Can Applewhite help stabilize the Texas offense?

With Bryan Harsin leaving Texas to become the new head coach at Arkansas State, Longhorns head coach Mack Brown has appointed Major Applewhite and wide receivers coach Darrell Wyatt as co-offensive coordinators, with Applewhite taking over play-calling duties from the new Red Wolves head coach.

Applewhite, who was also the team's running backs coach, will now coach the quarterbacks in addition to calling the plays. A new running backs coach will be hired.

Major ApplewhiteMajor Applewhite will take over play-calling duties at Texas.

Elevating Applewhite makes a lot of sense for the Longhorns because he worked closely with Harsin on game plans as co-OC, helping the 'Horns establish the physical running game that Brown had been seeking with a deep backfield. Combined with Harsin's spread-offense principles and liberal use of misdirection/trick plays, the Longhorns were an improved offensive unit in 2012.

But the 'Horns still have issues at quarterback, as David Ash could not sustain his strong start to the season.

The sophomore certainly continued his development this fall, but he continues to have trouble with red-zone turnovers. He tossed two interceptions in a loss to TCU on Thanksgiving Night, which gave him seven interceptions inside the red zone this season. He struggled in the loss to Oklahoma and the near-defeat to Kansas, and Case McCoy received the start in the regular-season finale against Kansas State.

When the team's ground game was unable to get in rhythm against faster defenses this fall, the offense couldn't move the football. With Ash and McCoy coming back next year, it is imperative that Applewhite get better play from both signal-callers. Because unless Connor Brewer proves that he could be the answer in spring and preseason camp, the 'Horns may have the same issues at QB.

The 34-year-old Applewhite, who was an offensive coordinator at Rice and Alabama, should transition seamlessly into the role of play-caller. But his biggest task may be working with his quarterbacks, who hold the key to the team's offensive fortunes in 2013.

Throughout the 2012 campaign, quarterback issues crept up for the 'Horns in their biggest games. If that happens again next season, it may be Brown's last in Austin.

Starting with the team's matchup with Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl, Applewhite will get his chance to bring some stability to a unit that is still trying to find an identity. He's already been an asset to the team's running backs, and Brown is hopeful that Applewhite's experience as a QB himself under the bright lights in Austin will strengthen a position that has become an annual concern.

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