I interviewed former Texas coach Mack Brown earlier this month for my story on Boise State coach Bryan Harsin’s three years away from his hometown. The story runs in Thursday’s newspaper.
Harsin was the co-offensive coordinator and play caller at Texas in 2011-12 under Brown.
The Longhorns scored 23.8 points per game in 2010 — the season before Harsin arrived — to rank 88th in the nation. They went 5-7.
They scored 28.1 points per game in 2011 — climbing to 55th. And they generated 35.7 points per game in 2012 — rising to 23rd.
That’s a 50 percent increase in scoring and a 65-spot jump in the rankings under Harsin. The Longhorns improved to 8-5 in 2011 and 9-4 in 2012.
Here’s what Brown said about Harsin:
— On why he wanted to hire Harsin: “I knew Chris Petersen really well. I feel Chris is one of the best football coaches in the country. He was beating teams, some with a lot more facilities and money and resources than he had, every year. And I loved how physical they were on offense, but they were balanced. They could run the ball and throw the ball deep and that’s what I was looking for. (Harsin) was obviously young, aggressive. He wanted to be a head coach.”
— On Harsin’s decision: “He had some major goals ahead and I think he wasn’t sure if Chris would leave and he wanted to be a head coach. And he and I both understood that. If Chris did ever leave, his only goal was to go back to Boise.”
— On Harsin’ impact: “He brought toughness back. He brought our ability to run the ball back. We had a very strong and powerful offensive coaching staff. He walked in there and took over the room and handled it very well. I was very impressed. I will always appreciate what he brought us in those couple years.”
— On Harsin’s style: “Aggressive, smart. You could tell that he really admired and respected Chris and all Chris had taught him and how Chris ran the program and how organized and disciplined they were there. And at the same time, he was a risk taker. He loved the trick play. He loved to pound you and then get a trick play in there. He loves football and loves his family and is a fierce competitor.”
— On what he told Harsin about Arkansas State: “I told Bryan I’d never been there. I don’t know a lot about it. But I do know the last three coaches had won and taken better jobs, so on the positive side there were players there and on the concern side there were very high expectations because the guys had won big. And I was sure they wanted somebody who was going to stay.”
— On Harsin taking over the Boise State program: “He will be trying to continue the traditions that Chris and all the other guys — Dan Hawkins — all the guys who have coached there that he admires. He will try to build on those traditions and continue to move forward instead of thinking he’s replacing Chris Petersen. All head coaches have pressure. All want to win. There’s nobody who would love Boise any more than Bryan. Therefore, he will take tremendous pride in the job. I do think he’s one of the great young offensive minds in the country and I think he’ll have a great run as a head coach. All the things that he’s done in his life is to prepare for this job and no one will be more proud of walking on that field for the Ole Miss game than him. It is so unique to have one of your own running your program — and I always thought that was fun to watch, somebody coming back home.”
Harsin has talked about getting Brown to Boise, but he’s busy working for ESPN this fall doing studio work.
I also was able to get a few quotes from Texas quarterback David Ash through the Longhorns sports information department:
— Where did you most see Harsin's influence in the Texas program while he was there and how, if at all, did that change during his time there?
Ash: "I think Coach Harsin brought in concepts and plays that were new to the Big 12 and new to Texas and enhanced our playbook when he came in. I wasn't here prior to him, but that was the input I got from the quarterbacks who had been around longer. He's a grinder. He would come in early and stay late. He was just a really hard worker when it came to his preparation for games."
— What did he teach you that still resonates with you?
Ash: "He gave me a good understanding of what it takes to get prepared for a game, and how much work you have to put in and how much time, and how demanding college football is. He taught me that and pushed me to try to become a great quarterback."
— What was your reaction when you heard he was going back to Boise State as a head coach?
Ash: "I was really happy for him. I feel like that was one of his dreams, to be the head coach there. He works really hard and he deserves it. I wish him the best and we'll be pulling for him."
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.