mack Brown knew he wanted to honor the recently deceased Darrell K Royal. And the Texas coach told the world the Longhorns would do just that against the Cyclones. Brown’s team, which had been Royal’s long before Brown arrived, would line up in the wishbone on the first play of the first drive. It was a tip of the cap to the man who made Texas football and who made Brown feel at home in the program.

The play: The wishbone was famous for its multiple options. Texas had just one on this day. Backed up at their own 6-yard line, the Longhorns lined up in the wishbone and hoped for the best.

"When we were backed up [co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin] said, 'What do you think?' " Brown said. "And I said, 'Heck run it. What the heck -- he’s watching. He’s got enough spunk, he’ll like the fact that we took a shot at it.' And you could tell it was going be open from the beginning, so it was a fun play and maybe had a little intervention from up above on that one."

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TE Geoff Swaim staying put with Texas 

December, 13, 2012
Had it not been for Bryan Harsin, there’s no telling where Longhorns tight end commitment Geoff Swaim (Oroville, Calif./Butte Community College) might be playing college football next season.

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Welcome to The Heard, HornsNation’s weekly in-depth look inside the never-ending world of Longhorns recruiting with news, notes and interesting tidbits on the latest happenings around the program. We’ll release this every Thursday.

Talk about it in our forum and, if there’s a recruit out there you’d like to hear more from, let us know.

A few of the notes in today's The Heard:

  • Smythe discusses decommitment
  • What’s Robinson going to do?
  • Zadarius Smith update

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DeSoto (Texas) High School coach Claude Mathis is one of the more popular names being tossed around as a potential candidate for Texas' vacant running backs coach position.

Whether or not he is a legitimate candidate, Mathis doesn’t have the time to concern himself with rumors right now. He has a state playoff game to win Saturday.

“I am not even thinking about it,” Mathis said. “The only thing I am thinking about is Allen. That’s it.”

DeSoto, the No. 5 team in the ESPN 25 Power Rankings, faces No. 15 Allen at 6 p.m. CT Saturday at SMU’s Ford Stadium. The winner will play for a Class 5A Division I state championship game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington at 8 p.m. Dec. 22.

“I can’t even think about Texas right now,” he said. “It’s not fair to my kids right now.”

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Who could Longhorns hire as RBs coach? 

December, 12, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas has made it official: The Longhorns are looking for a running backs coach.

[+] EnlargeClaude Mathis
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comDeSoto head coach Claude Mathis is well respected among his peers and could be an option for the Longhorns.
Oh yeah and Bryan Harsin is gone, Major Applewhite is now calling plays as the co-offensive coordinator, Darrell Wyatt has been elevated to co-offensive coordinator, Stacy Searels is now the assistant head coach for offense, and Bruce Chambers is in the primary staffer in charge of coordinator recruiting.

But forget all the Scrabble-tile shifting of titles at Texas for a moment, the Longhorns are in the market for a new running backs coach. Now all they have to do is figure out what type of qualities that coach must possess.

Someone who can figure out the distribution of carries for the running backs should not be on top of the list. That’s Applewhite’s job now. And seeing as how running backs already know how to run, well a great technician is not exactly a huge necessity either. It helps but it is not crucial.

What Texas needs in a running back coach is someone who can help recruit Texas. The Longhorns, through their own failings on the field, and Texas A&M’s momentum both on and off it, have become the less bright star in the state. More than anything high school players want to go to a place where they believe their talents can be showcased against the best. Right now the best place for that is Texas A&M.

The Aggies play in a superior conference and this year, at least, played superior ball to Texas. So it is not a huge shock that Texas A&M has 34 commitments and has steamrolled right into 2014.

That’s not to say Texas is not resigned to being a wallflower within the state. The Longhorns have the power to get any recruit they need in the state. It’s just that Texas needs some help flipping that switch. And that is where the running back coach comes into the picture.

Texas can go one of two routes here.

