Which Was The Real McCoy?

Texas QB Colt McCoy threw for a school-record 29 TDs (No. 2 on the NCAA single-season freshman list) and just seven INTs in his inaugural campaign; he tossed 18 picks as a sophomore. What can we expect from the redshirt junior when the Horns return to practice next week?

At the very least, do not next expect McCoy to think in terms of a sophomore slump. Despite his 22-to-18 touchdown-to-INT ratio in ‘07, McCoy went 276-of-424 for 3,303 yards (No. 2 on Texas' single-season list). He capped another 10-3 season with his second consecutive bowl game Offensive MVP honor.

"I hate that term (sophomore slump)," McCoy laughed. "It's not a slump. I grew so much last season. I got better. I understand the offense better. I gained a ton of experience in a lot of different ways last year that's going to help me this year."

Offensive coordinator Greg Davis cautioned McCoy in early 2007 about the tendency among sophomore quarterbacks to level off following a breakout freshman season. Indeed, McCoy finished his RS-freshman year as a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien Award (nation's top quarterback) after completing 217-of-318 passes for (68.2 percent) for 2,570 yards. It represented the best single-season passing performance by a Longhorn freshman in school history. Only seven collegiate QBs had a better passer rating (161.8) than did McCoy in 2006. Just before his neck injury at Kansas State, he was listed in the Rocky Mountain News weekly poll of a sampling of Heisman voters.

Much was expected of McCoy with one year's experience under his belt. But the offense struggled to overcome feisty Arkansas State in the 2008 season-opener. A pick-six surrendered against TCU saw McCoy staring at 10-0 halftime deficit one week later. By the time Kansas State took one to the house to hand Texas the worst home loss of the Mack Brown era, some pigskin pundits had begun to attribute Texas' shortcomings to McCoy.

"Having 10 tipped balls in a season didn't help very much," McCoy said. "I've got a lot of great guys around me, and I just need to get the ball in their hands. So much of it is just the basics; taking one play at a time and understanding what you're going to do every time. Those things are so important. It's easier when you feel comfortable and you feel like you know everything."

McCoy was generally able to overcome slow starts, rallying his team from deficits against TCU, Central Florida, Nebraska and from 21 down in the fourth-quarter at Oklahoma State. He completed passes to 12 different receivers by season's end and, for the first time in school history, three Longhorns notched 40+ receptions in a single year. Following the across-the-board collapse at Texas A&M, McCoy hit 21-of-31 passes (67.7 percent) against Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl while rushing for 84 yards on 16 carries (5.2. ypc).

"He probably had too much publicity his first year because he had a phenomenal year," Brown said. "Our team wasn't as good last year. We started poorly. Then (SE) Limas (Sweed) got hurt. We kept it simple with Colt during his first year, and then we put too much on him because we weren't doing well. We were trying to find something we can do early, and we probably put too much stuff on him. There were unfortunate interceptions early. I thought he played really well for a stretch of about six games, struggled against A&M, and then came back and had a great bowl game. Where I feel like he's at an advantage right now is he's been on both sides of the coin, publicly. He was up for the Heisman as a freshman and people did not think he played as well as a sophomore. He seems to have much better leadership right now and control of the team, of who he is and where we're going."

One year after coaches emphasized the need for McCoy to emerge as a running threat, his learning curve this past spring and summer had to do with staying in the pocket.

"It's about letting the pocket develop around you, stepping up, playing to your reads and trusting your offensive line," McCoy continued.

Ah, yes, the offensive line. The unit was raw and was riddled with injuries. McCoy spent the better part of the '07 season running for his life.

"It was hard last year because I got hit a lot," McCoy continued. "I had to scramble a lot. This year, I've worked so hard at just staying in the pocket, letting it develop and letting the seams to develop. That is going to help so much this year."

All told, McCoy's numbers are impressive. His 3,795 yards of total offense last season trails only Vince Young's 4,086 yards during the 2005 national championship season. McCoy needs just one more win to eclipse QB James Street on the school's all-time victory list. But it's more difficult to quantify the experience gained in topsy-turvy sophomore (don't call it a 'slump') season.

"You just have to act like you're a pro," McCoy told Inside Texas. "You have to learn from each mistake you make at practice. You have to watch film from last year. You spend hours and hours just watching film and learning and asking, 'Why did you go here with this (attempt) when you knew to go there?' I'm thinking to myself, 'What an idiot! What was I doing?' Those things just take time. It takes time in the film room, it takes getting a paper and pen and writing down each thing, even though you've been through it 100 times. Then, when you're out on the field, you actually do it. It's tough to play quarterback in college, but I feel like this year is going to be a great year."

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