Football

Norvell named play-caller

Kris Boyd and Jay Norvell. (Justin Wells/IT)
Kris Boyd and Jay Norvell. (Justin Wells/IT)

By: Ian Boyd and Mike Blackwell

AUSTIN — The offensive meeting room was not a united place from Day 1.

Charlie Strong brought Shawn Watson aboard and gave him authority to build his multiple pro-style offense…but surrounded him with spread offensive coaches. Naturally, the only remotely pro-style capable QB went down in Week 1 along with most of the veterans on the OL and Watson’s fate was more or less sealed as an OC.

The Wickline-Watson marriage was whenever a positive one, lack of pre-marital counseling imo. Wickline wants to run zone schemes and little else, his understanding of how to attack a defense is limited to spread-style “count the numbers and react accordingly.”

Meanwhile, Watson’s control over the offense meant that Texas’ inexperienced OL last year was using up valuable practice reps learning pin & pull, trap, lead G, and power blocking schemes rather than using that invaluable time on mastering Wickline’s exceptionally detailed zone techniques.

Kicking out Chambers and Koenning in order to bring in an ambitious HS coach with big picture spread understanding to rival any of them as well as a coach who when last an OC had Watson under him on his staff…this was never going to repair the problem that was a lack of cohesion between the OC and “assistant head coach in charge of offense.”

Perhaps the biggest problem for Watson was the QBs on campus. Swoopes cratered mentally under the strain of trying to be the QB at THE University of Texas while all the infrastructure designed to help him manage that responsibility was crumbling around him.

So here we are, Norvell assumes the job and the responsibility of building an offense around Heard that can finally get the Texas offense on track.

Our own @shanew21 did a nice thread recently comparing Watson the play-caller to Norvell the play-caller and it was clear that the deposed QB coach has the stronger resume in that position, but there are reasons for hope as Jay assumes responsibility for the Texas offense moving forward.

For starters, the goal of this offense is now to be as simple and straightforward as possible about the task of using spread-option and up-tempo tactics to get the ball into the hands of fast people in space. This is a totally doable task and the Longhorns have plenty of speed to make it work.

If he can’t get it done…Strong is going to need to pull the trigger on an established OC in the offseason or the next coach to lose their position at Texas will be Charlie. – IB

_________________

Awaiting the normal arrival of Shawn Watson, Tuesday’s media gathering was instead greeted by head coach Charlie Strong, who announced that Watson would no longer be calling the plays for the Texas offense.

Jay Norvell, UT receivers coach, will take over play-calling duties. Watson has been reassigned to quarterback coaching duties only and Joe Wickline, who shared play-calling duties with Watson, will now only coach the offensive line.

“Jay is the sole play-caller,” Strong said, emphatically. “It is not shared.”

Strong kept using the word “production” when asked for the particular motives behind his decision to demote Watson and Wickline.

“We have to get better, it’s all about production,” Strong said. “I just came to the conclusion that we’ve got to get better. It’s a tough thing…Shawn and Joe were both upset, and they should be upset. But they understood.”

Strong said the decision was made prior to Tuesday’s practice, and added that he didn’t think the offensive players would be overly concerned with the changes.

“Most of them just want the ball,” said Strong with slight humor. “I don’t think it will be that big of a deal for them.”

Norvell – who coached at OU for seven years (four as Co-offensive coordinator) – had been signaling plays from the sidelines for UT this season. His offensive background is the spread, which might suggest current backup quarterback Jerrod Heard would be elevated to the starting quarterback job, but Strong said a starting quarterback would not be named until later this week.

“Both players have to play, and both have to succeed,” Strong said of his quarterbacks. “And the quarterbacks are so young, they need a lot of work, so that’s a major job.”

Running back Johnathan Gray evidently received the news only a bit earlier than the media.

“We just got the news, so it’s still fresh,” Gray said. “We’ve got to go with what the coaches decide. The team has to figure this out. Coach Norvell is a smart coach, he knows what he’s doing. The players like him.”

Defensive back Duke Thomas said, “I am (surprised). I didn’t see it coming. The urgency is there and we are trying to move forward.”

Strong, who said the decision was solely his, added that the decision was a difficult one.

“It’s always tough,” Strong said. “You have to set aside your friendship. It’s never easy. It’s about fixing the problem. I couldn’t let it go. This university and this program are too big for me to let that happen.”

MB