The first is with a Texas high school. DeSoto’s Claude Mathis fits this bill perfectly. He is up for national coach of the year, churns out of ton of recruits, wins on a consistent basis, has the respect of other high school coaches in the state and has shown with his brief dabble at going to Houston earlier this year (and then subsequently heading back to DeSoto) he is willing to make the jump to college.

What Mathis would do for Texas is curry tremendous favor for Mack Brown among high school coaches. It will once again show that Brown feels there is coaching talent at that level and is willing to give a high school coach a shot. The benefits of that are immeasurable when it comes to being tapped into the Texas high school network.

A Mathis hire would also give Texas a bridge between the world the current Longhorns coaches are in and the high school world. Mathis is more in touch with high school kids and understands their wants and needs better because he has been around them every day. Figuring out the psyche of a 17-year-old player is not an easy thing and Mathis could help in that.

Now, Texas might opt to go a completely different route with a veteran coach like Tim Brewster. Like Mathis, Brewster makes sense on several fronts.

Brewster and Brown have a long relationship, have worked together in the past at Texas and North Carolina and understand what each expects out of the other. Brewster respects Brown’s abilities so much he sent his son to play safety for the Longhorns. When Nolan was unable to play due to injury, Brown took care of him.

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AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bryan Harsin has moved on to Arkansas State, sources told ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's Ian Fitzsimmons.

[+] EnlargeBryan Harsin
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesBryan Harsin spent two seasons at Texas after 10 seasons at Boise State.
Now the time has come for co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Major Applewhite to move up to the role of playcaller.

That’s right, for once a coaching search at Texas should be short-lived and equally as short on drama. That’s because Applewhite is already in the building and has half the title in front of his name. So it goes to reason in this silly season of college sports when there oft times is no rhyme or reason to whom is hired, that Texas will remove the "co" from in front of offensive coordinator and promote the former Texas quarterback.

It would provide the smoothest transition for an offense that returns all of its integral pieces from 2012, including all four quarterbacks, three running backs, two starting wide receivers and the entire offensive line.

In addition, Applewhite has had his finger on the pulse of the quarterback situation for the past two years and understands this position far better than any outsider could. That also means he understands the importance of getting the right player into that position so that Texas' offense, which produced in fits and spurts in 2012, is able to build on whatever gains it made as the Longhorns move toward 2013.

Of course the first question that will be asked of Applewhite is about the aforementioned quarterbacks. That is until he calls a play that doesn’t work. But for the time being the focus will be on how Applewhite judges and ultimately selects a Texas quarterback for the Valero Alamo Bowl and beyond.

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Built to Perform: Texas running game

November, 28, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas -- The focus might be on Case McCoy and the quarterback position as No. 18 Texas is headed into No. 6 Kansas State.

But the onus is on the running game.

That’s what Texas has to have to win. It’s what Texas has had when it has won. During the four-game win streak that was halted by TCU, the Longhorns averaged 201.5 rushing yards per game. Against TCU, Texas had just 86 rushing yards.

"Obviously, if you can run it, you'd like to," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "We just weren't running it well."

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray
Michael C. Johnson/US PresswireFreshman running back Johnathan Gray has had the hot hand lately for the Longhorns.
That’s why Texas found itself out of the running for a BCS game.

But all is not lost for the Longhorns. Another win would mark an improvement, however slight, from last season's total of eight. And an upset win over Kansas State would be the program’s biggest win since winning at No. 5 Nebraska in 2010.

But to get both, Texas must get back to what it got the eight wins to start with -- a run game that is built to perform in the big games.

"You hope you're in a position where you're running enough plays, you have opportunities to run the ball, those guys are getting chances to play," said co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin.

Those guys -- Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray -- have not all had equal opportunities. Youth kept Gray in a limited role until the fourth quarter of the Oklahoma State game. That happened to be the same game in which Brown suffered a high ankle sprain in the first half.

