New South Alabama football coach Major Applewhite speaks at his introductory press conference Friday. “We want to get back to the normalcy,” he said. “I think it’s huge for the players to see some of the same faces in there and the same style of doing things. We’ll make some changes in different areas of the program but I want to be a consistent presence in these guys’ lives.” (John O’Dell/Call News)
By ARTHUR L. MACK
MOBILE — Newly named University of South Alabama football coach Major Applewhite said Friday he wants to create a raucous atmosphere at home games as part of taking the Jaguars to an even higher level.
“I’m truly humbled for this opportunity,” Applewhite said at his introductory press conference at Hancock-Whitney Stadium. “My wife sent me a text saying, ‘You don’t start from scratch, you start from opportunity.’ It’s a great opportunity to explain your vision for the program and it’s been a journey to get here.
“I’m excited about taking this thing to a new level and make our community stronger. I just want to make this our city’s team. I want to create an atmosphere in this stadium that is full, they’re here early, they’re loud and they stay late. I want to create a situation where this stadium represents our entire city.”
Applewhite, 45, served as USA’s offensive coordinator under Kane Wommack, who resigned to become Alabama’s new defensive coordinator.
Athletic director Dr. Joel Erdmann said Applewhite was his first choice to succeed Wommack.
“There was a list that was created that started to have an order to it,” Erdmann said. “First on that list was coach Applewhite, so as we started to bear down on that, we wanted to learn more about Major and his past and understand him as a human being and to know him. All of that put together, plus professional experience, characteristics, intent, all of that went into the decision-making process.”
Applewhite, who also served as the offensive coordinator on Nick Saban’s first Alabama team and as the head coach at Houston, put together prolific offenses on back-to-back bowl teams at South Alabama which averaged 33.1 points and 440 yards per game, ranking among the top 25 in the nation. He turned down several other offensive coordinator opportunities in the SEC and other Power Five schools to stay with the Jags.
At Houston, Applewhite was fired after going 15-10 in the 2017 and 2018 seasons and taking the Cougars to a bowl each season. Before that, he was a graduate assistant at Texas, where he was a star quarterback from 1998 to 2001, and he has also been an assistant at Syracuse and Rice.
“The fact that he had that head coaching experience at Houston was a significant factor for me,” Erdmann said. “People who have never been a head football coach at this level, it is a challenging role and someone who has sat in that chair, in my opinion, has learned and can take that with them moving forward.
“I think we’re going to have an exciting football team in all three phases of the game and coach Applewhite is inherently an offensive-minded coach and that’s going to lend itself to be a very positive thing.”
Applewhite said he was glad Erdmann and the selection committee made a quick decision.
“I’m very, very grateful for the people we have in this building and how dedicated they are and that makes this transition a little bit easier,” he said. “We’re just excited there’s a sense of relief but at the same time everybody’s ready to get back to work. People are excited but now they’re refocusing on getting some people in chairs and hiring some new coaches.
“That’s what we want to do — we want to get back to the normalcy. I think it’s huge for the players to see some of the same faces in there and the same style of doing things. We’ll make some changes in different areas of the program but I want to be a consistent presence in these guys’ lives.”