McCoy looks to improve on strong freshman season for Texas

By  | 

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- As Texas coach Mack Brown answered questions at Big 12 media day Wednesday, a young voice called out from a balcony above the stage.

"How do you feel about small-town guys?" said sophomore quarterback Colt McCoy, from tiny Tuscola. "Are they good guys?"

Brown paused for a moment.

"Some of them are," Brown answered. "Ones that stay healthy."

McCoy said he never would've mustered the nerve to interrupt Brown's media session last year, when he was a wide-eyed redshirt freshman about to take over one of the most scrutinized positions in college football.

McCoy's confidence is much higher now, after he won over his coach and his teammates with a better-than-expected first season as the starter. The Big 12's offensive freshman of the year had 29 touchdown passes, setting the school record and tying the NCAA freshman mark.

In fact, his neck injury in a late-season loss to Kansas State -- the catalyst for his coach's playful dig about getting hurt -- might have knocked Texas out of the running for a second consecutive national title.

"I've dreamed of being here," said McCoy, who completed 68 percent of his passes for 2,570 yards. "Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to play quarterback at the University of Texas.

"Now that I'm here, I not only want to play, I want to be great. The team wants to be great, they want to win. That's the most important thing about this position, putting a 'W' on the board. I'm going to do everything in my power to do that."

It came at McCoy all at once last season -- the responsibilities, the attention, the criticism. He got through it by constantly repeating the final bit of advice Vince Young gave him before heading to the NFL.

"The last thing he told me was, 'Look, man, there's going to be pressure, there's going to be everything you can think of. The most important thing is for you to have fun,"' McCoy recalled.

McCoy beat out highly touted freshman Jevan Snead for the starting job during preseason practices. Once the decision was made, Brown said the team simply had to wait for McCoy to blossom.

"We knew what Colt did in high school," Brown said. "We knew he was as good as anybody we had seen and he won -- he went to the state championship -- basketball, football. He did everything he wanted. We just didn't know how soon he could take the big stage."

McCoy was merely average in his first start in the spotlight, throwing for 154 yards with an interception and a touchdown in a 24-7 loss to Ohio State. Brown went to the no-huddle offense more as the season wore on to speed up McCoy's progress.

The Longhorns reeled off eight consecutive wins before McCoy's injury against Kansas State. He started the next game against Texas A&M but looked like he was still hurt in a loss to the Aggies, who snapped a six-game losing streak to Texas and won in Austin for the first time since 1994.

"We wanted to take some of the pressure off of him, being the youngest guy in the huddle with a bunch of guys that just won the national championship," Brown said. "When you're standing out, giving them hand signals, it's a lot easier than if you're saying, 'Keep your mouth shut, get your head up,' when you're looking at (offensive linemen) Kasey Studdard, Justin Blalock, Lyle Sendlein, who are three, four years older than you."

McCoy made a believer out of teammates during the eight-game winning streak, rallying the Horns from second-half deficits against Nebraska and Texas Tech. After the two-game skid, he built some momentum for this year by throwing for 308 yards and two touchdowns in a 26-24 Alamo Bowl win against Iowa that gave Texas its sixth consecutive 10-win season.

Teammates have noticed a more outspoken, take-charge McCoy in offseason workouts.

"He's more vocal and more comfortable," said senior receiver Limas Sweed. "Any time you get a year under your belt like he has done, it definitely helps out with you being more vocal. Sometimes, a guy speaks, it's part of his personality, but you really don't respect him. Him, he has the credentials to back it up."

Brown is still searching for a backup quarterback, but McCoy has put the coaches at ease with his growing leadership. It's a much healthier situation than last year at this time, when the job was up for grabs.

"Right now, we feel like Colt has complete control of this football team," Brown said. "He has great confidence, as you can just see. He's anticipating playing good and winning and being a team guy, instead of who's going to start. That's a great relief for us."