- Todd McShay, Scouts Inc.
Editor's note: Texas was the first stop of a four-campus college football preview being made by Todd McShay and Mobile ESPN. Next up is Notre Dame, followed by Florida State and Miami (Florida). To see exclusive videos from Todd's college football tour, go to ESPN Motion or get Mobile ESPN.
Highly-touted true freshman quarterback Jevan Snead looks the part of a future star. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, the Stephenville High School product has a prototypical frame and good mobility. Even more impressive is his arm strength; the ball explodes off his hand faster than any freshman quarterback I have witnessed since LSU's JaMarcus Russell. However, despite his impressive natural tools, Snead is nowhere near ready to assume the role vacated by Vince Young. For now, at least, that honor should go to redshirt freshman Colt McCoy.
In terms of game experience at the collegiate level, there's not a difference between McCoy and Snead, as neither has taken a snap. They're both cut from the same mold and come from shotgun offensive schemes at the high school level. Neither possesses Young's rare athletic ability, but McCoy and Snead are mobile enough to get outside the pocket and create the run/pass option after the initial play breaks down.
While Snead is bigger and possesses the stronger arm, it is evident in the way McCoy carries himself in practice that he's more mature and polished. McCoy has better footwork and mechanics as a passer. He also seems to have a better grasp of the offensive scheme, which allows him to make quicker decisions.
Snead is too talented to keep bottled up, which is why Mack Brown and his staff will likely get the youngster a series or two per game early on this season to see how he handles the pressure. Snead's performance vs. Ohio State in Week 2 will serve as quite a litmus test.
The bottom line is that if the Longhorns are to repeat as national champions, they will do so with great defense, a strong running game and the occasional big play from a stable of thoroughbred
wide receivers (Limas Sweed, Billy Pittman, Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley). In stark contrast from a year ago, Texas' quarterback has to be a caretaker, not a playmaker. That's why you'll see McCoy under center for the first snap and for the majority of snaps this season.
Runnning back Selvin Young is a fifth-year senior that has endured through two serious injuries during his career at Texas. With Jamaal Charles bursting on the scene as the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2005, it would have been easy for Young to throw in the towel. Instead, he put himself through a rigorous offseason conditioning program that helped him take off 17 pounds and added noticeable quickness to his game. Selvin Young roomed with Vince Young a year ago and coach Brown says Vince's leadership skills have clearly rubbed off on Selvin. With two youngsters breaking in at the quarterback position, Selvin has taken over the leadership role of the offense throughout the spring and the first half of summer practice.
Charles will likely handle more than half the carries for the Longhorns this season, but Selvin has been named the starter because of the excellent example he has set for the program. Charles looks up to Selvin as a role model, thus he has no problem being labeled the backup heading into the season. More importantly from a football standpoint, Selvin's health and production are critical for a Texas offense that will feature more I-formation and power running this season, especially considering Charles' lack of size (6-1, 190) and the loss of No. 3 RB Ramonce Taylor (transfer) during the offseason.
There has been an interesting shakeup in the Longhorns' offensive line recently. As expected Tony Hills, a former tight end with good agility and pass-pro skills, will take over the left tackle spot vacated by Jonathan Scott. Originally the plan was to insert Cedric Dockery, the younger brother of Derrick Dockery (Redskins), at right guard for the departed Will Allen but Dockery has not met expectations. As such, the coaches decided to move senior Justin Blalock, a Lombardi Award candidate, from right tackle to right guard in order to make room for freshman Adam Ulatoski at right tackle. Blalock has accepted the move and the inexperienced Ulatoski has been impressive in the starting lineup thus far.
TE David Thomas' receiving production from a year ago will not be easy to replace, but the Longhorns have a future star in Jermichael Finley, who eventually could become an even bigger weapon in the passing game. Only a freshman, Finley still needs to add bulk to his frame, increase his strength as a blocker and improve the crispness of his routes. However, it's becoming increasingly clear during summer camp that Finley has the size, speed, athletic ability and hands to develop into a dangerous weapon as an H-Back type. Neale Tweedie will be Texas' starter this season because he's more experienced and reliable, especially as a run blocker. But expect Finley to see lots of time in two-tight packages and also on obvious passing downs this season.
Marcus Griffin is close to solidifying the starting free safety job next to twin brother Michael Griffin, who returns at strong safety. Marcus is aggressive in run support and shows solid range in deep-middle coverage. He doesn't make quite as many big plays or jarring hits, but Marcus doesn't make many mistakes, either. So far, Marcus has been the most reliable and consistent of the three Longhorns (Erick Jackson and Matt Melton) vying for the job.
Freshman linebacker Sergio Kindle is a promising young prospect with impressive athleticism, but he will have to wait his turn before cracking the starting lineup. The Longhorns are less than two weeks into camp but Drew Kelson (WLB), Robert Killebrew (SLB) and Rashad Bobino (MLB) have already put their stamps on the three starting linebacker jobs. Bobino and Killebrew were starters a year ago and Kelson, a junior, saw plenty of time primarily as a backup.
Todd McShay is director of college scouting for Scouts Inc. Numerous NFL teams have relied on his independent draft prospect evaluations since 1998. Listen to Todd break down the biggest games and give you all the scores on College GameDay on ESPN Radio every Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. ET. He is also a frequent contributor to ESPNU.
Both Colt McCoy and Jevan Snead are talented, but McCoy's maturity gives him the edge in the Texas QB race, writes Todd McShay.