The Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29 will mark the end of Texas' 15th season under head coach Mack Brown, the best of which have been defined by an unmistakable identity on offense. Initially, he lifted the Longhorns back into the national elite on the indefatigable legs of two traditional, I-formation workhorses, Ricky Williams and Cedric Benson. Vince Young took the offense to another level operating out of shotgun spread sets, the catalyst for a 20-game winning streak, back-to-back BCS wins and, in 2005, Texas' first national championship in nearly four decades. Adapting the spread from Young's legs to Colt McCoy's arm produced a nearly identical run in 2008 and 2009. Williams won the Heisman Trophy, Young and McCoy both finished as runners-up and Texas won more games in Brown's first twelve seasons than any team in the nation.
Brown's offensive coordinator for all twelve of those seasons was an old colleague, Greg Davis, who – adaptability and winning percentage notwithstanding – was routinely maligned for his lack of imagination, and eventually fired on the heels of a shocking, 5-7 disaster in 2010. (He's now being maligned for his lack of imagination at Iowa.) As of Tuesday night, Davis' successor in that role, Bryan Harsin, is on his way to Arkansas State to take over as head coach. But despite the ostensible promotion, he's leaving with the reconstruction in Austin only half-finished, at best: After two years, nine losses and countless quarterback changes, the offense Harsin bequeaths to his successor as the primary play-caller, former Longhorn quarterback Major Applewhite, is as far from a coherent identity as it has ever been.