Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Major Applewhite back at Texas

I won't be able to attend tomorrow's press conference announcing the hiring of Major Applewhite, so here's the scoop.
After spending a season at Alabama as offensive coordinator, Applewhite is taking a demotion — but not a pay cut — to return to Austin.
The former Texas quarterback will be assistant head coach and running backs coach. The Houston Chronicle reports he'll make $250,000 a year.
"It's exciting to be a Longhorn again, Applewhite said in a statement. "The opportunity to
come back to my alma mater, working with Coach Brown, Coach Davis and all the great coaches, many that I know and have worked with before, is special. Having the chance to be with all of them the last couple of days, to see their passion, to be a part of the expectations they¹ve built and see how they're all on the same page and heading in the same direction is really exciting to be a part of."
Before Alabama, Applewhite coached at Rice. He started his coaching career under Mack Brown as a graduate assistant.
In his playing days, Applewhite became a fan favorite while throwing for 8,353 yards and 60 touchdowns.
"We're really excited to have Major back, Brown said in the statement. "He was a great player for us and we saw him growing into a terrific coach as a graduate assistant here for two years."

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The Return of Gary Johnson

Johnson finally getting his chance

After receiving clearance from doctors, freshman struggles slightly early on

By: Ryan Killian

As it is known to do, the New Year brought change to the Texas Longhorns.

Freshman Gary Johnson made his first start at the college level on Jan. 2 and hasn't left the starting lineup since.

Through 13 games of the season, No. 19 Texas featured the same starting five. With three guards, the Longhorns lacked size.

That's where the 6-foot-7-inch, 235-pound Johnson comes in.

After coming out of high school as the state's most highly regarded recruit - and a top 10 national prospect - it seemed Johnson would contribute immediately. Instead, he didn't play until January.

Texas' biggest recruit had been sidelined by a heart condition.

"I was told once that there was a possibility that I probably would never be able to play again," Johnson told the Austin American-Statesman. "It was kind of hard to take. I cried."

When the team conditioned together over the summer, he wasn't allowed to participate. Finally, a couple of weeks before the season started, Johnson was cleared to hit the hardwood. Still, he wasn't allowed to play.

All he could do was practice, watch and wait.

The phenom who had averaged 26 points and 13 rebounds per game in high school couldn't contribute when his team jumped out to an 11-0 start. When the Longhorns fell to consecutive Big 10 opponents, he couldn't do anything to prevent it.

Until, finally, the announcement came that would let him back in the game.

"After a six-month process of monitoring, testing and evaluation by Dr. James Willerson, Gary Johnson has been cleared to participate in all physical activities at the University of Texas, including regular-season games," said Texas trainer Fred Burnett in a statement.

Johnson was ready to go. TCU was up next, and the Longhorns had a new starter.

This is usually the part in the story where our hero takes the court and makes his presence felt in a jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring sort of way. But this isn't a fairy tale, and life rarely follows a Hollywood script.

Twenty-one minutes into the game against the Horned Frogs, Johnson had scored five points. His first collegiate points came fewer than two minutes into the game when he made a layup. His next three attempts failed, and he hit only one of four free throws.

Against St. Mary's, though, his numbers improved markedly. He scored 15 points while shooting 7-of-10 from the field. Again though, he struggled at the line.

Then, two days before classes got underway, Johnson made his first appearance in a road game.

It was also his first Big 12 game. It was also a disaster.

The freshman missed each of the four shots he attempted from the field. From the line, he missed another pair of shots. In the box score, his final line showed no points, one assist and one rebound in 19 minutes of play.

Worse still, Texas lost.

Three games into his college career, and Johnson has struggled.

Of course, the 19-year-old has already shown he can overcome adversity.

And, for him, this isn't adversity. This is a beginning.

It's been a long time coming.