Spring Preview: QB Tops Agenda For Horns

Can Texas spell 'victory' without VY? Closer to the point, can the Horns notch enough Ws with a freshman QB during an expanded 2006 regular season to mount a successful title defense? That's the operative question when spring drills begin Monday, February 27, at the Forty Acres.

"We all thought Vince (Young) was going to stay," head coach Mack Brown said.

There's no underestimating how genuinely surprised Brown was by Young's January 8 announcement to forego his final year of eligibility. Shortly after the Rose Bowl, Brown predicted that Young would return for the 2006 campaign. He later said that he did not learn Young would leave until the day before his press conference. In retrospect, Brown clearly would have taken the redshirt off of freshman Colt McCoy last season.

"We could have let some guys take some time to play and grow up," Brown said. "We've got really good players at that (QB) position. What we've got to do is help them gain experience fast."

Added Brown, "This year, we're going to have to play both of our quarterbacks at game-speed at every play that they're in there regardless of whether we're ahead or behind because they're going to need game experience."

But what McCoy lacks in game-day experience may be compensated by his yearlong assimilation of the playbook. Players have said that McCoy possesses "Major Applewhite smarts" while Young said the RS-freshman had a far greater grasp of the offense than he did at the same time in his career.

"The fact that Colt has a semester helps him," Brown said. "He knows the players better. He already knows the system. Colt did some really good things last fall. We worked him a whole lot at the end of year and into the bowl practice."

McCoy was a two-time Associated Press 2A Offensive MVP and first-team all-state selection in guiding Tuscola Jim Ned to a 34-2 record during three years at QB. His 9,344 yards on 536-of-849 passing (63.1 percent), including 116 TDs, makes him the all-time leading passer in Texas 2A history and fourth overall in Texas high school history. Yet, McCoy is not a lock for the position.

A December graduate, Stephenville All-American Jevan Snead has been on campus for little more than a month. He recently told Inside Texas that his head is no longer swimming by all the terminology and complexities of the offensive playbook. Stephenville ran a spread offense, incorporating the 'zone read', in which Snead operated out of the shotgun "nearly 100 percent of the time." It was a prep version of Utah's scheme when Urban Meyer was still a Mountain West coach, hence the reason for comparisons that have been made between Snead and former Ute QB Alex Smith. It was also part of the reason why Snead initially committed to following Meyer to Florida, a choice that Snead now refers to as "pre-mature."

Snead passed for 7,966 yards and 100 TDs during his final two seasons, posting a 23-2 record as a starter. He averaged 318.2 ypg during that stretch on the way to Parade All-American honors. He is now listed at 6-3, 215 pounds and tells me that he's a little faster than folks realize (he's been clocked at a 4.62).

Joining the posse this fall is athletic Arlington Bowie QB Sherrod Harris. Bowie's all-time leading passer with 4,321 yards in three seasons, Harris actively petitioned Snead to renounce his decision for Florida and sign instead with Texas.

"I was hyped," Harris said of Snead's decision. "I was glad to have him with me. I wanted to have the two best freshman quarterbacks in the nation going at the same time."

Well, there's that phrase again: freshman quarterbacks. The program, obviously, has a recent history of relying on a freshman, including Young (2003), Applewhite (1998) and Peter Gardere (1989). Brown understands there will be growing pains for the new kids on the block, but expects them to grow up fast and successfully handle one of the most high-profile positions in college football.

"It's good that these (new QBs) knew Vince was being cussed and told 19 games ago that he would never be able to play college quarterback," Brown noted. "That was midway through his sophomore year. They understand that Vince was not an overnight sensation. They saw him take criticism, they saw Chris (Simms) take criticism, they saw Major take criticism. These two guys have been in programs that have won championships. These guys have been scrutinized. They've been highly recruited. They'll understand that they'll be under the microscope here for a while."

Unlike previous Longhorn freshman QBs, McCoy and company have the benefit of seven returning offensive starters from the defending national champion (not to mention three RBs who have started at least three ballgames). The defense also returns seven starters and the general outlook among players is that it should be even better than the 2005 unit now that it has a second year under Gene Chizik's system. In short, Texas will probably try to get things done this year in much the same way it spelled VictorY back in the day: with a power running game and an impregnable defense.

"Hopefully, our team will play better in other areas to take the pressure off of our quarterbacks," Brown concluded. "A lot of people felt like Vince was the only reason we won all the games. He was a great help, but there were a lot of good plays and a lot of good players outside of Vince that won the championship."

TOMORROW: How much will the offense change with a new quarterback?


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