American-Statesman staff writer Brian Davis examines the new Texas coaching staff:
ASSISTANT HEAD COACH/QUARTERBACKS
Shawn Watson, 54
Replacing: Major Applewhite
About Watson: Longtime Big 12 fans probably remember Watson as Colorado’s offensive coordinator from 2000-05. He joined Nebraska in 2006 and was the Huskers’ offensive coordinator from 2007-10. Last season at Louisville, Watson’s offense ranked 25th nationally in scoring (35.2 points per game), yet fans still criticized him for being too conservative at times.
Welcome to Texas: The two most criticized coaches are always the head coach and the person who calls the plays. Watson was Charlie Strong’s play-caller at Louisville, but at Texas, those duties will fall to new offensive coordinator Joe Wickline — for now. As quarterbacks coach, the race is wide open. David Ash missed most of last season with concussion symptoms. Tyrone Swoopes didn’t get much meaningful playing time, either. Incoming recruiting Jerrod Heard may get an early look, but few recruits walk in and start the first day.
ASSISTANT HEAD COACH/DEFENSIVE LINE
Chris Rumph, 42
Replacing: Bo Davis (Defensive tackles; USC — er, Alabama) and Oscar Giles (Defensive ends)
About Rumph: Rumph was a high school coach for five years in South Carolina and eventually became the linebackers coach at Memphis (2003-05). He was the defensive ends coach at Clemson for five seasons before Alabama.
Welcome to Texas: Tackles Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson return in the middle, and junior end Cedric Reed is skipping the NFL draft. That gives Rumph a great start. But from a big-picture standpoint, depth is questionable. Losing Chris Whaley hurts from an inspirational standpoint. Texas lost three defensive tackle recruits in the coaching change. Can Rumph recoup those losses?
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR/OFFENSIVE LINE
Joe Wickline, 55
Replacing: Applewhite, Stacy Searels
About Wickline: Wickline played at Florida and started his coaching career there. He eventually became the offensive line coach at Baylor from 1997-98. At Oklahoma State, Wickline’s unit ranked among the top 20 nationally in fewest sacks allowed per game from 2006-13.
Welcome to Texas: Wickline replaces Applewhite as Texas’ play caller, and as far as the offensive line is concerned, he’s essentially starting from scratch. The Longhorns lost three senior starters as well as veteran right tackle Josh Cochran, who’s giving up football. Wickline, known for developing linemen who weren’t highly-rated recruits, wants players who are versatile, ones who can play center/guard and guard/tackle. This is just mind-boggling considering Texas’ history: The Longhorns haven’t had an offensive lineman drafted since Tony Hills, back in 2008.
Vance Bedford, 55
Replacing: Greg Robinson
About Bedford: Played defensive back at Texas in 1977-79 and was a team captain in ‘81. Started his coaching career in 1985 and spent time at Oklahoma State (1993-94), Michigan (1995-98) and the Chicago Bears (1999-2004). Was OSU’s defensive coordinator in 2007 and Louisville’s coordinator from 2010-13.
Welcome to Texas: Texas’ defense was in total disarray last season until Greg Robinson took over prior to the third game. The Longhorns have solid players up front in end Cedric Reed and tackle Malcom Brown. Linebacker Jordan Hicks is also coming back from injury. From a statistical standpoint, the last two years have seen two of the worst defensive units in school history.
Tommie Robinson, 50
Replacing: Larry Porter
About Robinson: Robinson has been an assistant coach at every level of football, from a high school job in 1986 to the Dallas Cowboys (1998-2000) and the Arizona Cardinals (2010-2012). Under Robinson in 2011, Beanie Wells became the first 1,000-yard rusher in Cardinals franchise history.
Welcome to Texas: Texas hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2007. That’s shameful. Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron have all the talent necessary to become the best tandem in the nation. But Brown didn’t come on until late last season, and Bergeron was inconsistent. Johnathan Gray is recovering from Achilles surgery, so it’s unclear how he’ll bounce back.
Les Koenning, 54
Replacing: Darrell Wyatt
About Koenning: Charlie Strong said he’d hire coaches with Texas ties, and Koenning certainly qualifies. He played at Texas — he was a Longhorns teammate of Bedford’s for three seasons — and coached in this state off and on since becoming a UT grad assistant in 1981. He was Dennis Franchione’s offensive coordinator at Texas A&M from 2003-07. Since 2009, he’s been Dan Mullen’s offensive coordinator at Mississippi State.
Welcome to Texas: Statistically speaking, Mike Davis was the team’s best receiver last season with eight touchdowns. Junior Jaxon Shipley had a team-high 55 catches, but a pedestrian 581 yards. The quarterbacking situation last year hurt this unit’s overall numbers, so it’s hard to gauge who can be a star and who can’t.
Replacing: No one; Chambers is the lone holdover from Mack Brown’s final staff.
About Chambers: Chambers has been Texas’ recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach since 2005, though new linebackers coach Brian Jean-Marie will handle recruiting now. Strong clearly saw the value of having a Dallas native on the staff. Chambers played at Dallas Carter, eventually became the head coach there and knows how to recruit North Texas.
Welcome to Texas: The tight ends were the worst position group on the field last season, though maybe they weren’t utilized like they should have been. But Geoff Swaim had just as many drops in the Alamo Bowl (two) as he had catches during the regular season (two). last season, the tight ends were nothing more than extra blockers. Where have you gone, Jermichael Finley?
Replacing: Greg Robinson
About Jean-Mary: Jean-Mary (pronounced Jon-Muh-ree) played football and graduated from Appalachian State and later became a defensive assistant under Lou Holtz at South Carolina (2001-02). Coached linebackers at Georgia Tech (2004-09). Wherever he’s coached, all-conference linebackers have followed.
Welcome to Texas: Two of his starters, Jordan Hicks (Achilles) and Dalton Santos (hip), have recently had surgeries. Another, Steve Edmond, was lost for the season after Thanksgiving because of a lacerated liver. Santos is expected back for spring practice, but Hicks won’t be ready until August camp. Whether its through recruiting, developing who’s already on the roster or just plain luck, Texas needs to find a difference maker here.
DEFENSIVE BACKS/SPECIAL TEAMS
Replacing: Duane Akina
About Vaughn: Vaughn has been a defensive backs coach for more than a decade. But he’s also an organized, savvy recruiter who knows the Houston area well. He was the recruiting coordinator at Arkansas for four years (1997-2007) and was the defensive backs coach/recruiting coordinator at Ole Miss (2008-11).
Welcome to Texas: First impressions will mean everything with this group. The defensive backs were crushed when Strong did not retain Duane Akina, the 13-year assistant who currently has nine UT defensive backs playing in the NFL. Expect players to follow cornerback Quandre Diggs’ lead. The vocal leader of “DBU” will be a senior. Vaughn must win these guys over.
Replacing: Bennie Wylie
About Vaughn: Moorer was a walk-on player at Florida and ultimately became the strength and conditioning coach at South Carolina from 1999 to 2009. Most notably, he was the personal trainer for Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.
Welcome to Texas: Injuries can’t be blamed solely on the strength and conditioning staff. But the Longhorns resembled a MASH unit at times. Moorer’s job is to strengthen the players’ bodies and minds and weed out the weak. Players should get ready for “The Pit,” something even Louisville media members talk about in hushed tones.
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