Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Is Mack Brown channeling Bear Bryant?
By David Ubben
Plenty has been written about Texas' offseason overhaul, and plenty more will be written.
But as the Longhorns prepare to kick off spring practice, Football Outsiders' KC Joyner asks: Is Mack Brown restructuring his program around what Alabama great Bear Bryant once did to begin the 1970s?
He says Brown's offseason moves mirror what Bryant talked about in his autobiography. His moves resulted in three national championships during that decade after winning three in the 60s, sandwiched around a mediocre 28-15-2 record from 1967-70.
It's a fascinating read, but Joyner's argument hinges on three big connections.
1) Install a cutting edge offense
- Bryant went with the wishbone.
- Brown hired Bryan Harsin from Boise State.
"[Boise State] lined up in 26 formations against Wyoming and [Texas] lined up in six," co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said.
Sets and formations don't win games by themselves. But this type of offense could help quarterback juior Garrett Gilbert take the small steps necessary to play at the level of former Longhorns QB Colt McCoy.
2) Alter their recruiting philosophy
3) Don't stray far from core principles
- Bryant moved from smaller linemen to bulkier linemen after being whipped up front by Nebraska in the Orange Bowl
- Texas has signed just one top-15 running back in their previous five classes. This year, the Longhorns got highly touted running Malcolm Brown, who ESPN has as the nation's No. 2 running back. The Longhorns hope he has a similar impact as Auburn's Michael Dyer and South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore did in their true freshman seasons in 2010.
- Bryant won with smashmouth football, and lost trying to throw it. He went back to running it, just running it differently.
- Brown kept Applewhite as a co-coordinator, presumably to add some Texas influence into Harsin's Boise schemes. Applewhite has been in the program all but three seasons since 1998. First as a player, then as a graduate assistant before returning in 2008 to coach running backs. He knows what's given Brown success in the past, and while change is needed, a complete change isn't.
It's definitely an interesting thought to consider from Joyner. Oversimplified perhaps, considering the five coaching hires in the offseason that were a bit glossed over, but it still applies well. You need Insider to read it all, but you should. He digs a bit deeper into all three aspects of the change.
The moves worked well for Bryant, clearly.
Will it be the same for Texas?