I received a number of emails this summer - including from some pretty well-connected people - asking about rumors concerning John Chiles and a potential transfer out of the program. I dug and pressed as far as I could, but everyone I trusted told me that if there was a transfer in the works, they couldn't confirm it; as far as they knew, Chiles was happy in Austin.
And apparently that's the case. Chiles isn't going anywhere, and though he's clearly not supplanting Colt McCoy as the starter, Austin is where he wants to be and - as we learned Sunday - quarterback remains his official position. According to Mack:
We are committed to trying to get Colt (McCoy) and John Chiles on the field at the same time some, so we will start working immediately. I do want to say without question that John is still the second-team quarterback and will not move from quarterback. Colt will be the starter today, just because of the past, and John will be working with the first team some in packages, like he did a little bit last year, but at the same time, John will not move away from the quarterback position.
John will get more reps than Sherrod (Harris). Sherrod will get some. John will try to work in that package and still try to be the second-team quarterback. So he’ll run a play, and then get back in the huddle as a quarterback and run another one. He’ll be in a package with Colt.
We’d like to see if it works first. We didn’t do it in the spring. We’re really developing that package as we speak and we’re going to start working on that immediately to see where it goes, simply because John and Colt are two of our best players. They’re two of our most productive players, so we need to see what we can do. We did feel like playing both of them at separate times in the bowl game was very productive, so if we can continue to do that, but get John on the field more to get the ball in his hands, that would be a help as well.
When in April I wondered aloud what Texas should do with John Chiles, I speculated that the combination of Texas' need for a game breaking player with Sherrod Harris' reported overall polish might well lead to a position switch for Chiles, wherein he could slide to the third spot on the QB depth chart (should Texas need him there) while simultaneously assuming a prominent role among the receivers.
From Mack's comments Sunday, we can safely say that's not the case. Moreover, twelve weeks later that original calculus doesn't quite add up. Entering fall practice, Texas now has a bit of a logjam at the Unproven Wide Receiver position, where no fewer than eight talented athletes (Williams, Hales, Monroe, Buckner, Grant, Kirkendoll, Collins, and Webber) are competing for playing time. Even if Chiles was the best bet to be a playmaker on the outside for the 'Horns (far, far from a given), it's not clear that forthrightly shifting his primary duties would be the best allocation of his talents.
Looking at the situation today, I'm comfortable reversing course to endorse the decision to keep Chiles at #2 on the quarterback depth chart. For one thing, preparing for John Chiles, quarterback/roamer, is different than preparing for John Chiles, wide receiver. Colt McCoy does a lot well, but no one's naive about his weaknesses. Though John Chiles was used cautiously as a supplemental QB weapon in 2007, that was - after all - his true freshman season. Even if the coaches could have been more aggressive in deploying Chiles to accelerate his development, he likely was what he was last year, whether for 50 or 150 snaps under center. (It's also conceivable that the coaches believed correctly that too-much-too-soon would have done more harm than good to Chiles' development.)
In any case, if the current roster itself justifies the decision to keep Chiles at quarterback, less obvious is that the coaches are clearly decided as to how they intend to maximize his value from the position. It's fine and well to hear the staff say they want McCoy and Chiles out there together and that they intend to seek opportunities to get #7 involved in numerous ways, but the jury is decidedly out as to the offensive coaches' ability to translate that concept into something meaningful.
Yet the decision to slot Chiles as the #2 QB almost requires that the coaches get it right and make the most out of him in genuinely creative/effective ways. If they don't, they risk compounding a mistake by under-utilizing Chiles and needlessly burying Harris.
So if I'm behind the idea in theory, it's up to the staff to use Chiles in a way that reflects a genuine commitment to the right ideals.
Next: Thoughts on the defense.
Previously: Part 1: An Evolved Attitude