Who: Brennan Marion, Texas
Title: Passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach
Previous stop: Pittsburgh wide receivers coach (2021)
Why he's important: I know I risk instant electrocution by typing this, but I'm going to do it anyway: Texas has all the tools to be really, really good in 2022. At least on offense. At least when they're throwing the ball. So long as the offensive line can provide enough protection. Is that enough qualifiers? [ZZZZZZZ-nnnnnnngggg] Phew. Okay, that wasn't too bad.
For starters, Texas has the best running back in college football in Bijan Robinson. Xavier Worthy was the best freshman wide receiver in college football a year ago. Worthy happened to be the only Longhorn to catch more than 26 passes last season, but that has been addressed by returning a healthy Jordan Whittington (Texas went 5-1 in games he completed last season and 0-6 without him) and the transfer of Isaiah Neyor, who caught 12 touchdowns and averaged nearly 20 yards on his 44 catches a year ago at Wyoming. They also added Agiye Hall and Jahleel Billingsley from Alabama.
Quarterback Casey Thompson is gone; battling to replace him are sophomore Hudson Card, who won the job out of fall camp last year and played well against Louisiana in the opener before losing the job the following week, and Quinn Ewers, one of the highest-rated quarterbacks in the history of modern recruiting. The offensive line remains a question mark, but the staff addressed it by recruiting the best O-line class in the country in 2022, a 7-man haul that weighs a combined 2,183 pounds.
Depending on the development of a couple freshman linemen and the formation, Texas could deploy as many as six 5-stars at a time in Ewers, Robinson, Whittington, freshman offensive linemen Kelvin Banks and Devon Campbell and tight end J'Tavion Sanders, plus a high 4-star and Freshman All-American in Worthy.
If nothing else, the raw materials are there. Coordinated by the same coach who turned Tua Tagovailoa, Najee Harris, DeVonta Smith, Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy and Jaylen Waddle into one of the most explosive offenses in college football history, it doesn't take a genius to anticipate the general thesis of the Texas offense moving forward: Have Ewers or Card throw the ball deep to Worthy, Neyor, freshman Brenen Thompson (a 10.2 100-meter sprinter) and Hall, let Whittington, Sanders and Billingsley operate the in the intermediate zones, all while challenging defenses to keep tabs on Robinson at all times. Basically, something like this.
If the whole adds up to the sum of its parts, the assistants most likely to benefit in terms of career opportunities are quarterbacks coach AJ Milwee (an unsung hero of the Arch Manning commitment, and as a returning coach ineligible for this list) and Brennan Marion.
Marion replaces Andre Coleman, one of two assistants Steve Sarkisian retained from Tom Herman's staff, and the only one he relieved of duties following last season's 5-7 debacle. (The other, assistant head coach/running backs coach Stan Drayton, landed the Temple job.)
Marion got the job for his one season of work as Pittsburgh's wide receivers coach, where he helped turned Jordan Addison from a solid receiver into the Biletnikoff Award winner. Working with coordinator Mark Whipple, Marion added a catch a game to Addison's 2020 average, 6 to 7, but nearly doubled his average yardage, from 60 per game to 113.8.
“If you watch the receivers at Pitt a year ago in a scheme that is similar to ours, you see the detail in the way they play,” Sarkisian said this offseason. “You see the competitiveness. You see the ball skills, and that was probably the biggest thing that jumped out. Now we’re going through our own cut ups, and now the dialogue is coming up that this is what they did, this is how they did it.”
Beyond Marion's skills as a coach, prospective employers are also liable to attach themselves to his story.
After attending high school in Pennsylvania, Marion's college career began as a blocking tight end at the junior college level in California. After a transfer, a year later he was a JuCo All-American, which earned him a scholarship at a Tulsa, where he set NCAA single-season and career yards per reception records. That earned him but a brief NFL career, and by 2011 he jumped into coaching at the junior college level.
From there, he embarked on a path that had him a high school head coach in his mid-20s, then a QC on an Arizona State staff with Mike Norvell and Kenny Dillingham, then a Division II position coach, and then, a year later, an FCS offensive coordinator.
In his first season as Howard's offensive coordinator (2017), Marion added 11 points and 110.8 yards per game as the Bison improved from 2-9 to 7-4. By 2018, Howard was in the top 25 nationally in yards, passing yards, and points. That success landed him the William & Mary offensive coordinator job, where in one year he nearly doubled the Tribe's scoring output, from 13.6 points per game to 25.3.
Marion utilized the Go-Go Offense (first step to successfully marketing your ideas: come up with a catchy name), a two-back attack that Sarkisian said Texas plans to utilize this season.
“He did some really good things when he was at William & Mary,” Sarkisian said. “I think he’ll add to that dimension with us as well.”
Texas finished 18th nationally at 35.3 points a game last season, a misleading number given the 'Horns were held to 24 or below six times in 12 games.
If -- if, if, if, if -- the Texas offense takes off as the talent indicates it could, Marion could be at the front of the line for a promotion elsewhere.