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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Football

Applewhite wants it his way this season


After 13 years of coaching, Major Applewhite finally has a chance to prove himself as a head coach. | Thomas Dwyer/The Cougar.

Major Applewhite is ready to take the helm as head coach this season after more than 13 years of preparation with some of college football’s greatest minds.

With a resume that includes coaching with the likes of Mack Brown and Nick Saban, most would assume that he should have gotten his shot earlier, but this opportunity came at the right time for a coach that has found comfort as a leader since his days as a University of Texas quarterback.

Now, after finally getting his shot, he is preparing his team to continue the success and culture he started as offensive coordinator two years ago.

“I want smart, tough, dependable football players,” Applewhite said. “There are a lot of tough guys in football, but they are not always smart and dependable. I want all three of those qualities from our players.”

Making an impact

Since joining the Cougars in 2015, the Louisiana native has lit a fire under the offense and boosted the team to the best two-year total in program history with 22 wins. This win total puts them fourth nationally behind powerhouse schools Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State.

Led by Greg Wards Jr.’s arm and legs, the offense averaged 300 yards passing and 157 yards rushing per game in the 2016 regular season under Applewhite. Ward finished the 2016 season with 3557 yards passing and 518 yards rushing. Although quiet in nature, Applewhite knows exactly what he wants out of his program — and that is to do it his way.

“I trust my coaches, but at the same time, I’m going to give my opinion. I am the head coach,” Applewhite said. “This is what I see, this is what I want and I make no apologies. I have been around winning football programs and winning head coaches and seen the way that they demand things, and they don’t ask, and they don’t make suggestions, and that’s why they have been really good.”

Player’s team

The Cougars are just days away from facing UTSA in their first game this season after starting the last two years with 5-0 records. This was led by Applewhite’s offense, which averaged 45.3 points per game.

Even though the longtime assistant coach wants to move on to his new regime, he hasn’t forgotten the players who have helped the team get to where they are today.

“This is their school. I am a hired hand right now, and I want them to feel welcome,” he said. “That’s why I put all their names and all their faces along the side of our wall in our team meeting rooms. It’s all of them. Those are the guys in the last two years that have helped put this program back together.”

Low expectations

The loss of key figures from last year has lowered expectations among college football talking heads.

Those within the team refuse to conform to expectations and have their sights set on much bigger aspirations. Running backs coach Kenith Pope sees a bright future with Applewhite at the helm.

“At the end of the day it’s about winning championships, and we can win championships here. That’s the bottom line on all of it,” Pope said. “He is going to continue to take this program in the right direction. I think it will be a strong program for years and years on his leadership.”

This season marks Pope’s 38th year coaching, and he has been with a lot of college programs over his career. He said this is among his favorite to be part of and one that he has the highest hopes for.

“Looking at Major, I can foresee that good things — that brighter things are going to happen for him because of the way he runs the program,” Pope said. “It’s going to be fun to watch, and I think the people of Houston are going to be really proud of what they have.”

Whatever happens, Applewhite’s goal is to focus on his new role as the team’s head coach.

“The biggest difference is that you coach grown men now. Instead of just coaching kids, 18-22 year-olds all the time as a quarterbacks coach, you are now coaching coaches,” said Applewhite. “We are all human. It doesn’t matter if you got the name coach or head coach or president or whatever next to your name, you have to be focused each and every day to do your job.”

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