Johnny Walker: His thoughts on coaching moves
Bobby Burton, National analyst
Former Longhorn wide receiver Johnny Walker talks candidly in this week’s Q&A for Hookem.com.
Now that its done, what’s your reaction to the resignation of Greg Davis as the offensive coordinator at Texas?
Johnny Walker: I have a great deal of respect for Greg Davis and what he’s done at the University of Texas. He’s had some of the best offenses in the history of the Big 12 and some of the best offenses Texas has ever seen. In his 13 years, they had 11 of the best offensive seasons Texas has ever had. He coached one the greatest college quarterbacks ever in Vince Young and the winningest college quarterback ever in Colt McCoy. You can’t take any of that away from him. That being said, things became stagnant and the lack of creativity in the offense along with the security of the success they’ve had in the past created complacency. I think that complacency is the reason for the drop off this past season and is a big reason why things are the way they are right now.
Was there anything in your mind that could be considered Davis’ ultimate downfall?
JW: I think it was his lack of creativity that really hurt him. At the press conferences, it was something he really couldn’t answer. Someone would ask him about D.J. Monroe and he would talk about discipline or something that didn’t have anything to do with football. All anybody really wanted was a football-related answer or for him to talk about strategy. On top of that, he didn’t have the right scheme to fit his personnel, they didn’t prepare well this season and things just got worse as the season moved forward.
Some will ask if this is a move that had to happen. In your mind, was this move necessary?
JW: Without a doubt. In order for Texas to be a national power and an elite program they needed to make a move. It is just unfortunate that everything just kind of piled up at once. Throughout the year, the team and the players weren’t prepared and the coaching wasn’t good enough in terms of being able to scheme and gameplan against the nuances of defenses in college football today. They just didn’t have “it” this season, and for Texas to get back to being a contender they need to do whatever they can to get it back. I think this is the move to get them there.
Having been in this same situation as a player at Texas, what are some of the players feeling right now?
JW: There’s a lot of doubt right now. That’s why the new hire needs to be made as soon as possible, because, as a player, you want to know. Prolonging things doesn’t do any good. You want to know what direction the team is going and what the offense is going to be so you can make your decision on whether you fit in or whether you need to think about transferring. It’s important that they get the hires made as soon as they can.
When looking at the possible candidates, is there a type of coach or a specific coach that you think fits what Texas needs in an offensive coordinator?
JW: I’ve made an attempt to evaluate and look at all of the different candidates that I’ve seen who could possibly be hired.
Gus Malzhan won the Broyles Award and that puts him in a position to make a big move. He’s the type of coach though that based on his success, he’s on the verge of getting a head coaching job and if he were to come to Texas, I don’t see him being here for more than a year or two at the most. I just don’t know if that’s the route Texas wants to go.
Dana Holgorsen is a guy I think would be a great hire, but he seems to have some baggage that concerns some people. After the Cleve Bryant situation, I think Texas might want to stay away from the baggage, no matter on what level, and get someone with no baggage.
I’ve looked at Bryan Harsin and I think he would be an incredible hire. I’ve looked at some of the diagrams of the plays he calls and his philosophies and I really like what he brings to the table. He seems to be a believer in maximizing his personnel, attacking the defense with more personnel in terms of overloads and creating mismatches, and he utilizes everyone. He seems like he’d be able to get the most out of what Texas has now and incorporate the likes of Malcolm Brown. I think, too, Mack Brown seems to have a lot of respect for what Boise State does. I know the two staffs worked with each other after last season and he’s already well aware of what Harsin can do as a coordinator.
I’ll always have an allegiance to Major Applewhite for what he did as a player at Texas, but also because I think he has a tremendous future as an offensive coordinator. I think the one thing that could limit him in terms of getting this job is that Texas was so bad on offense this year that I think they almost have to go out and get someone who has a been a coordinator recently and can get the offense on track right away. That’s nothing against Major – I think he’s got an unbelievable future – but I think he might be better suited with co-coordinator title this time around. The Texas offense was just so poor that I think they may need to get the most proven guy they can get right now to get it back on track next season. But if Major is the call, I’d support the decision 100-percent.
