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Benson: Rotating QBs May be Problem for Young

RB Cedric Benson has never had trouble believing he is "the man" in the Longhorn backfield, but now says QB Vince Young needs convincing that he is "the man" to direct the offense. Rotating quarterbacks may serve to reinforce whatever self-doubts Young has about his status, Benson suggested Thursday at the Big 12 Football Media Conference in Kansas City.<p>

"Vince is always working, working, working but I believe his biggest challenge is himself," Benson said. "I don't think that he believes personally that he is the man. He needs to start believing that."

Added Benson, "When you're not getting the start, and you come from a high school where you were the man, it can get you off track. It could be a problem rotating quarterbacks because it's such an important position. Guys have got to get into the game to stay on track, not rotating, rotating, rotating."

Benson then fell silent, as if realizing his statements were venturing beyond the comfort zones of the UT spin doctors.

"It's a tough subject for me to talk about," Benson said, "so I'll stay focused on my job."

To be fair, Young has gotten "the start" since the Iowa State game dating back to the third week in October, 2003. Further, there hasn't been a scripted rotation, per se, since early November. Following the Nebraska game, coaches played the quarterback whom they thought would give the team the best chance to win. They obviously made the right call when Chance Mock rallied the team in the final 2:03 against Texas Tech but then appeared to have panicked in yanking Young for the fourth quarter in the 28-20 Holiday Bowl loss to Washington State.

Head coach Mack Brown affirmed that "Chance Mock is a good player" but that Young would remain the starter if the season began today.

"We had to balance playing time between the two quarterbacks last year," Brown said, unaware of Benson's comments. "We usually alternated the first three series of the game, until midseason. Then we put (Mock) in to give us momentum or to get him some playing time. We're lucky to have two who can play. It's a good thing to have two good quarterbacks. You don't want an injury to hamper your season. You always need two good quarterbacks."

Young had minor surgery last month to repair his hernia but is on his way to full recovery. "We have not seen the quarterbacks work this summer but I understand Vince is running again, throwing and doing well," Brown said.

Young's health and Benson's assessment notwithstanding, a large number of Orangebloods have been vocal with their concern that Young showed little evidence of improving his passing game during the annual Spring Game on April 5. Brown, however, said coaches "saw a huge jump in his passing skills this spring."

"We forget sometimes that Vince Young was a redshirt freshman and that he had not started a ballgame until after the OU game," Brown said. "He then won six straight as our quarterback and leader."

The memory of Young's early dismissal in the Holiday Bowl undoubtedly fueled Benson's comments. Benson also knows that a Young-led Zone Read offense lends itself toward the running back getting significantly more carries than when the so-called passing quarterback is in the game. And although Benson has been vocally supportive of both quarterbacks, his preference was evident early last season. Just before the season opener against New Mexico State, a reporter asked Benson one of those relatively mundane questions about whether the experienced athletes needed to carry the load to allow the untested quarterbacks time to develop. Benson responded: "You mean to keep Chance in the game? I have every confidence in Vince Young."

On Thursday in Kansas City, that confidence remained unwavering if not myopic. In fact, one reporter pointed out to Benson that, whereas Brown spoke highly of both quarterbacks, it was as if Mock never existed at all from Benson's perspective.

"There's an unlimited amount of things (Young) can do for an offense," Benson said. "He can do whatever that's asked of him. He's a freak of nature. He's amazing. I think he can do anything. He could probably be the whole offense if he wanted."

My opinion, plus $4, will get you a small cup of coffee at Starbucks, but here goes: From a reporter's perspective, Benson's comments are candid and refreshingly heartfelt. But from the standpoint of a die-hard Orangeblood, Benson's remarks are counter-productive and smack of the self-serving immaturity that occasionally surfaces when he has several microphones in his face. He has to know that nearly every player who starts at a skill position at The University of Texas was "the man" at his high school, and that all must learn to deal with the occasional series when he rides the bench. To his credit, Benson wants to answer questions honestly and directly. But he would do well to occasionally take a cue from Roy Williams who (publicly, at least) expressed trust in the coaches' ability to make the correct personnel decisions.

Benson may be entirely accurate in assessing that Young's biggest obstacle resides between the ears rather than between the hash marks. He correctly surmises that Young has yet to maximize his vast potential but his being pulled from a ballgame was unsettling to him simply because it was with little or no precedent in his experience. But Young will emerge all the better as he matures, learns to accept coaching decisions (whether he likes them or not) and understands that he is "the man" even during those occasions when another gifted athlete gives Texas the best chance to win. And Benson would better serve his team if his support of particular athletes at specific positions was a bit more private.

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