AUSTIN (CBS SPORTS) – There isn’t a problem that can’t be solved over a greasy hamburger. That includes Texas football during a long lunch here at Dirty Martin’s Place, a classic burger joint on Guadalupe Street. Today’s subject: Tempo. Today’s interview subject: Mack Brown. The word itself is more than 300 years old. The Longhorns coach is in a bit more of a hurry.
“Tempo will find you,” Brown explains to his players later that day at practice.
It is the current buzzword at Texas that has exhausted linemen, opened eyes and been the promise for a rebranding of Longhorns football. Tempo. Texas wants to run 90 plays a game and score half that number in points. Not a bad place to start in the decidedly up-tempo Big 12.
We’re not going to tell you Texas is simply reloading. Things haven’t quite been the same since Colt McCoy led the Horns to the 2009 national championship game. In fact, there has been an epic bottoming out (5-7 in 2010) followed by incremental improvement the past two seasons.
This is definitely a rebuild at a place where, “nine wins… is a disaster,” according to Brown. The dichotomy is obvious: Texas could be favored to win the Big 12 in 2013 but is still on the mend — physically and psychologically. It also has gone from a coach-in-waiting (Will Muschamp) to a coach committed.
“I’ve had everything bad said about me,” said Brown over one of those Dirty Martin’s classics. “I really, truly matured enough where it’s not about me anymore. I can really care less [about critics]. I don’t care about a legacy. I don’t care about a record… I want to win games.”
Tempo, then, has found the Longhorns throughout the program. Offensive coordinator Major Applewhite has it mapped out on his office PC. There they are, a list of the leading practitioners of the zone-read, no-huddle offense — “Oregon, Clemson, Arizona, Louisiana Tech. A lot of their emphasis is how to go fast. The beauty in it is simplicity of scheme and beauty of tempo,” Applewhite said.
The offense is his after the departure of Bryan Harsin for Arkansas State. Applewhite speaks admiringly of the Texans running offenses at some of those schools — Sonny Dykes (Cal), Larry Fedora (North Carolina), Chad Morris (Clemson). Texas wants to be one of them — again. McCoy threw more than half the time in 2009. But even during that season, Texas was recruiting punishing backs knowing it had to become more balanced, knowing there would never be another Colt. (Or, as it turns out, an RG3, Andrew Luck or Johnny Football.)
“If you miss on a quarterback, the rest of it exposes you,” Brown said. “We weren’t running the ball as well and the quarterback wasn’t working out. All the sudden you look up and nothing is working out. People know that you’re not quite as good. Media piles on, the other team piles on.”
Tempo. No huddle. No time. This is Texas at the moment. Brown is 61, entering his 16th season, and seems reborn. He is not an old man, or coach, by any means. His energy level might be higher after going 22-16 the past three seasons. Most important, Brown is surrounded by a young staff with young ideas and a stabilized lineup (nine seniors with at least some starting experience).
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