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Little settled for Longhorns at quarterback

3/3/2011

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas coach Mack Brown made things clear after the Longhorns' 5-7 season, when he filled five vacancies on his staff and prepared for spring practice. Every job was open, and that included his quarterbacks.

A month and a half and just three practices later, that hasn't changed.

"It’s early. All four of them are doing well, but they’re learning a new offense with a new coach, so it’s really too early to judge anybody, I think," Brown said. "It would be unfair for us to start judging guys."

Junior Garrett Gilbert started all 12 games for the Longhorns last year, but the heir apparent to Colt McCoy struggled throughout the season, throwing just 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He was nearly benched in a 39-14 road loss to Kansas State, but mounted a drive to stay on the field.

He finished ninth in the Big 12 in completion percentage, at 59 percent, and his quarterback rating was 110.99, 11th in the league, ahead of only Kansas' Jordan Webb among players with at least nine starts.

Gunning for his spot are backups Case McCoy and Connor Wood, both of whom had fans clamoring for an appearance in relief of Gilbert while the Longhorns struggled through 2010. David Ash is also in the mix.

"You are not going to win games at Texas like we want if you don’t have a great quarterback," Brown said. "So we’ve got to have somebody that will be great."

Brown says he's nowhere close to formally naming a starter at quarterback, and the rest of his depth chart is pretty far off, too.

"We haven’t thought about any of that. We’re not into all the public hype," Brown said. "We’re into getting better. I haven’t thought about anything but getting better. No expectations. No starting lineup. Nothing. We are working hard to get better every day."

The numbers Gilbert put up in 2010 weren't what Texas wanted, and Brown's first-year starter shouldered plenty of the blame for the disappointing year. The Longhorns' problems were bigger, but in Brown's eyes, simpler than some would believe.

"We didn’t play well as a team. The quarterback gets the blame when the team doesn’t play well. We were minus-12 in turnover ratio. We were 116th [of 120 teams]," Brown said. "We didn’t force turnovers on defense and we turned the ball over on offense."

Like last year, Brown wants a running game to support his passer, and the efforts Texas put in to implement that running game last spring as part of the preparation for 2010 will be built upon this spring.

"We tried to do it last year, and we did it some games but we didn’t do it well, is we would like to have a more balanced attack that takes some pressure off the quarterback," Brown said.

New coordinator Bryan Harsin's offenses averaged more than 187 yards rushing in five seasons as coordinator at Boise State. He'll face better competition in the Big 12, but that consistent production is one of several things that attracted Brown to the up-and-comer. Now, he's hoping his quarterbacks benefit.

"Play action gives you the ability to get more explosive plays because you’ve got more defensive players near the line of scrimmage," Brown said, "and that’s one of the great things about what Bryan is bringing to us."