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Saturday, December 24, 2011
Updated: December 26, 10:46 AM ET
Bowl gives extra help to QBs

By Carter Strickland
HornsNation

AUSTIN, Texas -- This year, the second in which the most important position on the offense was the least impressive position on offense, has only solidified what Mack Brown wants.
Bryan Harsin
Bryan Harsin is using the Holiday Bowl practices to find schemes that have been most successful for both quarterbacks.
"We want a great quarterback, and we want a quarterback that can run and throw," the Texas coach said. But that's not enough anymore. Brown wants more.

"We would like to have an offense where if the quarterback is sick, the quarterback gets hurt or the quarterback has an average day, it doesn't lose a game for Texas," he said.

Brown has neither of those things, yet. There are two seasons worth of evidence to prove it. So for right now, Texas has to continue to make do with what it does have -- David Ash and Case McCoy. Both have shown flashes of promise, but those have been clouded by streaks of inconsistency.

Both will be under center for the Bridgepoint Holiday Bowl against Cal on Wednesday (7 p.m. CT, ESPN/ESPN3).

"Yes, we'll probably play both again," Brown said. "I talked to [co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach] Bryan [Harsin] about it ... we've just got to get settled there. But right now we're in a position where we're going to need both of them."

So much for progress. But, then again, seven wins is better than five. A bowl is better than sitting at home. But are two quarterbacks better than one? Evidently not in Brown's eyes.

Harsin has spent these bowl practices not just working with both quarterbacks, but studying their behaviors and getting answers.

"As we have had more time to sit back and talk about the season and talk about scenarios and just really talk shop more than anything, and just get more familiar with what we are trying to get done," he said. "I can see those guys really starting to click, and it shows in practice."

The bowl practices allowed for Texas' offense to really investigate what went wrong instead of scheming for another opponent.

Harsin is able to pull up scenarios on film and ask them what they were thinking when presented with this situation and really analyze what went wrong and when things went right, how they can duplicate it.

"They have done some really good things, and we have done some bad things," Harsin said. "Now we have to build on the good things and go back and look at what we did poorly and why. We have done these things in practice, and they have improved on those areas." The biggest of those areas is turnovers. Ash was plagued with trying to force big plays from the Oklahoma game forward. He wound up with eight interceptions, most of which proved costly to Texas. McCoy, who saw less playing time during the midyear stretch, was more cautious with the ball, and it paid off against Texas A&M. But forced into a shootout with Baylor, the sophomore quarterback exhibited some of the same tendencies that hurt Ash's performances and threw the ball into bad situations.

Harsin is not beating the players up mentally over their past mistakes. They are attempting to find successful schemes and find cohesion between play-caller and quarterback.

"What is the response going to be in those situations, and what are we really trying to get out of this on this particular play or on this field position?" Harsin said. "What is the best thing I can do, and what can't I do? What can I absolutely not let happen on these situations? Those are the things you talk about. That is just from being together and the experience has really helped all of us. I can see it in these bowl practices now."

What he can also see is how these practices have set Texas up to have a better spring. Last season he was unable to work with the quarterbacks until that spring session. Now he has a hands-on opportunity to really focus on the needs of the position.

"We use this bowl as a springboard really into the offseason," Harsin said. "What is our standard? What are our expectations? They have changed. They have changed each week. Now we know what we are doing, and we know how to do it. We know where we are going, and we know how to prepare.

"We are setting the tone going into spring … How we want to practice. How we practice. How we prepare. [We really are establishing] that mindset. It has changed."

What hasn't changed, not yet anyway, is that Texas still has two quarterbacks.

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation

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