2009 turnarounds. Though Texas' run at Miami this year was a surprise for a number of reasons, the preseason uncertainty about Colt McCoy was at the top of most fans' list. Obviously, his performance shattered all reasonable expectations (more on this in the next note below) and his leadership anchored an unexpected and wholly inspiring turnaround for the team. Though the circumstances next year will be different (Texas will likely find itself ranked in the preseason top five and favored by many to win the Big 12), I got to wondering which players for whom a 2009 McCoy-style turnaround could have a similar impact on the '09 run to Pasadena. My top three are below; add your own in the comments.
- Malcolm Williams -- Part of his non-breakout this year was a matter of circumstance, as Texas' systemic offensive weaknesses severely limited downfield passing, but Williams himself battled through some struggles. Early in the year he looked uncomfortable with the ball in his hands and very much like a player who was thinking instead of playing. Once he got comfortable, he started to flash his enormous impact potential, but he finished the season with just 17 catches. A breakout in 2009 would do wonders for Texas, his big play skills able to both punish with six points or assist the rushing game by keeping defenders honest.
- Strong Safety -- Whether it's improvement from Blake Gideon or an impact replacement from Christian Scott, if one of the two can tag team with the blossoming Earl Thomas to anchor Texas' secondary, the Longhorns' 2009 defense is going to be special. Gideon deserves an enormous amount of credit for his performance as a true freshman this year, but several obvious limitations were on display alongside his admirable effort, discipline, and intelligent play. Scott, meanwhile, has flashed some serious athletic and playmaking potential, but unseating Gideon will mean using practice time in the way that inspires confidence with the coaching staff.
- Fozzy Whittaker -- Before Texas fans learned to place their hopes in "Colt McCoy completes 80% of his passes," there was a period of lustful anticipation surround Fozzy Whittaker. Injuries slowed him in the early going, and by the time he was ready the loss of Blaine Irby had somewhat pigeon-holed Texas' offensive options. Wittaker displayed some of the skills that fueled the early season optimism about his potential impact, but ultimately he was as limited by Texas' systemic weaknesses in the running game as were his co-starter colleagues. Part of an '09 breakout for Whittaker will have to come from things outside his control, but he can do his part by making sure Texas' coaches trust him completely -- as a rusher, yes, but also as a replacement for the graduating Ogbonnaya, who was as dependable as they come both as a pass catcher and blocker.
Others worth discussing: Sam Acho & Eddie Jones on the end, Jarvis Humphrey on the interior, Brandon Collins & James Kirkendoll in trying to replace Quan Cosby, Michael Huey as the likely new starter at right guard, Blaine Irby & DJ Grant to resuscitate the tight end position.
Colt caps award season with MVP recognition. Colt McCoy was named winner of the 2008 Archie Griffin Award, presented annually by the Touchdown Club of Columbus to college football's most valuable player. McCoy was also honored by the Touchdown Club of Columbus in 2006 when he was named the national Freshman of the Year. Following his up-and-down sophomore campaign, the Archie Griffin Award caps a silly resume of 2008 recognition:
McCoy, who is the Walter Camp Football Foundation Player of the Year, Sporting News Player of the Year, runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, and a Maxwell Award (college player of the year), O'Brien Award (nation's top quarterback) and Manning Award (nation's top quarterback) finalist, was named WCFF National Player of the Week on Oct. 19 and was a three-time O'Brien National Quarterback of the Week this season. He earned first-team All-America honors from the WCFF and FWAA, second-team honors from the Associated Press and was named to the AFCA's Good Works Team.
If he returns -- as most expect -- for his senior season, he'll not only have a chance to extend the long list of school passing records he holds, but will have a shot at some incredible national marks. As Kirk Bohls notes, with McCoy entering the '09 season holding a 32-7 career record, former Georgia quarterback David Greene's career wins tally (42) is well within reach. Wondering what else might be within McCoy's reach, I spent some time in the Division 1 record book:
- If he returns and stays healthy, McCoy will in September break Phillip Rivers' record of 51 career starts at quarterback. (I'm not sure how to reconcile this with Bohls' note above, which says Greene won 42 games and lost 10. Either Bohls' numbers are wrong, the NCAA record book is wrong, the NCAA record book is only counting regular season games, or it's possible for a quarterback to receive credit for wins in games he did not start. I can't find the career wins numbers anywhere in the record book, though, so I'm unsure.)
- McCoy has an excellent chance of breaking Timmy Chang's NCAA record 70.4% career completion percentage.
- If he started all season, McCoy would finish in the Top 10 all-time in total offensive yards.
Big 12 NFL Draft update. As Longhorns fans celebrate Sergio Kindle, Lamarr Houston, and Rodderick Muckelroy's decisions to return to school, Texas Tech fans wave good bye to Michael Crabtree, who yesterday made official his decision to turn pro. With quarterback Graham Harrell graduating the decision isn't terribly surprising, but in any case, a first round draft selection awaits the exceptionally talented wideout. Tech fans can commiserate with Missouri faithful, who also lost their quarterback (Daniel) to graduation and star receiver (Maclin) early to the pros.
With Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh announcing yesterday he would return for his senior year, Big 12 fans now turn their remaining attention to Austin (Colt McCoy) and Norman (Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham). Though the Sooners lose five of their top six offensive linemen this offseason, should Bradford and Gresham both return for 2009, Oklahoma's offense will have a chance to be equally strong as its defense, which got a big boost when DT Gerald McCoy announced he'll be back.
Laying bricks. Snow delays on Monday forced me to miss the Texas basketball team's loss to Oklahoma in Norman, but that may be just as well, considering how the team played. Though the causes for the Horns dropping two of their last three (and three of their last six) are numerous, the struggles arguably boil down to one ugly fact: this team is shooting the ball atrociously.
On the year Texas is making just 47.5% of its two-point attempts, which ranks 188th in Division 1. Their 32.1% from three-point range is 237th in D1; the 64.7% from the foul line ranks 274th. It's a full-fledged brick festival.
|PLAYER||2P FGA/FGM||3P FGA/FGM|
|Abrams||42-109 (38.5%)||45-109 (41.3%)|
|James||75-137 (54.7%)||11-32 (34.4%)|
|Johnson||63-127 (49.6%)||0-3 (0%)|
|Ward||16-29 (55.2%)||1-13 (7.7%)|
|Mason||17-41 (41.5%)||4-24 (16.7%)|
|Chapman||11-35 (31.4%)||0-1 (0%)|
|Atchley||19-33 (57.6%)||14-37 (37.8%)|
|Balbay||6-21 (28.6%)||0-3 (0%)|
What to do? Rick needs to make a concerted effort to have this team pushing the tempo from baseline to baseline. Certainly when Pittman's not on the floor, the Longhorns should press, and regardless of who's on the floor Texas needs to start looking for points off of defense and in transition. Steals and defensive rebounds need to be turned around as quickly as possible -- ideally into a fast break, but if not, at least with enough pace to keep Texas out of half court offense against a set D.