Strength in Numbers: Can McWhorter Ignite Run Game

When <B>Mack Brown</b> makes a coaching change, it's virtually front-page news to Texas fans. Up until recently, the only alterations to his staff came about due to assistants leaving Austin–and that's only happened twice in five years.

So when Mack opted recently to replace Tim Nunez with Mac McWhorter as coach of the offensive line, it surprised many Longhorn followers.

Coach McWhorter (we'll abstain currently from dubbing him another "Coach Mac") possesses strong and seasoned credentials. He has accumulated 20 years as an offensive line coach in Division I-A, including at football tradition-rich schools Georgia Tech (1981-'86; 2000-'01), Alabama (1987-'88), Georgia–his alma mater–(1991-'95), and Clemson (1996-'98).

He's also served as assistant head coach in two separate stints at Georgia Tech (1985-'86, 2001) and head coach for a season at West Georgia (1989).

While the shadow from his lengthy tenure as an offensive line coach dwarfs that of his predecessor, Mac McWhorter additionally has been a catalyst for several outstanding offenses.

When Bill Curry hired Mac as offensive line coach at Georgia Tech in 1981, the Yellow Jackets had won one game the year before, due to rarely registering any scoring (113 points all season). The inept offense and one-win tally continued in McWhorter's first year, but he helped bring the unit around in his second season in 1983, as Tech scored almost twice as many points (239) and vaulted to a 6-5 mark. During his six seasons under Curry, the offense didn't dominate, but played effectively for the most part. McWhorter became assistant head coach in 1985 when the Yellow Jackets posted a 9-2-1 record. Curry departed for Alabama following a 5-5-1 record in 1986, but McWhorter had assisted the offense in scoring nearly 300 points that fall.

Following his head coach to Tuscaloosa to again coach the line, McWhorter helped lead the Crimson Tide to 7-5 and 9-3 records and a bowl victory. The 1988 squad scored 317 points.

He then took a detour as head coach at West Georgia in 1989 and went 4-7.

After one season at Duke in his familiar position as offensive line coach, he returned in 1991 to Georgia, having received all-SEC and honorable mention all-America honors as a UGA guard in 1973.

With the Bulldogs, he aided Ray Goff (another former Georgia player) in the difficult task of succeeding the legendary Vince Dooley. Dooley left the program in solid shape, rounding out his long career with back-to-back 9-3 seasons. Goff, coaching two seasons before McWhorter arrived, had struggled with a 6-6 inaugural year mark and then stumbled to 4-7 in his follow-up 1990 season. The losing record was Georgia's first since 1977 and second in over a quarter century (1963), so Dooley's successor felt tremendous pressure to revive the program and spark an offense that limped to 185 points.

In McWhorter's first season with the OL, Georgia equaled Dooley's exiting campaigns of 9-3, and the offense soared with 336 points. 1992 proved even better, with the Bulldogs going 10-2 and racking up 373 points. The rushing attack broke the school record by averaging 5.6 yards per attempt for the season.

Though the ‘Dogs as a team had fewer good days the next three autumns, the offense posted a prolific 328 points in 1993 while breaking the season record in pass percentage. 1994's version rolled up 351 points and set the school's total offense mark by averaging 467 yards per game. During Mac's half-decade at Georgia, the offenses he helped coach still own team all-time season rankings of first in yards per rush, first and second in yards passing per game, touchdown passes, total yards per game and yards per play. They also hold two of the top four marks in scoring since the advent of 11-game seasons.

McWhorter stayed consistent by coaching at a traditional southern football power when Tommy West hired him to coach Clemson's line in 1996. The offense produced mixed results with no adequate passing game, but Mac's blockers paved the path for the first- and second-ranked rushing attacks in the ACC in his first two years. West was removed in 1998, signaling another switch for McWhorter.

After one season as a co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach for the Tigers of Memphis in 1999, he came back to his home state for his second round at Georgia Tech.

In his regular post as offensive line coach in 2000, he took over a group returning only two starters that led the offense to top 20 rankings in scoring, total offense, and passing offense. Adding the role of assistant head coach in 2001 to his regular offensive line duties, he reconstructed an offensive line featuring one returning starter and two freshmen. He produced impressive results considering, as the Yellow Jackets finished 28th in scoring offense (32 ppg), 20th in passing, and 34th in total offense (418 ypg).

Amidst all the stellar returns, one area may trouble Texas fans. Though, as noted, Georgia Tech replaced three and then four offensive line starters in 2000-'01, the yards per carry figures still disturb. Tech averaged 4.8 yards per rush in 1999. In McWhorter's first year, that number dropped to 3.9 (despite allowing the fewest sacks in the conference) and then 3.3 in 2001.

Those concerns are alleviated by recalling some of the standout rushing attacks he helped forge. Several factors, including the head coach's and offensive coordinator's philosophies, go into how effectively a team rushes the ball as well.

Mac left the Yellow Jackets on a high note: he served as interim head coach in a Seattle Bowl victory over Stanford and enjoyed immense popularity with his players.

Moving from Atlanta to Austin after being hired by Mack Brown, McWhorter coached tackles and tight ends in 2002 as a precursor to becoming the coach of the whole offensive line.

Tim Nunez, the Longhorns' fallen assistant, saw several days of glory while coaching at Texas. However, after waving goodbye to Ricky Williams following 1998, he's witnessed the total yards per game figures drop each successive season. The rushing average of 3.4 in 2002 is the lowest the school has produced since 1988's 4-7 season.

The current editions of Longhorn teams are far removed from such pathetic campaigns and have produced some outstanding offensive showings. But frequently, the backs have nowhere to run and the quarterbacks little time or room to stand in the pocket. Three straight defeats against Oklahoma particularly illustrate the crux of the criticisms. In those contests, Texas has rushed for 73 yards combined.

McWhorter boasts a resume ripe with accomplishments as a coach of the "big uglies" up front. This move by head coach Mack Brown has generated newfound excitement in the prospects of the offense for the 2003 season.

If the downward trends continue offensively, though, Mack will be forced to look further up the staff food chain to determine the culprit.

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