All signs point toward Major Applewhite returning to Texas as he heads into today's interview with coach Mack Brown for a vacancy on the Longhorns' staff. Applewhite, 29, will be accompanied by his wife, Julie, a San Antonio native who -- like her husband -- would welcome a chance to move back to the Lone Star State.
Applewhite spent last season as Alabama's offensive coordinator. The Birmingham News reported that Applewhite's contract with the Crimson Tide would require Applewhite or his new school to pay a $50,000 buyout if he departs before completing the two-year deal, which expires after the 2008 season. Don't expect that to be a stumbling block. Applewhite earned $250,000 last season at Alabama, a figure UT could easily match or top.
Sources close to the situation suggest both parties welcome Applewhite's return to Texas, where he set the school's career passing record (8,353 yards) while serving as a Longhorns' quarterback from 1998-2001. At this juncture, the only vacancy on Brown's staff is for a running backs coach. That appears to be the position Applewhite would take for the 2008 season, although he'd clearly have the ear of Greg Davis in game-planning sessions because of their close relationship.
Play-calling duties? Those would remain with Davis, from all indications, although Applewhite's input would be welcomed.
By completing this hire, Brown will have added a young coach he considers a "star" in this business to each side of his staff: Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator and Applewhite as an offensive assistant. Brown is seeking creative ideas from younger staffers and he'll get plenty.
If, in the process, he's added his eventual successor to Texas' staff, so be it. But don't expect that to be an imminent move. Brown, 56, joked during last week's press conference to introduce Muschamp that he might not be interested in stepping down until he's 78, following in the footsteps of Florida State's Bobby Bowden. The purpose was to squash the idea that Muschamp was UT's next coach in waiting, as some have speculated.
Frankly, I wouldn't expect Brown to coach another 22 years. Probably not even another 12. But I wouldn't expect him to be stepping down in such a timely manner that Muschamp or Applewhite would project to be his successor unless one or the other is willing to spend a long apprenticeship on the UT staff.
The more likely of the two to do that would be Applewhite. And, by accepting a job as the Longhorns' RBs coach, he can get take a step in that direction. Expect that first step to become official soon. Perhaps by Wednesday, definitely by the end of the week.
_ Jimmy Burch