No Controversy, But Who Is The Backup QB?

There's no second-guessing who the starting QB is at the Forty Acres this season. But who should be Vince Young's primary backup during Texas' run for the Roses in 2005?

The question, itself, is a luxury. With head coach Mack Brown insisting that VY has improved his game since the Rose Bowl, the only speculation about the Texas QB is which backup should be primed in case he is suddenly pressed into duty.

Fifth-year senior Matt Nordgren and true freshman Colt McCoy will both play this season, Brown has already said. In other words, there's not enough depth at QB to even consider redshirting McCoy.

"Because of Vince, we've had trouble signing a quarterback the past couple of years," Brown said previously.

Brown has also said that both quarterbacks need to run the offense regardless of the score. In some ways, it's the latest verse of the same old song. For the past three seasons, Brown has publicly regretted that the backup QBs did not get more quality snaps.

Assuming that Brown really intends for the backups to do more than hand the ball off during mop-up time, the question becomes whether priority should be given to a senior (and his grasp of the offense) or to a freshman (who may be the starting QB as early as September, 2006, if Vince goes pro after this junior season). Given Brown's proclivity for experienced players, it only stands to reason that a pecking order would favor the senior.

"Matt can help us win," Brown said, "but there's no question who our leader is and who our starting quarterback is."

It's just that now that RB Cedric Benson will be playing Sundays, VY will be even more of the focal point of what's shaping up as a more wide-open offense. (One thing I didn't publicize during Rose Bowl week was a conversation I overheard between a Michigan assistant and a Detroit reporter regarding the Wolverine defensive game plan that was geared toward stopping VY rather than Benson. The Michiganers correctly deduced that most Big 12 teams schemed to stop Benson, but the Wolverines would try to get to VY early and often. The blueprint was to hit him and hit him hard. The irony, of course, is that Benson was injured on his first carry from scrimmage while VY ran the Wolverines ragged.)

In short, the key to stopping Texas is stopping Vince (or at least trying to). It means that VY will have a bull's eye on his jersey like never before.

"Matt knows he's one play away from being the starter," Brown said, "so he's focused on everything he does. He's been here for four years. He's already got his degree. He's a brilliant young guy. He wants to play. He wants to do well."

Both Brown and VY used the type of language this past spring to strongly hint that the junior QB would return in 2006 for what would be his fifth season at Texas. I think it's fair to say that most Orangebloods believe that VY would likely benefit from an extra season in polishing his passing game but that Texas were to accomplish team goals of either a conference or a national championship, then he is apt to call it a collegiate career.

If, for whatever reason, a backup were to be pressed into action by say, the Ohio State game, then Brown would have to go with a senior who has run this offense for several seasons. Nordgren has deceptive speed and a strong arm, and actually broke the longest run of the Orange-White Game (a dash of 30+ yards on the zone read). Unlike two years ago, you won't see a different offense when a difference QB enters the game.

"He understands that he's different than Vince," Brown said. "(Nordgren) says, 'When I run, I look slower.' I said, 'You are slower. And everyone else in America is slower.' But what he can do is take the same plays and make eight yards, where Vince makes 60, and still move the ball."

Yet... the argument here is that McCoy should get the lions share of the snaps this fall when VY is resting comfortably on the sideline with the 'W' in hand. Nordgren has been a good soldier and has held a lot of clipboards in the past, but McCoy is the future (at least, he is the immediate future). Vince may or not be on campus next season, but Nordgren definitely won't be.

"I think Colt McCoy is a tremendous prospect at quarterback," Brown said. "He didn't get the publicity that a lot of other people got."

The biggest question is whether a small-town boy -- McCoy was the Texas (Class 2A Offensive Player of the Year -- can make the immediate transition to big-time college football. Two words: Jordan Shipley. The former 3A standout answered those questions before tearing his ACL last August. Here's hoping that McCoy will be given the same opportunity to show his stuff, and that VY looks both ways before crossing the street.

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