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Bryan Harsin merges style at Texas

The call, as it always did for Boise State, came from on high.

Bundle left, statue left.

"My backups had wanted to run it all game," former Broncos quarterback Jared Zabransky said. "We actually had it in earlier but there was a penalty or something so we didn't do it."

Now, in overtime, facing a two-point conversion to beat Oklahoma and win the biggest game in Boise State history, offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin reached back for the call that ended the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.

"I came over to the sideline, he and Coach [Chris] Peterson were on the headset talking about it," Zabransky said. "They made the call."

It was as improbable as it was flawless: Zabransky switching the ball to his left hand, faking a throw with his right, handing it to Ian Johnson behind his back, around the left side for a two-point conversion.

"We went out, executed it, and it worked," Zabransky said. Simple as that.

Just like the fourth-and-18 hook-and-ladder that went for a touchdown.

And the fourth-and-2 halfback pass for a touchdown.

All called by Harsin. All without a doubt they would work.

That was the way it was for Harsin at Boise State.

Everything worked. Two undefeated seasons. A 114-16 record while he was on staff.

"He made it work," said Taylor Tharp, one of Zabransky's backups. "That's the way that staff was. They played the percentages, and then if the play they called didn't work, we were always prepared three ways so we would have another option on the play."

"Coach Hars never got flustered," Zabranksy added. "Whatever the defense did, he always had an answer."

Now Harsin has come to a program that had nothing but questions in 2010. Texas hired Harsin in the offseason to put the crash paddles on an offense that was 58th nationally in total offense, and plagued by turnovers last season.

Harsin's quarterbacks threw an average of eight interceptions per year in his five years as offensive coordinator at Boise State.

But this is the Big 12. Harsin has spent 14 of his 15 years in college football with the Broncos. Can his schemes consistently pile up points against defenses that are just a bit stouter than those in the WAC? Will his offense run -- as it did in the six games the Broncos won against BCS opponents -- when it has to do it every week?

"If the Texas quarterback knows what the game plan is, and knows how to execute it without making a bunch of mistakes, I don't see why they won't score 50 points a game with Harsin's offense," Zabransky said.

And, of course, the coach will have some talent of his own to match those defenses.

"There are a lot of different ways to skin a cat on offense, and there are a lot of good ideas and plays," Harsin said. "The big key for us here is to figure out what our personnel is best at. I think that we have enough variety in our schemes to make sure that we're getting the best plays and schemes that fit our personnel."

Get that kid-in-a-candy-store feeling?

Not that Harsin didn't have weapons at Boise State, but no one is going to argue that the Broncos' 11 are more-physically blessed than that of Texas. Matching the Boise State attitude, might be just as important.

"Everyone at Boise is an overachiever," Zabransky said.

It will be Harsin's responsibility to make sure everyone at Texas is the same way.

There is also quite a bit more energy, excitement, attentiveness and accountability.

"Being in one offense, and knowing that thing, kind of makes me more narrow-minded," said fifth-year Texas running back Fozzy Whittaker. "Now, I have a whole new offense and whole new playbook to study, I am a better student.

"I am able to go in there and learn new plays and learn new blocking schemes and learn new ways that plays are run. It is pretty enlightening for me and I really am enjoying it."

For the Texas offense, these are indeed the halcyon days, before any games have been played or mistakes exposed. That holds true for the coaching staff as well.

While Harsin shares his coordinator duties with running backs coach Major Applewhite, it's Applewhite who fields more questions about the Boise State offense than Harsin about the Texas schemes.

"Football is football," Applewhite said. "The isolation play has been around long before [now]. The toss play has been around for a long time. So a lot of plays we run, all the other teams in the country run. You'll see a lot of different flavor. Some window dressing to it, some motions, some shifts, some things like that, but you know your `'iso' play -- Vince Lombardi ran that."

Even if the playbook is more complicated than Applewhite lets on, Harsin is more than happy to make sure everyone knows the finer points.

"Always with the questions," Tharp said. "You had to be on your toes. He would be teaching you constantly. He found a way to relate to you as a player and teach you."

Harsin did that with his actions as much as his words.

"You think about it and that statue play, I would have run it just to get 10 yards on a first down," said Tharp, who spent last season as the offensive coordinator for a team in Parma, Italy. "Coach Hars and coach Coach Pete, they kept that in their back pocket for right when they needed it. The timing was pretty amazing."

Now Texas, with Harsin in the fold, is hoping its timing is just right, too.

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas sports and recruiting for HornsNation.com.

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