Horns + Aggies = Four QBs, But Different Results

The question that just would not go away during August two-a-days was who would (or should) be the starting quarterback for the large Texas university with its fervent base &#151; only this time the inquiries were not directed solely at Texas head coach <B>Mack Brown</B>.

First-year Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione was getting an earful from fans, media and inquiring minds who wanted to know who would line up behind center when the Aggies opened the 2003 campaign against (in effect) Louisiana Directional. Now, whether starting QB Reggie McNeal fully shakes off an injury suffered last Saturday at Missouri or whether senior QB Dustin Long gets one last shot at the Longhorns, Texas is preparing this week for the very problem it presents to opposing defenses: talented signalcallers with contrasting styles.

"I think it’s always hard to prepare for two if they’re a little different," Brown said. "In their case, they’re a little different and in our case they’re a little different. I do think it’s a problem, defensively. Reggie has played really well and ran a 10.5 100-meters in high school, and Dustin has such a great arm. He’s so accurate. He can move well but it’s just compared to a 10.5 100-meters, people don’t talk about his movement."

One half of UT's QB combo, Vince Young, it seems, is more concerned with the Twelfth Man than whoever lines up behind center for Texas A&M come 2:30 p.m., Nov. 28. Part of the pre-game preparation this week is additional work on hand-signals to help compensate for the 80,000-plus screaming, swaying Aggies at Kyle Field.

"They’ll try to get loud and mess us up with our audibles," Young said. "Coaches told me it was going to be real loud so speak real loud so everybody can hear you. Once we take them out of the game, we’ll be all right."

Young first met McNeal in late fall, 2001, halfway between Houston and Lufkin during a Houston Chronicle photo shoot highlighting two of the nation’s top quarterback talents emerging from the same region.

"Ever since then we’ve been good friends," Young said, adding that McNeal came to DKR last September to watch Texas play Tulane.

Texas recruited both McNeal and Long but, of course, signed high school All-Americans Chance Mock and Young out of the Houston area.

"Reggie wanted to go to A&M and Vince wanted to come to Texas," Brown said, "and it was a deal where our staff and R.C. (Slocum’s) staff said to both of them, ‘We like you.’ And they picked more than we did. You’re lucky if you get one (QB) per year, but you’re sure not going to get two."

Reggie committed first while Vince gave his verbal to Texas in December, 2001. McNeal played sporadically throughout his freshman year and, of course, engineered the improbable upset of Oklahoma in College Station last season. He was injured during an overtime home loss to Missouri the following weekend and did not suit-up for Texas’ 50-20 route of the Aggies at DKR. Last week, Long played the entire second half against the Tigers as the Aggies fell for the seventh time this season.

Save for that upset win over Oklahoma last season, there have been few bright spots as of late for the Aggies, who now have combined for a 10-13 mark in 2002 and 2003. Texas, meanwhile, is poised for a third straight Top 6 finish and the first BCS Bowl berth during Brown’s tenure. No small part of that is Texas has a pair of quarterbacks talented enough to start for virtually any school in the nation and who each have orchestrated fourth-quarter, game-winning TD drives.

"We’ve gotten back in a position to where we were with Major (Applewhite) and Chris (Simms) in that it’s so comfortable for our staff and our tam that we know if one of them struggles the other one can come in," Brown said. "We lost (to A&M) in 1999 when Major got sick and Chris was a true freshman, and it scares you to death as a coach that you would ever put your job on the line, or a game on the line, for the health or the performance of one player. I always felt like it was unfair to the team, so you’ve got to have two ready. Even if you don’t rotate them you have to have two ready."

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