With Chad Morris, it would be a tough situation for him to come into if he were hired. I think the fact that he coached Garrett Gilbert in high school could cause some uneasiness. I think the quarterback needs to be open next season whether they feel Gilbert is the right guy right off the bat or not. I think they’re going to have a lot of talent on campus at quarterback this spring and I think it would only be fair to the other guys and to the well being of the offense to open up that spot.
Is there a certain trait or something specific you’re looking for in the new offensive coordinator hire?
JW: I think you need someone who is going to maximize personnel and take advantage of matchups. That’s why I think Harsin would be the best guy for the job based on the things I previously mentioned. I think all positions need to be open. The only skill guy I really think is even close to having a position locked down is Mike Davis. That being the case, I think they need to really find out what they have in terms of personnel by opening up every job for competition. Again, I think the key is having the quarterback position open. That’s nothing against Garrett Gilbert, but he was so inconsistent this year that it needs to be open for competition. I think they need to really find which quarterback is going to fit the scheme, and if he wins the job then so be it, but they need to open it up.
With Mac McWhorter choosing to retire, do you think there was too much blame put on him as the offensive line coach this season?
JW: I don’t think it was very fair to him. They had no scheme whatsoever and they had horrible game plans this season and I think it caught up with them in the end. I don’t think he got a fair assessment because they haven’t had the talent up front they’ve had in past years either. I think the new hire will need to fall in line with the new coordinator as far as being able to take advantage of matchups and being able to find weaknesses in the defense and being able to exploit them. I think too often Greg Davis‘ offense was based too much on one-on-one matchups and just saying, “my guy is better than yours and we’ll win that battle.” They weren’t talented enough to do that this season. When you look at a guy like Harsin, he’s never had the type of talent at Boise that he’ll have at Texas. He’ll be able to put those talented guys in a position to succeed.
It’s expected that Bobby Kennedy will not return next season. Do you think there needs to be a change at wide receivers coach?
JW: Definitely. I don’t think Bobby Kennedy did a very good job with the receivers this year. I thought going into the season that Texas had more talent at that position than any other and they underachieved more than any other position on the team. That alone calls for a change. I still say in terms of physical talent they were the best receiving corps Texas has ever had. They just didn’t do anything consistently well – not enough to get the job done.
Outside of schemes or game plans, what is something this team needs to focus on as we move into the offseason and towards spring football?
JW: I think there needs to be a recommitment to “Texas Pride” and a sense of dedication to the program. I think everyone associated with the program learned a valuable lesson this season that you have to work hard every day and have pride in what you do. It seemed like the team took the success they’ve had over the last few years for granted and kind of forgot what it took to get them on top. We kept hearing about a sense of entitlement, but to me that can mean confidence. Having confidence in everything around you to the point where you buy in and it creates a great environment. I think there are probably some guys who need to go back to just working their butt off to do their part to help this program get back on top.
With Mike Tolleson‘s retirement, it leaves a hole at special teams coordinator. What does Texas need to look for in the next special teams coach?
JW: Up until this year, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the special teams. I think whoever the next special teams coach is just needs to be fully aware of the personnel available and use to the best of your advantage. The obvious one is punt returns. I never like having a defensive back return punts because I think with all of the guys you have on offense who can handle the ball, you can find a few guys who can do the job. If not, then in recruiting that’s something that needs to be looked at in terms of being able to recruit guys who can be big-time contributors on special teams.
In your opinion, how important is the hire that will take Tolleson’s place as the defensive tackles coach?
JW: I just think they need to bring in a big-time defensive tackles coach. That’s a position that proved to be huge in Coach Muschamp’s defense because we saw that when that position struggles it puts the defense in a bind. There’s already a lot of pressure on the linebackers to make plays and when the tackles can’t do their job it creates problems. I just thought they didn’t have the right personnel there this season. You had guys like Alex Okafor trying to play tackle but physically couldn’t hold up at times. I think it a huge position for the success of the defensive, and with Coach Tolley leaving they’ll need to make a good hire there.
Johnny Walker was a former two-time all-Southwest Conference receiver for the Texas Longhorns and provides a weekly Q&A for Hookem.com.