"I've been hearing that since high school," says the 6'3", 205-pound gunslinger, who lit up scoreboards at Ennis (Texas) High, where his father, Sam, was the coach. Saying thanks but no thanks to Oklahoma, Georgia and Wisconsin, among others, he cast his lot with Tech coach Mike Leach. "Getting a chance to play in this offense," Harrell says, "that was the main draw."
To label Harrell a "system quarterback" is to shortchange him, according to one NFL draft expert who asked not to be named because he's not authorized by his employer to speak to the press. "He was a big-time player coming out of high school, and he has more physical tools" than Leach's previous quarterbacks. "He's got more arm strength, he's very accurate and he moves well in the pocket. And he's a tough kid. When there's pressure in his face, he'll step into a throw. He'll take the hit but deliver the ball.
"This guy's an NFL quarterback. I don't think he's an elite player. I think he's a middle-rounder who's got a chance to move up with a good [college] all-star game. But calling him a system quarterback—that's just a lazy way of scouting him."
The NFL source is slightly higher on the 6'3", 210-pound McCoy, a junior whom he describes as "very intelligent, very accurate, very tough. I see him as a second-rounder who'll spend a couple of years as a backup and develop into a starter." Where Harrell throws primarily hitches and slants, "Colt is throwing downfield a little more," an indication that he might more quickly adapt to the pro game.
Harrell's most memorable throw of the season, of course, was not a hitch or a slant but a perfectly thrown fade to Crabtree, who broke the tackle of Texas cornerback Curtis Brown and scored the game-winning touchdown with a single second left in the Red Raiders' 39--33 win in Lubbock. Harrell's Heisman moment marked the instant when McCoy lost his hold on the award. "Colt was two seconds from winning it," says Huston. "He'd just brought them back. If Texas wins that game, the race is over."
With Harrell and Bradford idle last week, McCoy rushed for 78 yards and threw for 255 yards and his 29th and 30th touchdowns of the season in a 35--7 cakewalk at Kansas. Now he and the rest of Longhorn Nation will be forced to hold their noses and root for Oklahoma to beat Texas Tech. A Sooners win gives the Longhorns their only chance of advancing to the Big 12 title game.
HAD THE voting been held last week, Huston believes that Bradford would have finished behind Harrell and McCoy. But what of the hard-charging Tebow, who, as a former Heisman winner, gets to vote in the proceedings? The bad news for him is Heismandment No. 9, which decrees, "There will never be another two-time Heisman winner." Then again, Tebow, who became the first sophomore to win the Heisman in the 73-year history of the award, knows the Pundit is not infallible. After all, the second Heismandment states, "The winner must be a junior or senior."
Bradford, a redshirt sophomore, will need a big statistical night against the Red Raiders if he is to overcome the second Heismandment. Don't shoot the messenger, Longhorns fans, but a Sooners win over Tech, followed by a Bedlam Series victory at Oklahoma State, could very well vault your despised rivals over you in the BCS rankings—despite Texas's 45--35 upset in this year's Red River Rivalry. In what would be his third straight appearance on national TV, Bradford could then seal the deal with Heisman voters on the eve of the election, in the Big 12 title game.
Regardless of where he finishes in the balloting, the 6'4", 220-pound Bradford is first in the heart—and on the draft board—of the previously mentioned NFL personnel expert. "I think he's the best pro prospect of the group and will go the highest," says the source. "He's got the height. He's got a good arm, not a great arm. A functional NFL arm. But he's very accurate, has very good timing and great intangibles. He is undoubtedly a starter in the NFL." Should Bradford enter next spring's draft, "he may be the fifth- or sixth-most-talented quarterback, but I think he'll be the best pro prospect of the group."
There are worse things in the world than finishing second in the Heisman race. Ask Vince Young, who was runner-up to USC's Reggie Bush in the 2005 voting but then outplayed Bush—and everyone else on the field—as Texas took down the Trojans in the national-title game. Or ask Bradford's position coach, Josh Heupel. After leading the Sooners to a 12--0 record in 2000, Heupel narrowly lost the Heisman to Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke. The national-championship ring Heupel earned 2 1/2 weeks later in the Orange Bowl—with a win over Weinke's Seminoles—took much of the sting out of that disappointment.