Wednesday, November 28, 2007

9-3 Still an Overachievement

While Texas fans had grandiose visions of back-dooring their way into a BCS birth, when it came down to it, Texas ended their charade, and played like the 8-4 football team they are. Outside of the Texas Tech game, where Texas Tech declined to use a defense, the Longhorns have been a team that couldn’t play four quality quarters of football and couldn’t dominate in any phase of the game. The fact that they are 9-3 and have a shot to get another 10 win season, is a success in its own right.

The biggest flaw in this year’s Texas team was obviously the defense. The unit trying to cope with the departure of Co-defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik was obviously no where near the unit they were of previous years. The defense struggled to stop anyone all season and had an extremely tough time coming up with stops on third down. It just seemed like whether it was a 3rd and 3, or the 3rd and 20 in the first quarter of the A&M game, the Longhorns would figure out away to give up 4 or 21. The role of a defensive coordinator is to put his players in the position to succeed and to make adjustments throughout the game. While the Texas players often times didn’t make the plays when they were there, the defense rarely made adjustments or improved during the course of the game, and it seemed like the defense was caught off guard or out of position too much. (You may say that the defense stepped up in games against Nebraska and Oklahoma State, but just because the offense decides to run out the clock with 12 minutes left in the game doesn’t mean the defense is making stops.) The way the defense played this season leaves me to wonder whether Chizik was the brains of the operation, but I’m willing to chalk it up to a mediocre secondary and an atrocious set of linebackers and give Duane Akina another year of getting the defense to play in his system.

A more pressing concern has to be the play of Colt McCoy. His decision making in the A&M game might have been worse than his performance in the Kansas State game. After three weeks of playing solid football and making the plays that the defense gave him, Colt looked determined to win the A&M game by himself. As has been the case, when he tries to do too much he fails miserably. While his running game hadn’t been in full force the entire season and he struggled with injuries to his wide receivers, namely Limas Sweed, Colt still should have been better off. After a successful freshman season, Colt was given a larger responsibility in the offense, and he didn’t cope well with the responsibility. His 18 interceptions this season have been costly and keep this offense from achieving more. It is starting to appear more and more that Colt McCoy’s ceiling as a player lies somewhere between the reliable quarterback that played within the system that he was his freshman year and the improvisational playmaker he has tried to be this season. I think the best we can hope for out of Colt McCoy is a quarterback that relies on his running game, spreads the ball around to his extremely talented wide receivers and tight ends, and on occasion makes a few spectacular plays. I think if he tries to do more than that or Texas insists on being a pass first team centered around Colt McCoy, he will continue to have a Kansas State game and Texas A&M game a few times a season.

I think Colt can be a good enough quarterback to win BCS bowls and possibly a National Championship, but it won’t be because of Colt McCoy. If it were to happen it would need to be because Colt leads an offense built around Jamaal Charles and Vondrell McGee, that utilizes Jermichael Finley, Quan Cosby, and Jordan Shipley on the outside. But most of all it would need to be a team that has a National Championship caliber defense. Colt McCoy doesn’t have the ability to throw for 4,500 yards, 38 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, but it doesn’t mean he isn’t the right quarterback for the University of Texas. If Colt could find his niche and play within himself he could be a quarterback that throws for 3,500 yards with 28 touchdowns and 5 interceptions on a BCS team.The real question will be how Colt McCoy handles the pressure that will be present throughout his next two years at quarterback. If Colt McCoy is continued to ask to win Texas football games as oppose to leading the offense, then Colt will continue to have terrible games mixed in with the good and solid ones. If that is the case, then the Texas faithful will begin to clamor for someone who can win games for Texas, like their hero Vince Young. Colt McCoy will have to deal with John Chiles becoming more involved in the offense during his junior and senior season. It is unavoidable; Chiles is a talent that can give a new wrinkle to the Texas offense. But if Colt McCoy can’t handle the criticism or the competition much like Chance Mock, Texas will find itself a team without a leader bogged down in a quarterback quagmire that can’t compete with the elite teams in the Big XII.

Major Applewhite and Chris Simms was a difficult situation that ended with neither reaching their full potential. Chance Mock struggled with the future looking over his shoulder and it ended with Texas underachieving. Colt McCoy needs to be the quarterback for this team, but it needs to be in a system where he is not expected to be the All-American. Unfortunately, Greg Davis’ offense has only been truly effective for two years at the University of Texas, and that was when Vince Young was his quarterback.

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