December 6, 2007

Season-in-review: The quarterbacks

As we begin our final breakdown of the 2007 season for the Texas Longhorns, we'll first take a look at the quarterback position. At the beginning of the year the expectations or sophomore Colt McCoy were so high that most people seemed to believe that the ultimate success of the team would be determined by McCoy's play. As was the case for most of the positions on this team, inconsistent play was the one of the biggest reasons for were so many questions yet to be answered this season. Here's a full breakdown of each player at the position and where they need to be going from here.

Colt McCoy (redshirt sophomore)

Expectations - After a sensational and historical freshman campaign, the expectations for the latest quarterback cover-boy for the Longhorns were sky high entering the 2007 season. The idea of a sophomore slump lingered in the minds of everyone, but with the success of the team so directly tired to his ability to perform heroics on a weekly basis, almost everyone believed that McCoy would perform near an elite level because of the vast array of weapons at his disposal.

Reality - McCoy's season changed on a dime the afternoon that senior All-America candidate Limas Sweed injured his wrist, which would ultimately destroy his entire senior season. With his only true deep threat either limited or out of the line-up for most of the season and with a line that proved to be even more inconsistent than any other group on the team, McCoy struggled to live up to expectations. There were some afternoons when McCoy was so brilliant that his play proved to be the difference between winning and losing. However, there were other days when McCoy simply didn't give the team the performance that it needed. At the end of the day, McCoy's penchant for turnovers after a mostly turnover-free freshman season, proved to be a defining memory of his season.

Stats - McCoy completed 255 of 393 passes (64.9 percent) for 3,129 yards, 21 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. McCoy also used his feet to rush for 408 yards and three touchdowns on 98 carries (4.2 average).

High Point - The West Texas Kid made play after play, both with his feet and his arm, in helping lead the Longhorns to an improbable 38-35 come-from-behind win over Oklahoma State in Stillwater. In addition to completing 20 of 27 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown, McCoy added 106 yards on 21 carries. In the fourth quarter, when his team needed him the most, McCoy delivered time after time, whether it was making a key throw on third down or running for first downs when nothing was available in the passing game.

Low point - After getting knocked out in his previous experience against Texas A&M, McCoy vowed that the Aggies would learn the meaning of tough in this year's game. So, when McCoy came out in a funk against the Aggies, it shocked everyone that knew him and expected a virtuoso performance. McCoy was sacked four times and he committed three turnovers, as the offense generally sputtered up and down the field all afternoon in a devastating loss.

Bottom Line - McCoy will come away from this season as a better player and he should grow considerably from the experiences of this season. After a bit of a fairy tale year in 2006, McCoy came back down to earth this season and learned that he's got to do a better job of eliminating mistakes from his arsenal or the Longhorns are going to have a hard time getting back to a championship level. In a league full of outstanding quarterbacks, McCoy was just a solid player over the duration of this season. There were just too many peaks and valleys, with the team often incapable of overcoming his bad days. Still, everyone should keep in mind that the Longhorns might have only earned a spot in the Holiday Bowl this season, the final destination wouldn't have been nearly as pretty without him. That's a line that you can't tag too many players with this year.

John Chiles (Freshman)

Expectations - Outside of wearing a burnt orange cape and possessing some supernatural abilities, not much was expected of this incoming freshman. An injury to Sherrod Harris turned the heat up on Chiles and the expectations from early on were that he would emerge as the No.2 quarterback and a possible playmaking weapon for the offense. Fair or not, his name was whispered everywhere in August by both the players and coaches.

Reality - Chiles did emerge as the No.2 quarterback this season, but his playing time was so limited, it was tough to get a read on where he's at as a player. Despite high hopes, this was a complete waste of a season for Chiles, who lost a redshirt season and a year of separation between him and McCoy.

Stats -Chiles completed one of nine passes (11.1%) for 17 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. He added 170 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries (5.5 average) on the ground.

High Point - It won't show up in the stat sheet, but the insertion of Chiles into the Nebraska game in the fourth quarter after McCoy got hurt turned the season around for the team. On one single zone-read play with Chiles at quarterback, the Longhorns found something that finally woke up a dead offense from a coma and the momentum carried the Longhorns to a come-from-behind win against the Huskers and a five-game winning streak.

Low point - Not seeing Chiles on the field again for the rest of the season following that key play in the Nebraska game. Perhaps the threat of Chiles would have given the offense a spark at Texas A&M? We'll never know.

Bottom Line - The way things played out, the decision to take the redshirt off of Chiles looks like a poor one. There's no question that he needs more schooling at the position and he wasn't used enough this season to justify wasting the season. It'll be interesting to see if they are patient enough to let him redshirt next season and get back on course to creating some more separation between him and McCoy. If that doesn't happen, some tough decisions might have to be made because Chiles is a player the coaches want on the field. So, the message to Greg Davis is this: think outside the box and create a package specifically for his skill set.

Sherrod Harris (Redshirt freshman)

Expectations - After using the 2006 season to learn the ropes, Harris had high expectations that he would win the second-string job at quarterback and become a valuable member of the team week-in and week-out.

Reality - Harris was hurt in August and it cost him any shot at winning the job away from Chiles, who was given all of the reps once the decision to pull his redshirt was made.

Stats -Harris had two carries for -10 yards this season.

Bottom Line - Harris is in a bit of a tight spot right now because he's currently behind Chiles on the depth chart and with both players currently slotted in the same graduating class, he's going to have to show that he can beat Chiles out for playing time or he's going to be the No.3 quarterback, which means fewer reps and few opportunities for development. His competition with Chiles in the next year has a chance to define how he's remembered as a player at this school. The bottom line is that Harris needs to emerge as a stronger player, so that the Longhorns at least have the option next year of redshirting Chiles if they decided that was the best route.

G.J. Kinne (Redshirting freshman)

Expectations - None. There wasn't anyone in Austin that expected him to come see immediate playing time. A redshirt was always going to be in his future.

Reality - As expected, Kinne redshirted.

Bottom Line - Kinne has his work cut out for him if he wants to push for playing time in 2008 because he'll enter the spring as the No.4 guy on the depth chart. The good news is that neither Chiles nor Harris has done enough to close up the competition, so Kinne will arrive next spring with a door open, even if it's only cracked. Kinne showed some nice things on the scout team next year and with the time to sit-back and watch, he'll be an interesting player to monitor.

Overall thoughts

When you look at this year's team, the Longhorns needed almost perfect quarterback play to win some weeks and that put more pressure on McCoy this season than he was able to shoulder week-in and week-out. McCoy is a strong player and one of the top assets in the program, but the Longhorns will need to move forward in 2008 with the understanding that they need a more complete team that can at least meet McCoy in the middle when it comes to shouldering the responsibility in determining the difference between winning and losing. The staff might not have discovered much this season about its talent, but surely they understand that McCoy is not Vince Young, which means that he can't do everything and be everything to everybody. He's a very good player with a chance to be better. As for the rest of the players at this position, someone has to step up and emerge as a viable option for this team, and not just with their legs. Otherwise, every time they take the field, the staff is going to have limited confidence in what they can do on the field, which means McCoy will be in the same position he was in this season in a lot of ways


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