You know how we all have our handful of points we like to beat mercilessly into the ground? Like, HornsChamp's got his scheduling gripes. EyesOfBevo thinks the short-yardage blocking has left a lot to be desired. And so on?
I've certainly got my own. Chris Ogbonnaya reminds me of Priest Holmes. Quan Cosby may approach the receptions record this year.
Robert Joseph is ready to break out as a star in the secondary.
Today, in case you've missed my scattershot notes on this point, I lay out my big one for 2007: Texas lives and dies with Colt McCoy.
As the summer winds on and August approaches, the same handful of points will be debated endlessly by Texas fans this year.
How will the secondary perform?
Can we get more consistent play from the linebackers?
Can we fix the short-yardage running game?
The answers to each of those questions will be important in determining the outcome of the 2007 season, but not, I'm going to argue, as important as the passing game.
Picture, thousand words, etc:
The red boxes indicate Colt's down games (as defined by QB rating). To sum:
Ohio State His first real game, against one of the nation's very best teams in 2006, with coaches unsure what he's capable of. Colt struggles, Texas is handily defeated.
Nebraska Colt goes into Memorial Stadium, fights through a snowstorm, delivers one of the greatest TD throws I've ever seen (to Limas Sweed, for 50 yards, as he's obliterated on a blitz), and gets Texas into last-second, game-winning field goal range. We lose that game with a lesser quarterback.
Texas A&M Colt listens to overbearing father, plays through pain, is ineffective, and Texas loses.
And that's it. Three games in which Colt struggled, with Texas going 1-2. Texas' other loss, to Kansas State, helps illustrate the point, as well. A healthy McCoy marches the 'Horns down the field for an opening drive touchdown (McCoy 4-4, 51 yards). McCoy gets hurt, Snead comes in, the offense isn't as effective, the team collapses as a whole, etc.
(Non-Texas fans, pointing to the 45 Wildcat points, like to argue that the Kansas State loss was due to a failure on defense. Longhorn fans know better. The defense was abysmal, but the 'Horns lost because of two fumbles (Charles, Young), a blocked punt, and erratic passing from Snead. With McCoy, Texas scores 46+. Whatever it would have taken, Colt had it. No doubt in my mind.)
((While we're gettin' parenthetical, Aggies like to point to their 200+ yards rushing in chest thumping their win, saying it was the Texas defense which lost the game. Again, Longhorn fans know better. The Aggies deserve credit for their outstanding afternoon rushing the football, and for taking advantage of McCoy's weaknesses, but there's no chance in hell that 12 points wins that football game if Colt is 100%. Hell, it took a tremendously weak pass interference penalty to keep Texas from 14 points. Which would have won the game.))
So, what's the point of all this? I'm just starting to beat my war drum - Texas will sink or swim with Colt McCoy's health and effectiveness. With new faces on the offensive line, the running game, important as it is, will need to feed off the passing game. (Which is fine. It's a mistake to think you can only open up the pass via the run; the opposite is true, as well.)
The pass defense simply can't be any worse than it was in 2006, statistically speaking.
Provided Texas enjoys better luck with injuries, the linebackers, too, can't help but improve. I'm even coming around to the idea that this can be a team strength this year. Shoot me, I'm an optimist.
All told, I'm sold on the idea that the wins will come to the degree that Colt performs well. Which means that the pass blocking in general, and Tony Hills in particular, are far more important than anything else. That, and Greg Davis' willingness not to get overly-caught up in an "establish the run at all costs" mindset. If he sees thinks like I do (and the evidence from last year indicates he does), his gameplan will work quite the opposite - spreading the field, using Colt-to-Quan/Finley as his running game of sorts, while stretching the field with Sweed and Shipley. Once teams get tired of that particular form of punishment, there ought to be ample room for Charles and Co. to scamper about.
Adjust your mindsets, Longhorn fans. Ricky Williams, Cedric Benson, Vince Young, and a stacked offensive line are all out. Colt McCoy and the best receiving corps in school history are in.
Used properly, and remaining healthy, that's a BCS Bowl-bound offense.