That doesn't mean Applewhite has an easy job. He's the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator and he will be the play-caller in Crimson Tide games this year. And he's a young guy, in only his sixth year since quarterbacking the Texas Longhorns.
Applewhite met with the media this week to discuss preparation for the 2007 Alabama football season. He touched on a variety of topics related to his position at Alabama.
The native of Baton Rouge, La., who is named for former Crimson Tide star running back Major Ogilvie, has a high opinion of Bama fans. He said, "I think we've got the greatest fans in the world, people who are fanatic about our university. And growing up a fan of Alabama, I had that same passion. In many ways this is not a job to me. I love this university and want it to be successful. Playing at Texas gives you an understanding (of fan passion) as a player. Understanding Alabama, what it means to the people, how it's imbedded in the culture, I lived it, so it's an extremely exciting position to be in right now."
More than the fans, though, Applewhite has an appreciation of the men he works with each day, particularly Coach Nick Saban.
He said, "I enjoy the intensity, the competitiveness on the practice field. The level of detail we give to each and every practice. I enjoy that, seeing how detailed you can be, how specific you can be, seeing how much you can demand of your guys. it's a great process for a young coach to go through."
Applewhite had a great playing career, captain of his Texas team as a senior in 2001, Big 12 Freshman of the Year, Big 12 Co-Player of the Year, and MVP of the Holiday Bowl in his final college game. He is the all-time Texas leader in passing yards (8,353), passing touchdowns, (60), pass attempts (1,065), and total offense (8,059).
He then has had a meteoric coaching career. He was a graduate assistant working with Vince Young at Texas, then was quarterbacks coach at Syracuse and offensive coordinator at Rice. Last year at Rice he directed the Owls' offense that set school records for points (35) and third most yards (4,486). For the first time in history Rice had a 1,000-yard rusher, a 1,000-yard passer, and a 1,000-yard receiver on the same team.
Applewhite appreciates the experience on Alabama's offensive staff. "Last year I was on a very inexperienced staff from a college football standpoint, only ten years total of college football experience," he said. "This year I'm with a group who are extremely experienced and who can share a lot of wisdom. It's unbelievable how much experience we have in that (offensive meeting) room. Joe Pendry, Burton B urns, Curt Cignetti, and Ron Middleton have college and NFL experience. There are a lot of guys with different ideas. It's great for a young coach to be able to lean on that."
Applewhite explained the process of putting the offense together. He said that within the guidelines and philosophy of Saban, "you want to have answers for situations." He said the offense has situations that call for aggressive play and situations that call for a more conservative approach.
"When you have a group of guys who have a lot of experience, and who have had success, it comes together collectively," Applewhite said. "You learn it as you create it."
Applewhite said he has confidence as the play-caller in part because of his previous experience and in part because of the experience of coaches around him.
"I did it last year for the first time," he said. "It's similar to being a player. The first time you're not as confident, but as you go along it gets easier. It helps having experienced guys around who have seen certain things work in certain situations -- red zone, blitz, coming out -- those kind of things that you can talk about. There's a lot of experience in that room and a lot that can be learned."
He said the attitude of the players had been good as fall camp has gotten underway.
Applewhite said, "We're not into an evaluation process. We're focused on the process. We're worried about becoming a champion, and being a champion is not a destination, it's a process. We've got older guys and new guys competing and it's second time for the older guys to hear it, so it's coming a little quicker for them than for the younger guys. Right now it's about teaching the fundamentals and the drills, how we get in and out of a practice tempo."
Nine starters return on offense. Still, Applewhite pointed out, "It's a new terminology. It's the second time around for them (spring and now fall camp). During spring practice you could see the lightbulb begin to come on. It's the theory of throwing something against the wall. Some sticks. What doesn't, you throw against the wall again and more sticks. The process has sped up a little bit. And because these guys have game experience, because they've taken a lot of reps, because there are nine returning starters, the experience has helped quite a bit in the installation process."
In addition to being offensive coordinator, Applewhite coaches the quarterbacks. He has a returning starter and record-holder in junior John Parker Wilson.
"He has matured," Applewhite said of Wilson. "He had a good season last year. He tried to improve in the spring. Everything was new for him. He did a good job, trying to understand what we're trying to do, as far as taking care of the football, minimizing mistakes, allowing us opportunities in certain down and distances. You could see his maturing this summer, seeing him around the office and in film studies. He's trying to be a leader, understands what that means in all the things that position implies. He has taken it on and understands where he wants to be."