- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2006

Despite the Hollywood name, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy is the antithesis of a loose cannon.

When the redshirt freshman steps into the spotlight in tomorrow’s showdown between No. 1 Ohio State (1-0) and No. 2 Texas (1-0), don’t expect to see a live-armed cowboy itching to strap on the massive spurs left behind by departed dynamo Vince Young.

McCoy’s game belies his flashy name. He’s more fundamental technician than freakish talent, more guile than glitz, more student than superstar. And given the playmakers surrounding him in the Texas huddle, McCoy’s success as Young’s replacement depends on efficiency, not electricity.

“Nobody expects Colt to be Vince, least of all Colt,” said Texas receiver Limas Sweed, one of eight upperclassmen who are returning offensive starters for the defending national champions. “He’s got experienced guys and weapons all around him. It’s our job to make the transition as easy as possible for him and share the burden. And he’s progressed very quickly. Colt’s a real quick study.”

Perhaps that’s to be expected for the son of a coach who’s slightly undersized at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds. McCoy was one of the most prolific prep quarterbacks in Texas history, passing for 9,334 yards and 116 touchdowns while playing for his father, Brad, at Jim Ned High School in Tuscola, a town south of Abilene with a population of just 714.

McCoy guided his teams to a 34-2 record in his three years as a starter. He became the all-time leading passer in Texas AA history and moved into second among all divisions in career touchdown passes. But McCoy wasn’t considered a monster recruit when he signed with the Longhorns after the 2004 season. Not only did the skinny country boy (then 185 pounds) have questionable arm strength, he played in one of the state’s lower classifications, prompting some to dismiss his numbers as the product of pedestrian competition.

And when Texas followed last season’s title run by signing prized blue-chipper Jevan Snead (Stephenville, Texas), a Parade All-American who is both bigger and more athletic than McCoy, many observers in the Lone Star State figured McCoy simply would fade into a career reserve role.

But McCoy added 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason and then held off Snead in summer camp by managing the first-team offense with near-flawless precision. McCoy didn’t throw an interception in three preseason scrimmages and looked equally composed in his debut against North Texas last week, completing 12 of 19 passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns (once again without an interception) in a 56-7 rout.

“We did everything we could to try and rattle Colt in camp, and nothing worked,” Texas senior safety Michael Griffin said. “We put in a dime package, so he’d never know who was coming [on the blitz]. Within a day, he picked it up, and we weren’t landing anything. His football IQ is getting greater all the time. … He makes very few mistakes, which is pretty amazing for a redshirt freshman.”

When the Mean Green stacked the line to stop the rush (undoubtedly Ohio State’s plan), McCoy calmly checked into passing plays and exploited one-on-one coverage in the North Texas secondary.

Solving North Texas is a far cry from burning the Buckeyes, who will show up with a defensive package designed to fluster the freshman. But considering the Buckeyes have nine first-year starters on defense, it’s hard to imagine Ohio State executing anything complex enough to confuse or panic McCoy.

Of course, it helps that McCoy has the nation’s best offensive line protecting him, a pair of seasoned backs behind him in speedster Jamaal Charles and senior Selvin Young and targets like possession stalwart Sweed (6-5, 219 pounds) and deep threat Billy Pittman, who finished second in the nation in yards per catch last season (22.1).

Those are the bullets, as it were, in Colt’s clip. And that’s the kind of ammo that certainly softens the import of precise marksmanship.

“I have to be heady. I don’t have to be a hero,” McCoy said of the first regular-season clash between the nation’s top-ranked teams since 1996.

“Everything has worked out so far. I prayed about it, worked hard and the chips are really falling into place.”

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