Part of it has to do with the fact that there is no longer a former starting QB on the bench now that Chance Mock has completed his eligibility. (We all know that Mock was gracious and selfless in his support of Vince. It's just that, last spring, there were those who believed Mock was a superior passer, a good enough runner and, consequently, a more viable choice to lead the offense. There were also those who, while not discounting Young's jaw-dropping talent, were so convinced that he would never develop his dropback game to an NFL-level that his best long-term move would be a switch to WR.)
These days, following an 11-1 campaign and a 17-2 mark as a starter, Young is a legitimate preseason Heisman candidate who can live with the fact that he will always have his critics.
"I know a lot of guys have said this or said that," Young commented. "I'm going to still go out there and play my game and still answer their questions about what they're saying about me."
There is no questioning his running skills, which look effortless as he glides down the field and nimbly darts away from would-be tacklers. That's why the passing game was a bigger emphasis during the April 2 Orange-White Game. On more than one occasion that night, VY opted for a pass attempt (when he just knew he could have moved the chains by running the ball) just to give the oft-criticized WRs a chance to become playmakers.
"There were times when he could have run but we're still working on the passing game," Brown said. "It was good to see (FL) Nate Jones make a couple of plays with his hands. (SE) Limas Sweed needed to get stronger in some areas and we think he's done that this spring."
Then there's Vince's not-so-secret weapon: his knack for tucking-and-running for the first, almost before a DB can stop back peddling.
"There was a 3rd-and-10 (in the Orange-White game) where everybody's backing up," Brown recalled, "and it's so easy for him to take off and hit that boundary line like he did against Kansas (the BCS-saving 22-yard run on 4th-and-18). When they're going back and he's going forward, it's really hard for people to tackle him. He's got that knack for knowing exactly where that first down marker is. It's like he's not even trying to get there because he knows he's going to get there."
Young was listed at 6-5, 220, when he reported to the Forty Acres as a freshman in 2002. These days, Brown said his Freak of Nature signal caller is closer to 6-6, weighs 231 and runs a 4.4.
"Vince is so much stronger," Brown said. "He flips the ball now on an out (route) and on the comebacks he's throwing. It's amazing to me that he can step up into the pocket with everybody around him and throw a full speed ball with everybody 25 yards down field because he draws everybody to him."
While VY's strength is improved, Brown said one of the most appreciable upgrades to his game is his overall field vision.
"The thing that I'm seeing with Vince is that he knows where everybody is on every play now," Brown said. "He has a chance to take another step and be better than he was last year. That's what has excited us so much."
Young's self-assessment has more to do with improvements that may go unnoticed by the casual fan: namely, command of the huddle and making pre-snap decisions.
"Right now, I'm feeling real good in the pocket delivering the ball downfield and getting the plays in," Young said. "I know what a struggle that was. I'm doing a great job, overall, as a quarterback and doing what the coaches want me to do."
So much of the emphasis this spring, offensively, had been so focused on RB Ramonce Taylor and on developing reliable WRs that it was easy to overlook the obvious:
"Everything is spearheaded by that offensive line and by Vince Young," Brown noted.