The TCU game represented the first time Brown was completely healthy. But ready as he was to play, Texas was not ready for him. Turnovers forced the offense to play catch up in the second half. As a result, carries were down and Brown never touched the field.

Now Texas has the opportunity to get all three backs touches against a defense that just gave up a season-high 342 rushing yards to Baylor, a passing team. Texas’ season-high in rushing was 350 yards in the third week of the season against Ole Miss when, not so coincidentally, all three back were healthy.

It was Brown who led the way that day with 128 yards. Gray had 50 and Bergeron 48.

It’s not likely Brown will get enough touches to lead the way against KSU. Gray, who has 338 rushing yards since being installed as starter four games ago, should once again lead the team in carries. Bergeron will be the second option.

"When guys get injured, other guys step up," Harsin said. "That's what you ask them to do, what you expect them to do. Guys have done that."

That doesn’t mean that Brown cannot step up and add yet another dimension to this run game. Prior to his injury, Brown was the team’s leading rusher and it’s best threat to break a tackle outside of the tackles. Brown has gained 58 percent of his yards outside the tackles.

If Brown is able to break a few runs in the third or fourth series -- the most likely time that Harsin said he would put Brown in -- then Texas once again may have three options.

"It comes down to who is running the ball the best, who has the hot hand," Harsin said. "We want to let those guys get into a flow. It's usually about one or two guys."

At Texas, because of the way the run game has been built, it could be about three guys.
AUSTIN, Texas – Nearly three years after Colt McCoy left, Texas is looking up at square one.

Oh sure, some -- those who get paid by donations, tickets sales, etc. -- will say Texas has two quarterbacks. But that statement implies either is reliable and capable. At this point, 22 games since the two-quarterback talk began -- it was following Garrett Gilbert’s yanking in the BYU game in 2011 that "McAsh" was born -- neither David Ash or Case McCoy have proven to be consistently so.

[+] EnlargeCase McCoy
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesAfter replacing David Ash, Case McCoy was 11-of-17 for 110 yards an an interception vs. TCU.
The argument, almost valid for those who turned a blind eye to Oklahoma, Kansas and TCU or as mathematicians like to put it, 27 percent of the games played, is that David Ash has proven to have the skill and arm as well as a command of the offense that best allows Texas to win.

Except for when he doesn’t.

Ash has started 17 games at Texas. He has been pulled due to lack of performance in 23.5 percent of those games. Texas has lost three of the four games in which Ash has been pulled, narrowly escaping a loss with two fourth-quarter touchdowns at 1-10 Kansas.

There could also be an argument made Ash cost Texas the West Virginia game. After West Virginia scored to take a 41-38 lead, Texas had the ball at the WVU 34-yard line with 2nd-and-8. Ash was sacked and threw two straight incompletions to turn the ball over on downs.

The defense got it right back and the offense went to work this time at the WVU 12. Texas lost 12 yards on the drive. Ash checked out of one pass play for a three-yard run. An ill-advised early shotgun snap cost Texas 16 yards. West Virginia has had one of the 10 worst defenses in FBS all season.

Ash took the blame for the debacle. So, in that instance, the sophomore did step up.

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There was a lot riding on Texas’ first play from scrimmage against Iowa State.

Everyone knew the Longhorns would line up in the wishbone in honor of Darrell K. Royal for that one play, but no one knew what was going to come of it.

[+] EnlargeDurham Smythe
Miller Safrit/ESPN.comClass of 2013 tight end Durham Smythe could see earlier time for the Longhorns.
Snap. Pitch to Jaxon Shipley, who throws it back to David Ash in the endzone, who then throws it to ... a tight end, the same position that Mack Brown listed as one of his two chief concerns heading into the season? Gulp.

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Texas Longhorns Show Out On Pro Day
The Texas Longhorns produced several eligible NFL Draft athletes who participated in Pro Day Tuesday afternoon in Austin, Texas.