Texas QBs: Two for the Show?

According to Mack Brown, if the season started today, Colt McCoy would be the starting quarterback... but the season doesn't start today, does it? Inside Texas' Bill Frisbie reports from the Big 12 Media Days in Kansas City on the potential quarterback controversy to be.

KANSAS CITY -- Pencil-in RS-freshman Colt McCoy as Texas' starting QB if the 2006 season was to start today, but keep an eraser handy. Everything could change by the September 2 home-opener, head coach Mack Brown said Tuesday. Then again, the situation may still be unsettled at mid-season. This we know: both McCoy and true freshman Jevan Snead will play.

"When I'm asked who would start based on spring practice, and one (QB) has been there a full year and one's been there for 15 days of practice, Colt would start if we played today," Brown said. "That could change by the first game. I really feel in my heart that you have to have two guys ready to play. If we play one quarterback through mid-season, and we're getting ready for the Oklahoma game and he sprains his ankle, we do not want to put a guy in that ballgame, or any of our ballgames down the stretch, if he doesn't have any experience. It's unfair to your team, so we will work really hard to make sure both guys get the needed experience."

For now, the competition between McCoy and Snead is still wide-open. The friendly battle resumes, in earnest, when the Longhorns open pre-season camp on August 7.

"What we'll do is work really hard to try to separate the two at some point," Brown said, "but since you do not hit your quarterbacks during practice, it will probably take game-experience before we'll know which one will lead the team more readily."

It begs the question: how much live action, and in how many games, is required before there is a clear-cut starter? And how will coaches handle the QB derby in the interim?

"In our system, we have always given 50 percent (of the practice reps) to the starter and 50 percent to the second-teamer," Brown said. (Note: Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis said last spring that the starting Texas QB typically gets two-thirds of the snaps as well as more of the game plan during Game Week) "Colt will probably be the starter when we start (pre-season camp) on August 7, and we'll probably give Jevan more snaps with the first-team because he'll need to work with the first-team center more. Then, we'll just have to figure out how we'll play them. It's a question mark that's very difficult to decide until you get in it."

Brown reiterated a statement Tuesday that he made earlier in the spring: the QB on the field at the final whistle may not be the one who started the game. Instead, he might the one with the 'hot hand.'

"We may have a plan going into a game, and that plan may change. If one of them plays poorly and the other one steps in and has a hot hand, we're going to leave the hot hand in the game and try to win the game. I know it gets more people stirred up to talk about two quarterbacks, but that's what we've got."

If the Burnt Orange natives are restless, it's because Brown has a recent history of not reaching a firm decision on the starting quarterback until saddled with a September loss as well as an implosion against Oklahoma. This was the case when the Chris Simms-Major Applewhite rotation was in full-throttle in 2000 (losses to Stanford, OU) and again in 2003 when Vince Young and Chance Mock entered the fray on designated series regardless of the scoreboard. Coaches, of course, opted for Young following a September home loss to Arkansas and the worst defeat to OU in series' history.

"The whole thing is what you have to do to win, and sometimes it's not clear," Brown continued. "If it's clear, you make that decision and go. If one starts and he plays really poorly, you have to put the other guy in. My job is to win that game on that day. After that, you go and start over the next week. We're going to do whatever we need to do to win the game, and the perception of what we do is very unimportant to us. Winning is what's important. We'll handle the heat."

If there is no separation at this point (or, at least none that Brown is willing to disclose publicly), I asked about what kind of clarity that coaches were able to glean in the QB situation following spring drills and also from the reports they have received from voluntary summer workouts.

"It's obvious why they both lost just three games during their entire high school careers," Brown told Inside Texas. "They're very confident and they're very talented. They both run better than 4.7, so they're very athletic and we can still do a lot of the things that we were doing with Vince that people wouldn't think we would continue to do. They're both very accurate and very smart. I was surprised, with both of them, that they stepped into the huddle and showed the kind of leadership skills as young quarterbacks. We weren't sure what we'd get, and it sounds like that's continued through the summer. I'm excited about watching them in the fall."

Brown is not averse to rotating QBs; he does not believe it is necessarily detrimental to the team. While at North Carolina, he rotated Mike Thomas and Jason Stanicek to the tune of an 11-win season. It's just that football is just a little more high profile at The University of Texas than in the basketball-focused Tar Heel State.

"There was absolutely no discussion of it (rotation) at North Carolina and we won with it," Brown noted. "We won with it at Texas, but there was a tremendous amount of discussion. I learned, at Texas, that it put more pressure on the two young people and on our offense than I thought it would because that was not my experience in the past. I do have a better understanding now that when you have two (QBs), it gives people and opportunity to choose sides. We will do a better job of having the quarterbacks prepared for that than we did four years ago."

Coaches and players continue to emphasize the stellar supporting cast that the freshman QBs will have at their disposal: including the best offensive and defensive lines the Horns have fielded during Brown's tenure, a vastly improved array of WRs, the Big 12's top secondary (where the only concern is depth) and tremendous depth at RB despite Ramonce Taylor's decision to transfer. And as far as SS Michael Griffin is concerned, the real battle at QB is waged not so much between the hashes but rather between the ears.

"The main goal of the quarterbacks right now is to develop the confidence that Vince had," Griffin said. "If you watch the game against USC, you see Vince just standing there with no emotions, nor worries and no nothing on his face. It's the confidence that he could go out there and get the job done. We're not expecting the quarterbacks to go out there and do some of the things Vince did. They're going to have their own style. Maybe they're going to have a better arm. Or, maybe they can run like Vince. We won't know until the first game. But we don't expect them to go out there and win the game by themselves. We expect them to go out there and help the team win. We expect them to go out there as an offense, all 11 players on the field, snap the ball, move the ball down the field and sore. That's all we expect of them."

That's all. But if there is a silver lining in Young's decision to forego his final year of eligibility, it is that it mitigated whatever complacency the team might have had regarding the upcoming season.

"I believe, without question, that if Vince had stayed we probably wouldn't have gone back to work as fast," Brown concluded. "When he made his decision to leave, we went right back to work."

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