Wide receivers coach Jay Norvell to take over as Longhorns’ play-caller

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Assistant head coach for offense Shawn Watson walks off the field during the Orange and White game. Watson and the Longhorns were held to 163 yards in a 38–3 loss to No. 9 Notre Dame on Saturday in South Bend, Indiana.
Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

This story has been updated since its original publication.

Head coach Charlie Strong announced Tuesday that wide receivers coach Jay Norvell will replace Shawn Watson, assistant head coach for offense, as the team’s play-caller. The change comes after the Longhorns scored just three points in their season opener against No. 9 Notre Dame.

“There’s no reason for us to go out and perform at the level we’ve been performing,” Strong said. “I expect more, want more. The fans deserve more. All of our letter-winners deserve more. There’s been a lot of players that have come through the program that have played for the pride and tradition, and that really means something to them. And that’s what we have to get our focus back to.”

With the staff change, Strong said his playmakers will now be in the best position to succeed. Norvell brings seven years of experience coaching up-tempo offenses as Oklahoma’s wide receivers coach and offensive coordinator. He also had two successful stints as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Nebraska and UCLA respectively.

In line with the Horns’ new offensive schemes, Norvell offers legitimate spread offense experience. In five of his seven years coaching Oklahoma’s offense, the Sooners ranked in the top 30 of 120 FBS teams in scoring, as well as plays
per game.

“[Norvell has] been familiar with the spread coming from Oklahoma, and so he’s done it,” Strong said. “We just want to make sure we talk about an up-tempo offense. That’s what everyone wants to see, and you want to play with good fundamentals and technique and make sure we move the football.”

Since he joined the Longhorns in January, Norvell has helped install Texas’ version of the up-tempo offense. The players are familiar with his style and leadership, so Strong said that he won’t need to overhaul the new offense.
“[Norvell] is real vocal,” senior receiver Daje Johnson said. “He loves to put his voice in and let each position know what they do to get better.”

With Norvell taking on the role as the Longhorns’ sole play-caller, Watson and Joe Wickline, Texas’ former co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, will stay on with the team as position coaches. Watson will dedicate his time to the quarterbacks, while Wickline will continue working with the offensive line.

Norvell will get his first chance to lead the offense Saturday as the Longhorns take on Rice in their home opener.