Youth will be served for Football this fall
And a child shall lead them.
Such is the case with the 2006 edition of The University of Texas football team.
When junior quarterback Vince Young opted for the NFL draft, he left head coach Mack Brown only three freshmen -- one redshirt and two true -- on scholarship to stand behind center as the Longhorns engage in spring practice. Only one of the two true freshmen is already on campus.
Not that this is causing Brown, who has been on Oprah and been to the White House thus far this calendar year, to have a furrowed brow as the team preps for the September 2 season-opener against North Texas and the September 9 duel with Ohio State.
"It's fun to start over this spring," he said in a tone that would make Norman Vincent Peale proud.
"Every part of me is excited in trying to be really good again," Brown added. "There is a challenge in going back and continuing as the most consistent team in the country."
The biggest facet of the challenge, of course, comes at quarterback where Brown's mind may drift back to 1998 when an injury to senior Richard Walton left only a redshirt freshman quarterback named Major Applewhite. That team, with the future Heisman Trophy-winning running back Ricky Williams in the backfield with Applewhite, finished at 9-3.
"We'll have inexperience at quarterback," Brown remarked, "but we think the talent is there."
Brown stressed that neither redshirt freshman Colt McCoy nor true freshman Jevan Snead of Stephenville (already on campus and participating in spring practice) or Sherrod Harris of Arlington Bowie are expected to fill the shoes of Young, who was 30-2 as a starter, and left as Texas' career leader in total offense (9,167 yards), touchdowns (81) and rushing touchdowns (37) by a quarterback.
"They (the young QBs) need to learn to manage the game first," Brown said. "They need to play within the system, play smart and use the players around them because those are really good players."
As are McCoy, Snead and Harris, who passed for 1,883 yards and ran for 413 yards, despite being injured for much of his senior season. He will be on campus this summer.
Colt McCoy, whose name sounds like something out of a Larry McMurtry novel, passed for 9,344 yards and 116 touchdowns in his career at Tuscola Jim Ned High School. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound QB is the state's all-time leading passer in Class 2A and is the fourth-leading passer overall in Texas high school history.
He also led his team to the state title game -- as the point guard in basketball.
McCoy received praise from his predecessor following Young's announcement of his decision to turn pro.
"I see a smart quarterback, and a lot of hard work, a lot of hard work," Young said. "I've seen a great arm, as well. He's already gained the respect of the guys, and like I told him all year, that's the biggest key."
Added Young, "He's been answering a lot of questions in meetings that when I was a freshman, I couldn't even answer. I'm just proud of him as a freshman and I look forward to seeing him play."
Snead, 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, was the starting quarterback at Stephenville since the final three games of his sophomore year. A Parade Magazine All-American, Snead threw for 3,546 yards and 38 touchdowns while leading Stephenville to the Class 4A Division I state semifinals last season. In his career, he threw for 7,391 yards, 72 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions.
Brown said both are playing with the first team in spring practice.
"Colt is the starter because he has experience," the coach said. "Colt can run the whole offense and he will help Jevan learn the system."
Brown said that both would run well, although not like Young.
"And they both are accurate passers," Brown noted.
While the fans' and media's attention appears solely to be at quarterback, Brown is well aware of replacements that must be found for other top performers from last year's team.
Offensively, left tackle Jonathan Scott and right guard Will Allen are gone, as is tight end David Thomas. Tony Hills and Cedric Dockery are the top candidates for the line positions. Neale Tweedie is the top returning tight end, and redshirt freshman Jermichael Finley has shown great promise at that position as well.
Defensively, the Longhorns lost Thorpe Award-winner Michael Huff and Cedric Griffin from the secondary, Rodrique Wright at tackle and Aaron Harris at middle linebacker. Michael Griffin and Marcus Griffin are candidates for the backfield positions, with Thomas Marshall, Roy Miller and Derek Lokey to compete for Wright's spot, while Roddrick Muckelroy and Rashad Bobino look to succeed Harris.
Running back Henry Melton is among four players who will be trained at new positions this spring. Melton, the 270-pound running back, will work at defensive end, although with word that running back Ramonce Taylor has been excused from spring practice so he may concentrate on academics, Melton may remain a running back.
Justin Blalock (OT/OG), Tyrell Gatewood (WR/LB) and Chris Ogbonnaya (RB/FB) also will work at other positions this spring.
"One of the great things about starting spring practice is closure from last season," Brown said. "We won't ever forget last year. It was a lot of fun. Last year's team always will be the National Champions.
"This year's team hasn't done anything yet."
2006 SIGNING CLASS
While no one knows better than Brown that a recruiting class should not be graded until two or three years from signing day, he also is aware of the tremendous interest in who the Longhorns secured last month as they come off their first National Championship season since 1970.
And the pundits praise his class of 25 signees.
"Kids all across the state are talking about Texas," Tom Lemming, the national recruiting analyst for College Sports TV, told the Austin American-Statesman. "Mack Brown is the best recruiter in the country."
Perhaps the best statistic to back up such an assessment is this:
Twenty-six players came to Austin for an official visit -- 25 signed with the Longhorns.
The names that drew the most attention were quarterbacks Snead, who leaned towards Florida for the balance of the recruiting season, and Harris.
There also were star signees on the defensive side of the ball, with Dallas Wilson High School linebacker Sergio Kindle and Kilgore's Eddie Jones. Kindle, who like Snead already is enrolled at UT, was considered by many the best player in Texas -- period. Jones is a pass-rushing end who may find himself on the field early this fall.