AUSTIN, Texas -- Several thousand giddy (and bleary-eyed) burnt-orange crazies were already lined up in the dark when I arrived at Texas' Royal-Memorial Stadium at the ungodly hour of 6:45 a.m. on Saturday. They came to get their first glimpse of the defending national champions, and to see whether the Longhorns could still play football without the benefit of a certain freakish 6-foot-5 quarterback.
What they saw during Texas' hour-long Fan Appreciation Day scrimmage -- moved to 7:30 a.m. due to the triple-digit temperatures in Austin -- must have looked awfully familiar: A quarterback lined up in the shotgun with three receivers, running that pesky zone-read play with which Vince Young used to wreak havoc. "We're doing basically the same thing that we've been doing," said offensive coordinator Greg Davis. "We're just featuring different things."
What the 'Horns mostly featured Saturday was their quarterbacks' arms, and the results were surprisingly impressive. First-string QB Colt McCoy played only two series but produced touchdowns on both, going 5 for 6 for 68 yards. On his first series, the redshirt freshman recognized man coverage and threw over the top to receiver Limas Sweed for a 43-yard gain. "Colt has had the same scrimmage in both that we've had," said head coach Mack Brown. "He has come out and been very efficient."
Barring something drastic, McCoy will be the starter when the Longhorns host top-ranked Ohio State in three weeks. While Texas' quarterback situation has long been portrayed as a two-man race between McCoy and true freshman Jevan Snead, the truth is McCoy began pulling away some time ago. He's been getting 60-70 percent of the first-team reps in practice. Snead has the stronger arm, which he demonstrated multiple times during Saturday's scrimmage, but McCoy, having had an extra year in the offense, is much farther along in his development. He looked extremely comfortable, while Snead looked a tad shaky and indecisive, going 4 for 8 for 24 yards and an interception. "Jevan is learning," acknowledged Brown.
Both will play early on, said Brown, if for no other reason than to get Snead experience. But make no mistake, the 'Horns have a clear starter and a clear backup. Both are similarly mobile (4.7 in the 40) but are unlikely to break off 40-yard runs like their predecessor, which means Davis must look to the QBs' supporting cast to replace the explosiveness that Young generated with his feet. "We're still trying to figure out who we are on offense," said Brown. "We have to figure out what to feature. That's what keeps you up at night."