Texas Football: Naming Shawn Watson Play-Caller Gives Longhorns an Identity

Ben Kercheval@@BenKerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterMarch 19, 2014

In this photo taken Sunday, Aug. 7, 2011, Louisville quarterback coach Shawn Watson and quarterback Will Stein (4) walk onto the field for a photo session prior to their NCAA college football season in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)
Ed Reinke/Associated Press

Our nation's long national nightmare—the ambiguity surrounding who will call the offensive plays for Texas this season—is over. 

For the most part. Maybe. 

On Tuesday, the first day of spring practice for the Longhorns, first-year coach Charlie Strong announced that quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson would be the "one, final voice" on play-calling. 

Via Jeff Howe of 247Sports: 

As it turned out, however, that was not Strong's "one, final voice" on the matter; rather, he added that offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Joe Wickline would call plays alongside Watson.

At first glance, this can appear a tad convoluted. 

To Chris Huston's point, it's better for an offense to know who to turn to when decisions need to be made. In many ways, it's similar to knowing which quarterback is going to lead the offense. 

That said, this feels like Watson's offense and it's always felt that way. 

Oftentimes when coaches take new jobs, they'll bring key members of their previous staff with them. Watson, the offensive coordinator at Louisville under Strong, was a major reason Teddy Bridgewater developed into one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Bringing Watson to Austin meant bringing his play-calling as well—despite whatever his official title was going to say. 

Joe Wickline
Joe WicklineSue Ogrocki/Associated Press

So why would Strong say otherwise? It likely has something (everything?) to do with Wickline's previous contract at Oklahoma State. According to a report from Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman, Wickline must accept a new job as an "offensive coordinator (with play calling duties)" or Texas would be forced to pay a $600,000 buyout.

Texas would hardly be the first school to have multiple "coordinators" on its staff; there are a number of programs with passing game coordinators and run game coordinators. 

Here's how Strong explained the situation to Max Olson of ESPN.com

When you talk about play-calling duties, they're mature enough. They've been around it enough. Neither one has an ego. Wickline is going to be involved in it. He's going to make some calls. Shawn is going to make some calls. When we go down the stretch and we have to have a call made, I think Shawn, because he's been doing it for a long time and I'm comfortable with him. 

However it's spun, Texas is able to establish an identity with Watson's stamp of approval. Watson plays right into what Strong wants: a defensive-first team that plays the time-of-possession game and marches down the field. It's a defensive coach's dream. 

Eric Gay/Associated Press

In 2013, the Cardinals ranked second in the country in time of possession—nearly 34 minutes a game—while only running about 69 plays a game. While the Cards also ranked 15th nationally in long plays from scrimmage, only 15 of them were beyond 40 yards. 

Louisville was more explosive in the passing game, there's no doubt about that. It was the strength of their offense. Mostly, though, Louisville's offense was methodical. 

Even though Texas' strength on offense should be in its running game—although it does have questions along the offensive line—how it operates shouldn't be that much different from Louisville. 

Naming Watson the chief play-caller allows for that transition. Now, at least, the Longhorns know what they're going to be on offense in 2014. 


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com