- Carter Strickland, Reporter, HornsNation
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Over the past three seasons, Texas lined up in offenses that pushed fans to line up ampersands, exclamation points, hashtags, upside-down questions marks (typically a "what the" precedes the Hieroglyphic-like rant) right in a row in a rather descriptive and, ahem, colorful flurry of frustration in comment sections and message boards spread far and wide across the burnt-orange word wide web.
These Lenny Bruces of the shift key have been flummoxed at how fast -- seriously, Hale-Bopp has moved at a less rapid rate -- their Longhorns have fallen on offense. There's further frustration that the precipitous drop seems to have no bottom. Former co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin proved to be just another trap door in the free fall that has everyone else in college football pointing and tittering with glee.
Don't even try and bring up 56 points against Baylor or 66 against Ole Miss in defense of the offense, because there will always be the 21 -- 13 of which were throwaway points -- against Oklahoma this year and the 17 -- seven of which were throwaway points -- in 2011. And as long as Bob Stoops has his hand on Texas' ripcord, there is no debate strong enough to sway the majority opinion.
But finally Texas appears to be ready to give voice to an argument that the attitude of the offense will change. Now that doesn't mean Mack Brown has suddenly become Clarence Darrow, countering and scheming with aplomb. He still has Marcia Clark qualities. In fact, when allowed the opportunity to grandstand about his new play-caller and imminent changes earlier this week, Brown demurred and, for a time, became flummoxed himself at a pointed quarterback query thrown his way.
No, Texas' new hope that it possibly has regained some of its old edge comes in the form of Major Applewhite. Once again, the freshly promoted play-caller is being painted as the hero, called up from the rear, ready to dazzle and make fans wonder aloud what could have been had he been the man two years earlier.
It is all so 2001.
Back then Applewhite was passed over for the flashy Chris Simms. This last time (2010-11), Applewhite was passed over for another bright, shiny object that caught Brown's attention, Harsin.
It's Applewhite, though, who might again have the grit and guts it takes to infuse the heart and attitude that has proven to be paramount to success at Texas.
"Major has never lacked for confidence," Brown said.
Odd for Brown to say that now, seeing as he is the one who, so often, didn't have it in Applewhite. Now, in these desperate times -- "... we are not an eight‑win program," Brown said repeatedly this week. "I mean, that's not who we are," -- Brown finally has made the logical choice to put his faith, and quite possibly his legacy, in the hands of Applewhite. That those hands already are balled into fists, ready to come out swinging, bodes well for Texas.
"Most people know how he leads from his play, and he is still the same person," Texas quarterback David Ash said.
"A lot of the guys trust Major Applewhite," Kenny Vaccaro said.
Vaccaro is a defensive player. He only crossed paths with Applewhite on special teams. But still, the senior understands the type of impact Applewhite had on the team in a smaller role and the type of impact he will have now that his role has expanded.
"He's been in the locker room," Vaccaro said. "He understands players well. It really connects with the players, everything he says."
Not only do Applewhite's words have impact -- that fact cannot be overestimated when dealing with 18-22-year-old players -- they also carry a wealth of history about what it means to play for and win at Texas. When it comes down to it, players want to listen to coaches they respect and who have been where they are. Applewhite is that type of coach.
"Things that he has told me, never a lot, just every once in awhile he would give me a piece of advice, all those things that he told me before just kind of flashed in my head, and I just realized every single thing he has ever told me has been spot on and right on and really helped me," Ash said. "He has been through this. He has experienced all the things that we're going through, and he knows how to deal with it in that regard."
Applewhite also knows how to deal with Brown. While not always on the sideline together, the two have been connected for 15 years. That has allowed Applewhite more than a window into what Brown expects and, quite frankly, what he needs as the veteran coach tries to rebuild his program.
That doesn't make him a puppet. It makes him an asset; one that Texas desperately needs to exploit as it rebuilds an offense that has been without a solid direction or attitude over the past three years.
"Every coach, every player, every CEO of a company has his way of leading, and Coach Applewhite is no different," Ash said.
The hope is, though, that Applewhite leads Texas in a different direction.