Texas coaches still searching for true leader at quarterback position

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Junior quarterback Garrett Gilbert aims down field against Rice in last year's season opener. Gilbert started all 12 games last year in Texas' first losing season since 1997. Texas coach Mack Brown has repeatedly said the starting quarterback role is still open.

Photo Credit: Derek Stout | Daily Texan Staff

The same school that produced recent college greats such as Colt McCoy and Vince Young is currently without a quarterback to continue the tradition.

Texas coach Mack Brown made it very clear at the Big 12 Media Days that the starting job is still up for grabs between four options that have yet to separate themselves from one another — Garrett Gilbert, Case McCoy, Connor Wood and David Ash.

“Everybody always says when you’ve got four [quarterbacks] you’ve got none, but I think if you’ve got four good ones, you’ve got four good ones,” Brown said. “The field is still wide open, and we want our starter to earn his role.”

He said that the heated competition for one of college football’s most coveted roles may not be decided until the Longhorns’ matchup against Rice on Sept. 3.

“If [the quarterbacks] don’t separate, then we’ll go into the Rice game trying to figure out how we’re going to play them to see who is going to separate in front of 101,000 people,” Brown said. “Y’all would love that.”

Brown’s hush-hush approach to solving this issue raises flags that this year’s batch of competitors may not present the capabilities of a leader. Senior running back Foswhitt Whittaker said that whichever player can rally the team around him will get the job.

“One of the quarterbacks needs to step up in times of adversity,” Whittaker said. “He doesn’t necessarily have to be vocal, but he needs to be able to make plays — a presence in the huddle.” 

Brown echoed those statements, saying that he wanted “somebody that could get Texas’ swagger back.”

Junior Gilbert was last year’s starter and was expected to have a break out year after a gutsy performance in the 2010 National Championship game. Gilbert started the 2010 campaign 4-2 but faltered later in the season when the team went 1-5. He completed 59 percent of his throws for 2,744 yards with just 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. The turnovers were among Brown’s biggest concerns, and he said that whoever is under center this year will need to reverse that trend.

Gilbert is widely speculated to retain his role given his pro-potential arm and the inexperience of the other three options, but Ash, Wood and McCoy have all made names for themselves in one way or another.

McCoy played exceptionally well in the spring football game completing 9-of-11 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown, but some scouts noted his footwork needed improvement. Whittaker believes Ash is “the fastest of the four options,” and Wood has a great deal of arm strength.

But despite the individual strengths of each, the race will be settled by who can understand the new offensive schemes the best and most importantly, handle the pressure of being Texas’ leader.

“One of the things [the offensive coordinators] and I have talked about a lot is that we are going to have a lot more live competition this year on 3rd down and in the red zone and on 4th downs,” Brown said. “We want to put quarterbacks under tremendous pressure and make them prove that they can keep the ball moving and make the tough plays.”

If the coaches can’t find the man to handle the pressure of Texas’ judgmental eyes soon enough, Brown already has a backup career planned.

“I’ll probably be a truck driver then.”

Printed on Thursday, July 28, 2011 as: WANTED: Texas quarterback, Head coach still searching for a starting signal caller who can handle pressure