Can Texas' QB shell game pay off?

August, 3, 2011
8/03/11
8:00
AM CT
So, Mack Brown is supposed to be a TV star and pick a starting quarterback?

For all the griping around the Big 12 about the potential harmful influence of the upcoming Longhorn Network (in partnership with ESPN), if the channel's late-night programming turns out to be more enthralling than Brown's football team, life outside the 40 Acres might not be so disadvantageous after all.

There might not be a team in the country with a fuzzier picture at quarterback than the Texas Longhorns, who open fall camp this week with four quarterbacks seeking to be the guy to turn around last season's 5-7 record and become Texas' No.1 pitchman for the all-Horns all-the-time network.

At last week's Big 12 media days, Brown acknowledged that he won't pick a starter going into fall camp and, in fact, he might be forced to play all four in the Sept. 3 opener in Austin against Rice.

[+] EnlargeGilbert
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireGarrett Gilbert is the most experienced of Texas' four quarterback candidates.
"It’s better if you have it down to two. But, I think it is what it is. If nobody separates you may be with three or four going into the first game and have to play it by ear and put them in the game and see who plays well," Brown said. "So, I don’t think we control that. We’d like to. But, if nobody is playing well and you throw two out you may be throwing the best one out, so you better hope that somebody steps up and gets our attention and it’s clear cut."

The candidates are junior Garrett Gilbert, the young man who so admirably filled in for Colt McCoy in the national championship game against Alabama and gave Horns fans hope for the post-McCoy years. But a frazzled Gilbert threw 17 interceptions and just 10 touchdowns in a season that would have been canceled midway through had it been a TV show.

Gilbert will be challenged by Colt's brother Case McCoy, redshirt freshman Connor Wood and true freshman David Ash.

Wood and McCoy combined to throw a total of one pass last season. Interestingly, through Gilbert's troubles -- and let's not act like an awful rushing attack, an unimaginative offensive scheme and a no-takeaway defense played no role -- Brown never turned to the guys holding clipboards.

Brown said he wants to see leadership qualities from his starting quarterback-to-be, an aura that puts the swagger back in Bevo. Brown and new co-offensive coordinators Major Applewhite and Bryan Harsin plan to put the QBs under the gun, so to speak, in camp.

"We're going to have a lot more live competition on third downs and in the red zone and on fourth down and put quarterbacks under tremendous pressure and make them prove that they’ll keep the ball moving and make them prove that they can make tough plays," Brown said. "We’re going to put a lot more pressure on them starting in the fall."

Well -- temperatures be damned -- the fall is here, and how much faith can cable operators really place in a team that has no idea what to expect at the most important position on the field?

"Everybody always says that if you’ve got four [quarterbacks] you’ve got none," Brown said. "If you’ve got four good ones you’ve got four good ones and you’ve got to figure out which are going to be the two that are going to be the best for you and move forward."

Brown was then asked what if it gets into November and still none of the four have taken the position by the proverbial horns.

"I'll probably be a truck driver," he said.

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