Summer gridiron report: For Texas, it's BCS title or bust


University of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy already owns nearly every significant passing record in the Longhorns' storied history books.

Among them:

  • Most TD passes, career: 85
  • Most TD passes, single season: 34
  • Most passing yards, career: 9,732
  • Most passing yards, single season: 3,859

There are plenty more. You get the idea. To think he still has his senior year to pad those stats is rather mind-boggling.

He's had an amazing college football career. But to McCoy, it's not even close to complete.

That's because Texas has not yet played in a Big 12 Championship game with McCoy as its starting quarterback.

I think Big 12 fans think of McCoy as a really good QB. Statistically, he is far and away the best to ever play at Texas. But I get the feeling he's not historically great just yet in the eyes of Longhorns fans.

That's because historically great at Texas tips the scale in favor of trophies over stats. Particularly now, in an age where throwing for 300 yards in the Big 12 is hardly front-page news. No, historically great at Texas can be summed up by Keith Jackson in three words: "Vince...Young...scores."

McCoy isn't quite on that historical level, but he's close. Texas is a consensus Top 5 team this season, and much of the reason is because of McCoy's leadership and experience. He should be a finalist again for the Heisman Trophy and the Longhorns have every intent of playing for the BCS Championship.

If McCoy wins the Heisman — Vince Young never did — and leads Texas to a BCS Championship this season, he won't only be the best quarterback in UT football history, but perhaps the greatest player to ever wear a Longhorns uniform.

Such are the expectations at Texas.

Welcome to the final edition of Conference Chatter's summer gridiron report (this is me shedding a tear for the last one). It's been a fun way to get excited for the upcoming Big 12 football season, which is shaping up to be as competitive as last year. If you missed some of the earlier gridiron reports, here's when your favorite Big 12 teams were featured:

Big 12 North

Big 12 South

We seal the deal today with Texas, which finished last season 12-1 (7-1 conference) with a memorable, last-minute victory over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Biggest question mark: Running back.

Basically, who will get the most carries? Last year, McCoy led Texas in rushing attempts (136) and yards (561). McCoy's dual-threat capabilities are admirable, but if he gets hurt, Texas doesn't compete for the BCS title. I'm not sure it's the best idea for him to lead the team in these categories again.

The Longhorns certainly have returning options (Vondrell McGee, Cody Johnson, Foswhitt Whittaker), but none of them appears to be an every-down back. Whittaker (ankle) and Johnson (hamstring) sustained injuries in the spring, slowing down their momentum to open the season as starters. McGee didn't play in the Fiesta Bowl because of subpar workouts, but he's reportedly had a better spring.

Ideally, Whittaker, a fleet-footed breakaway threat, would share carries with McGee, who's more known for running inside the tackles. Johnson would then continue his role as an effective short-yardage option (he had a team-leading 12 rushing scores last year).

Biggest strength(s): Quarterback, wide receiver, offensive line.

In the Big 12, these are three dynamite strengths to have.

McCoy led the nation with a ridiculous 76.67 percent of his passes completed last year, an all-time NCAA record. No matter how small the window, McCoy will put it on the money.

Short aside: I was talking to my dad the other day about how precise Pete Rose used to be in taking ground balls at third base. My dad lived in Tampa, Fla., in 1975 and would watch Rose closely in spring training. He said Rose was so precise on his throws to first base that if Tony Perez had to move his glove an inch to catch the throw, Rose would shout across the field and say, "Next time, it'll be perfect."

That's how precise Rose was in throwing the baseball on a line, and I view McCoy in a similar way on the gridiron. What's so amazing to me about McCoy is how accurate he is on the run as well. Take this play against Colorado, for instance:

To imagine him any more accurate after another offseason of growth and training is flat-out scary.

McCoy will be protected by the best offensive line in the Big 12 and arguably the country. The Longhorns return 91 career starts on the offensive line, the best mark in the Big 12. Four of UT's five positions on the line will be occupied by starters from last year.

Potential All-American senior Adam Ulatoski leads the charge at left tackle and is Todd McShay's No. 9 overall pick in his mock 2010 NFL Draft. Senior center Chris Hall will likely be an all-conference selection.

Senior left guard Charlie Tanner and junior right tackle Kyle Hix also started last season. Junior right guard Michael Huey is the only non-returning starter, but he appeared in all 13 games last year and started three.
Richard Gwin/Journal-World File Photo

With ample protection, McCoy will be able to find a plethora of receivers. Jordan Shipley returns with his 89 catches, 1,060 yards and 11 touchdowns from last year. With Malcolm Williams (17-304-3), Brandon Collins (35-430-3), Dan Buckner (5-84-2), converted quarterback John Chiles and explosive freshman receiver DeSean Hales (who has an epic YouTube run), the Longhorns have one of the deepest receiving units in the Big 12, along with Kansas.

Breakthrough player: Senior defensive end/linebacker Sergio Kindle.

Kindle's personal goal for 2009 is quite simple: To lead the nation in sacks. Kindle, McShay's projected No. 10 pick in his mock 2010 NFL Draft, played linebacker last year, but will shift to a defensive end/linebacker hybrid in the fall.

"Defenses are going to need a GPS to find him," defensive coordinator Will Muschamp told the Austin American Statesman in March.

Texas led the nation with 47 sacks last year. Recently-departed first-round pick Brian Orakpo had 11.5, and Kindle had 10.5. Kindle is expected to line up at different spots on the field to confuse the conference's high-octane offenses. If healthy, he's a shoo-in for double-digit sack totals.

Coaching stability: Mack Brown is locked into his contract through 2016, and there's probably not a safer job on the planet.

UT's schedule

  • Sept. 5: vs. Louisiana-Monroe
  • Sept 12: at Wyoming
  • Sept. 19: vs. Texas Tech
  • Sept. 26: vs. UTEP
  • Oct. 10: vs. Colorado
  • Oct. 17: vs. Oklahoma in Dallas
  • Oct. 24: at Missouri
  • Oct. 31: at Oklahoma State
  • Nov. 7: vs. Central Florida
  • Nov. 14: at Baylor
  • Nov. 21: vs. Kansas
  • Nov. 26: at Texas A&M

Fearless forecast: 1st in South.

UT's non-conference schedule is decidedly weaker than Oklahoma, which will face BYU and Miami (Fla.) before Big 12 play begins. Texas tried to upgrade its schedule this year with a date against Wisconsin in Austin, but the two schools couldn't arrange for a return game to Madison until 2013 at the earliest.

It's going to be another tight race in the South, with Texas and Oklahoma as the favorites, and Oklahoma State as the darkhorse. All three teams could be ranked in the top 10, with Texas and Oklahoma potentially in the top 3. Texas has the top offensive line in the Big 12, a quarterback who seems destined to play in a Big 12 championship game and a team motivated by last year's three-way tie, which saw Oklahoma play in the Big 12 title, not Texas. The guess here is this is the Longhorns' year.

So let me ask you guys...who will win the South this year?

As always, discuss.


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