Confident Young Eager To Head 'Em Off At The Pass

Coach <B>Mack Brown </B>assures us that QB <B>Vince Young </B>has made significant strides in his passing game. Okay, well, there is one specific area where improvement is needed.

"Consistency in drop-back passing is the thing we need to work on the most," Brown said.

Those who put much stock in individual performances during the Spring Game game last April know this is an understatement. Those who have observed Young since his prep star days at Houston Madison know that he is far more adept at rollout passing (and can average, oh, around 7.4 ypc should he decide to tuck-and-run). And those of us who subjectively cover Texas football (i.e., those like myself who truly care that Texas wins) spent more than one late afternoon last spring peering through the locked gates at Denius Field observing Young as he dropped back (again and again and again) to where some questioned if coaches were trying to force the issue. The larger concern is whether there was some effort to turn this 6-5 gazelle into a drop-back passer and this mitigate Young's greatest asset: his mobility, whether he's running or throwing.

Any cause for alarm here?

Nahhh, even though a good many Orangebloods are convinced OC Greg Davis would drop-back pass on every down if he could. Read Brown's comments carefully: coaches are not looking to turn Young into Chris Simms but rather are looking for consistency in that particular phase of the game. Defenses know Young can run. Defenses know Young can roll out. But they need not be so convinced that only three things can happen when Young drops back and that two of them are bad.

This season, with the absence of an inexperienced deep-ball threat, Texas will emphasize the intermediate routes to tight ends and running backs until the wideouts can earn Brown's trust. But the underneath routes require on-the-money accuracy relative to downfield lobs (or else you've got the modern-day versions of Derrick Strait and Rocky Calmus going the other direction with the football).

It's also in Young's best long-term interest to develop his drop-back game. It will be more-or-less expected of him when he takes his remarkable skills to the League in two (hopefully three) years. For Young, the future is now. So is the improvement in his passing game, by his own assessment.

"I've been throwing the ball real well," Young told Inside Texas. "It's just from relaxing more. I knew I could always throw the ball, but it's more from sitting back there, going through my progressions and reading the field and taking what they give me."

The thing Young takes into the 2004 season that he did not have this time last year was six starts behind center. Familiarity with the offense that comes from invaluable experience, plus confidence from believing he is improving as a passer, could make all the difference this season.

"If you had seen me last year when I first came out there, I was calling plays in and I was stumbling with the words," Young said.

Actually, dearly departed SE Roy Williams said that Young (in the early going) did not know many of the hand signals when plays were called from the sideline. Older players, including former FL B.J. Johnson, sometimes had to remind Young what those signals meant, especially when the freshman had to get the play called and executed in the heat of battle, with the 25-second clock winding down and the Kansas State defense primed to take his head off.

This season, Young should not need an interpreter.

"This year, I'm more relaxed," Young added. "The words are just coming out, the signals and stuff like that. I see myself a little ahead with the experience that I've had."

The August football camp begins in little more than one month, but Young made a pre-season vow to work this summer with new receivers. (Orangebloods living in Austin are always heartened to drive past Denius Field at night and see the athletes out there in voluntary sessions.) And even though expectations are tempered among much of the fan base, some of these seniors (Derrick Johnson, Cedric Benson, etc.) have said they are determined not the leave the Forty Acres without a championship. It's what they expected when they arrived as wet-behind-the-ears freshmen.

Part of the championship equation, of course, requires that last season's freshman quarterback hone his passing attack to complement his running skills. If that happens, then talk of that elusive title will be no passing fancy in 2004.


Daily website coverage of the 2004 Texas football season begins July 20 with reports from the Big 12 Football Media Conference in Kansas City. Look for team profiles, players and coaches interviews plus the preseason prognosis from around the league. Practice is (tentatively) set to begin Monday, August 9. The Season Preview edition of Inside Texas magazine will be available the first week of August.

Horns Digest Top Stories