Monday, March 7, 2011
Longhorns adjusting to new faces, schemes
By David Ubben
AUSTIN, Texas -- Never mind the seven-year itch. Mack Brown is long past that by now, rolling in wins every year in his first 12 seasons to keep fans from wondering what if someone else held the title of Longhorn Leader.
Texas coach Mack Brown is ready to put last season behind him.
"Whether we like it or not, people like new. They like fresh," Brown said. "We won a lot of games and did really well, but 13 years is a long time to be at a place. Sometimes change is good."
Nothing spurs change faster than a five-win season like the Longhorns endured in 2010. Brown replaced three coaches, including offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who had become a lightning rod for fan criticism in recent seasons, never more so than last season. Two more, including defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, left for new jobs.
The process of getting used to all those new faces after three seasons without a staff change is underway at Texas this spring.
"It’s fun to have new ideas because we’ve been doing the same stuff for so long," Brown said. "We haven’t had any -- well, much -- changes on offense in our offensive staff for 15 years, really."
Texas' vision for its new offense is ambitious, but direct. Stacey Searels came from Georgia to coach the offensive line. Darrell Wyatt moved from Kansas to coach the Longhorns' receivers. And they'll work under Bryan Harsin, who called plays for five years at Boise State before accepting an offer from the Longhorns. He turned down several others in the past few offseasons.
Defensively, Manny Diaz went from coordinator at Middle Tennessee State two years ago, to Mississippi State last season, to Texas. He had glowing recommendations from everyone Brown spoke with. Bo Davis moved in from Alabama to add some more SEC flavor to the staff and coach the defensive line.
Diaz's defense, Brown says, isn't much different from what Muschamp established in three seasons at Texas. The Longhorns will aggressively attack offenses.
"Manny is just all over the place. They're not going to read. they're not going to sit," Brown said. "I like that Manny does a great job disguising his secondary. He does a lot of pro stuff. He does stuff like the New York Jets are doing, and I wanted that to be fun for our fans and our kids."
Offensively, though, Texas is working on big changes.
"It’s been fun to watch them all work. It’s like putting pieces of a puzzle together," Brown said. "We don’t want Alabama or Georgia’s offense. We don’t want Boise State’s offense. We want a Texas offense."
To make a step toward getting it, Brown had to say goodbye to his longtime coordinator Davis, squashing criticisms that their close relationship had become a detriment to the program and would prevent Brown from making the change so many fans wanted to see.
"Greg’s a great friend, he’s a tremendous professional. My relationship with him hasn’t changed. People might think it has, but it has not," Brown said. "There were people that thought Greg was in my wedding. Well, I’ve had two of them, and he wasn’t in either one. It wasn’t like we were best of friends off the field. We’ve been good friends for years, but when you’re in the office, it's professional."
Harsin's new offense will feature pre-snap motion unlike anything Texas has seen under Brown. Additionally, it will continue Brown's desire to establish a two-back offense that's also versatile. Harsin's teams in five seasons at Boise State averaged more than 187 yards on the ground, but also had the ability to run four and five-receiver sets in a fast-paced, no-huddle scheme.
Not to mention the trick plays that became a signature of Boise's offense in a pair of Fiesta Bowl wins, including a classic finish against Texas' rival, Oklahoma that featured a hook-and-ladder, a halfback pass and a Statue of Liberty play to win the game.
"I’ve never seen that before and Bryan was about 28 when he made those calls," Brown said. "He’s aggressive and out of the box."
Like another out-of-the-box coach in the Big 12, Mike Leach, Harsin will run many of the same plays out of different formations. The difference is Harsin's offense will more often feature power runs with distracting motion before the snap that are fueled by blocking schemes that don't change.
"What I’ve learned is it’s a very complicated-looking offense with very simple theories. That’s what I really like," Brown said. "Bryan will have five runs, but he’ll run them from so many different -- 26 formations -- that everybody will think they’re different runs, but it’s the same blocking scheme for the linemen and [defenses are] the ones that really have the problem."
In a league that's become known for passing offenses and getting gashed by power running games outside the conference, Brown wants his new offense to be ahead of the trends that have become common in the Big 12.
"That's what we hope. I wanted to be different," he said. "I think it’s time to go back to two backs and be more multiple, and that’s a fun change for me, too, because it’s different than what I’m used to."