Jay Norvell's only full season calling plays was during 2007 at UCLA. The Bruins went 6-7 that season and the coaching staff was fired afterward.


Who is Jay Norvell, Texas’ new play-caller?

Norvell hasn’t called plays since the 2007 season at UCLA, when the Bruins went 6-7

Posted September 8th, 2015

Story highlights
  • Watson, Norvell actually worked together at Nebraska during the 2006 season.
  • Norvell was raised on the West Coast passing system, just like Watson was.
  • Reports described Norvell's firing at Oklahoma as Bob Stoops' way of saving himself.

Those who believe Jay Norvell has vast experience running the spread offense may be disappointed.

Norvell hasn’t called plays since the 2007 season at UCLA. And even then, coach Karl Dorrell told reporters he hired Norvell because of his knowledge of the West Coast offense, the same philosophical style Shawn Watson was raised on.

Texas coach Charlie Strong named Norvell his new play-caller Tuesday’s evening. The 52-year-old replaces quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson as the Longhorns (0-1) look for a spark after getting drubbed in their last three games by a combined score of 117-20.

One of Jay Norvell's main challenges will be to get the ball in the hands of playmakers, like Texas receiver Daje Johnson. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
One of Jay Norvell’s main challenges will be to get the ball in the hands of playmakers, like Texas receiver Daje Johnson. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

“It’s about fixing the problem,” Strong said. “You either accept the problem or divorce yourself from it, and you just let it go. I couldn’t let it go.”

Norvell spent the last seven years at Oklahoma before coming to UT. However, it’s his time with the Bruins that’s now in focus. UCLA hired Norvell after he spent three seasons as Nebraska’s offensive coordinator. However, Nebraska coach Bill Callahan called the plays with the Huskers, and Norvell simply helped formulate the game plans.

Watson and Norvell actually worked together at Nebraska during the 2006 season. Watson encouraged Strong to hire Norvell prior to this season at Texas.

“I’m ready now. I’ve prepared my entire career to gain some more responsibilities,” Norvell told Los Angeles reporters on a conference call in January 2007. “We run a pro-style attack, very multiple, and play to a good tempo. We’re going to be extremely demanding of the kids.”

Dorrell, who interviewed Norvell for the same job in 2004, was impressed with what he saw in Lincoln, Neb. Huskers quarterback Zac Taylor was the Big 12’s offensive player of the year and had set school records for passing yards and touchdowns.

Norvell also told the Los Angeles Times he had “some play-calling” experience during his stay at Iowa State from 1995-97. The depth of his involvement wasn’t clear.

During the 2007 season, UCLA used multiple quarterbacks. Ben Olson ended up leading all Bruins passers with 1,040 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions. The offense tallied 333.7 yards per game, which ranked 99th out of 119 FBS teams. UCLA ranked 92nd nationally in scoring with 22.4 points per game.

The Bruins went 6-7 that season. Dorrell was fired afterward, along with the entire staff, and the program hired Rick Neuheisel. Norvell landed at Oklahoma as the receivers coach.

He was promoted to OU’s co-offensive coordinator in 2010. However, OU coach Bob Stoops fired Norvell and other offensive coaches after the 2014 season when the Sooners grew stagnant. Some Oklahoma media reports painted the picture that offensive coaches were thrown overboard so Stoops could save his own job. Norvell and Stoops once were teammates during their playing days at Iowa in the early 1980s.

“By no means are those guys scapegoats,” Stoops told reporters. “I just feel like we have to go in a different direction.”

For Norvell, that direction was Austin. Strong hired Norvell to replace Les Koenning, who was fired after only one season. Now, he takes over play-calling duties for an offense that ranks 124th nationally in total offense. Dead last.

In Texas’ last three games, the offense has gone three-and-out on 21 of 40 drives. The offense had zero or negative yardage on 47 percent of its plays.

“It’s embarrassing,” running back Johnathan Gray said. “It’s the University of Texas. Those are not our standards. We want to be the best offense in the country.”


Jay Norvell's coaching career

2015Wide ReceiversTexas
2011-14Co-Offensive Coordinator/ReceiversOklahoma
2008-10Asst. Offensive Coordinator/ReceiversOklahoma
2007Offensive Coordinator/QuarterbacksUCLA
2004-06Offensive Coordinator/QuarterbacksNebraska
2002-03Tight EndsOakland Raiders
1998-2001ReceiversIndianapolis Colts
1995-97Asst. Head Coach/Quarterbacks/ReceiversIowa State
1989-94Offensive Line/Receivers/Special TeamsWisconsin
1988Wide ReceiversNorthern Iowa
1986-87Graduate AssistantIowa