Originally posted on Blogging Bevo  |  Last updated 10/5/11

Sabermetricians - a fancy term for an advanced baseball statisticians - came up with an interesting a few years ago.

It's called Wins Above Replacement, WAR for short. It's pretty self-explanatory. The number aims to measure exactly how many more wins a certain player produces than an average player at his position.

Unfortunately, football is not a sport that lends itself to statistical analysis as well as baseball does, but this WAR stat seems all to appropriate when it comes to Texas co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin.



The formula sabermetiricians use to calculate WAR for baseball players is much more complicated than the one used here for Harsin, who replaced Greg Davis this season. Under Davis, Texas had some of its most prolific offensive seasons in school history, but didn't get much of the credit with All-American quarterbacks like Vince Young and Colt McCoy behind center. Many of Young's and McCoy's finest plays came when they improvised and ditched whatever play Davis had called.

In fact, on the way to Pasadena for the 2006 national title game, Davis asked Young what play he wanted to run if the game came down to one play. Young told Davis he wanted him to call a quarterback sneak. Davis suggested another passing play and offered Young the option to run. Sure enough, after tons of lead changes and thrilling suspense, Texas faced a 4th-and-5 from USC's 8-yard line in a play no true Longhorns fan will forget. Davis called his play, Young dropped back, and took off for the corner of the end zone. Ironically enough, Young successfully ran a quarterback sneak on the ensuing two-point conversion to give the Longhorns a 41-38 lead.  

Vince Young wanted to a run QB sneak. Greg Davis didn't. So Vince ran the play and ran it in anyway, giving Texas its first national title in 36 years.

After those two superb signal-callers left theForty Acres left, however, Davis was left with highly-touted but unproven sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilbert. Without an outstanding field general, Davis' offense suffered and its weaknesses - no relialbe running game or tight end - were exposed as Texas turned a 5-7 record and its first losing season since 1997, the year before Mack Brown took over as head coach.

The disappointing 2010 campaign forced Davis to leave the program and months after his departure, Brown hired Bryan Harsin, the innvoative play-caller from Boise State. Harsin turned out to be the perfect fit. From his very first game at Texas, Harsin has shaken things up. Davis used to "save" his trick plays for opponents like Oklahoma, who Texas faces this weekend, but Harsin has unleashed a slew of rabbits out of his hat for every contest. His latest contraption worked beautifully - running back Fozzy Whittaker took a snap out of the "Wild" formation, handed off to freshman wideout Jaxon Shipley, who pitched the football to fellow fresman quarterback David Ash, who promptly tossed it back to Shipley downfield for a 40-yard touchdown pass, his second of the half and his career.

While Texas was dominated by UCLA and Iowa State a year ago, Harsin's playcalling has helped Texas start the season 4-0 and after the Longhorns went 5-7 under Davis a year ago, it begs the question - how valuable exactly is Harsin to this team? Specifically, how many more wins above his replacement is he worth? So far, Texas is on pace for a 13-0 national title year but we all know that's not a reasonable assumption. Nonetheless, it is reasonable to expect many more than the five wins Davis and his offense helped produce last season.

To his credit, Davis was in charge of the offense during the nine-year run when Texas won ten games every season. But he had the likes of Chris Simms, Major Applewhite, Vince Young, and Colt McCoy at quarterback. Harsin is handling two inexperienced signal-callers that were not nearly as highly-touted or well-recognized as some of the ones Davis worked with. He is finding a way to give significant playing time for several players in the backfield, giving Cody Johnson carries in short-yardage and goal-line situations, letting Fozzy Whittaker run the "Wild" formation, finding opportunities for speedster D.J. Monroe to get a few carries every game, and easing true freshman Malcolm Brown into the feature back role.

Despite not seeing much playing time prior to Harsin's arrival, Case McCoy and David Ash have thrived in his new offense.

At the same time, Harsin is accomplishing the impossible - making a two-quarterback system work. Conventional wisdom tells us that when a team has two good quarterbacks, it doesn't have any. But that's not the case with Harsin's offense. He has been able to replace Garrett Gilbert without losing a game, seamlessly working McCoy and Ash into each of the Longhorns' last three games. As Ash's package and role in the offense has evolved, his playing time has increased. In Texas' most recent game against Iowa State, McCoy and Ash each took 30 snaps and completed seven out of 12 passes. Neither has thrown an interception this season.

Harsin and his offense face their toughest challenge yet when the Longhorns go up against Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry this weekend. The Sooners defense may be weak in the secondary but their front seven is formidable. 

But so is Harsin's play-calling ability. 

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