"I think you look at who takes care of the ball, who can make plays off schedule, who can deliver the ball when somebody's obviously wide open," Applewhite said. "We want guys who can make the throws, make the easy plays."
Applewhite said the foursome of Garrett Gilbert, Case McCoy, Connor Wood and David Ash wouldn't start to separate until the team started working on more competitive situations like third downs and red zone plays. The team's first scrimmage is set for Saturday.
"It's not good to look at completions in 7-on-7, because that's not how the game is played," Applewhite said.
And he said he felt confident that one of the four would be able to get the job done.
"The thing I know about the four guys is that they're all bright," Applewhite said. "They grasp the system. They're hard workers. They've done a great job thus far of taking care of the football. All of them can make the throws that we ask them to make in the offense. Some better than others at times, obviously. The thing you like about all of them is they've really tried to grasp the system and they seem to have a pretty good understanding right now."
While the Longhorns search for one quarterback, Applewhite said they were looking for 4-5 running backs to make it through the season. He said some teams had been successful using one or two, while North Carolina used six or seven a few years ago because of injuries. He said that the new offense lent itself to utilizing more players because of the built-in specialization. Some backs might play a third down role, while others might be a short yardage and goal line back, or others a "gadget or loose play" back. Applewhite said he did want to develop three backs to play on regular first and second down situations.
He said that differed from a year ago, when Texas typically had a set personnel grouping and rolled through the game with that group.
"You look at Boise and a guy comes in for this play and a guy comes in for this play and it's a little bit more specific for the play and what you're trying to get done," Applewhite said. "So that's where you'll see some of the differences."
So how does he plan to keep the Longhorns from tipping their hands?
"The best offenses do create tendencies," Applewhite said. "The best offenses create tendencies, and they know how to counter. You see 26 (D.J. Monroe) in the ball game and we're going to give it to him, we're going to give it to him, we're going to give it to him. Now we're not. We're going to fake it to him and go over your head. So the good offenses do develop tendencies."
Applewhite said he felt like the Longhorns had "some great players" at wide receiver, though he admitted there was "a lot of youth at that position." He also lauded offensive line coach Stacy Searels for his early work with the linemen, fostering competition.
"He's doing a great job of creating competition and moving guys around and (saying) 'Hey, you're going to play center today, now you're going to play guard because this guy did well,'" Applewhite said.
Applewhite said the players had a strong foundation entering the fall because of their strong summer with strength coach Bennie Wylie.
"The guys are in great shape," Applewhite said. "Not only are they in great physical shape, they're in great mental shape. The guys are enjoying the weight room. He's just done a great job. You can tell the team has come together over the summer.
"That's always the fun part because essentially what a strength coach does is he hands you back your team," Applewhite said. "They've come back mentally ready and physically ready."