When John Chiles walked out onto the field in the third quarter, we got a glimpse of the future of Texas football. Of course, given that Colt McCoy's only a sophomore, Chiles doesn't represent the immediate future, but the players who were around him do.
The slippery freshman QB was surrounded entirely by freshmen when he took the field. All 11 players on the offense were freshmen, either redshirt or true, and we're going to be seeing a lot more of them very soon.
It's an indication of how fragile the depth is on this team that so many primary backups at so many positions are so young, but it also makes things very, very promising for the future, especially given how well they played.
The stocky Vondrell McGee looked like, well, as my colleague Bill Frisbie put it: "A bowling ball shot out of a cannon." McGee ran eight times for 80 yards and a TD in the second half, just out-pacing his quarterback, Chiles, who ran for 72 yards on nine carries.
Three true freshmen and two redshirt freshmen offensive linemen also got some much-needed playing time, opening some very large holes for Chiles and McGee. These are the guys that need to get good in a hurry, because the freshmen linemen, for better or worse, are playing a big role this season and that role may get bigger if any more offense linemen get hurt.
That's what this game was truly for, nothing more, nothing less. Do not judge this team on the 44-point romp that they placed on the Owls. This was against what may be the worst team in the history of Rice football. It doesn't mean that Texas is finally back on track. Rice's 279 yards passing doesn't mean that Texas is screwed. This contest was simply an opportunity to get the freshmen backups, since it seems there's barely any other kind of backups on the roster, into a game for a legitimate amount of playing time.
Getting each of these freshmen playing time is exceptionally important, but the most important might be Chiles. We saw last season how important it is to have a prepared backup QB behind McCoy. Saturday night, as expected, we saw Chiles dart back and forth between Owl defenders and display the lightning quick moves he's known for. As for passing, Chiles went 0-for-2, but both were drops and he showed that he's got the arm necessary to get the ball to his receivers.
But the most promising play involving Chiles we saw against Rice happened very early in the game. Chiles officially lost his redshirt in the first quarter when he entered the game alongside McCoy and stood in the Texas backfield as a running back, of all things. McCoy then split out at wide receiver, of all things, and Chiles remained in the backfield to take the snap.
The run from Chiles netted Texas exactly zero yards, but it was an indication that maybe, hopefully, just maybe we'll see some really inventive usage of Chiles in games against real opponents. Like, you know, in two weeks. Against Oklahoma. Maybe. Hopefully. Please.
Regardless, given Texas' less than stellar performance in the first three games of the season (second half against TCU excluded, naturally), the Horns needed this game. They needed a chance to play the freshmen and they sure as heck got it. The Texas Longhorns are still on shaky ground in 2007, but as for next few years? Baby, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
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