By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
There are those who are saying that Texas may well possess the best defense in the nation, which is all well and good, but they are playing in a conference where you absolutely must find a way to score a lot of points or you will not wind up the Big 12 champion.
The question is, does Texas have the quarterbacking to do that, starting sophomore David Ash backed up by junior Case McCoy, two players who had their problems a year ago?
“The quarterbacks do need to play better. They talked about that,” said Coach Mack Brown.
But Brown wasn’t about to place the burden completely on their shoulders.
“The thing we need to do is score more points,” said Brown, whose team last averaged just 28.1 points a game in a conference where Oklahoma State was averaging 48.7 and Oklahoma 39.5. “This is a point-driven league.
“The 28.1 we averaged last year is not enough. When we won the national championship we averaged 50, and we averaged 40 a game for a long time.”
That leads to another question, whether or not you can get to the necessary offensive numbers without getting 4,000 yards throwing from your quarterbacks:
“I think you can,” Brown said in answer to the question on the first weekly conference call. “We have a great feel right now for who we are. We have to do a better job of producing explosive plays. You can’t just run the ball for 4 yards a play and win all the games.
“We want to be balanced, but we want more explosive plays, which usually happen because the receivers are blocking downfield. Yes, we need more explosive plays in our passing game, which would come from the quarterback position.
“But they need some help,” Brown continued. “Our receivers need to play better, our running backs need to catch the ball out of the backfield better, our tight ends need to pick it up.”
Brown went out on a limb in the spring and named Ash his quarterback even though he is unproven. Asked if he had any second thoughts about the decision following camp, Brown said he had not.
“Both he and Case handled it well. Some teams still don’t know who this quarterback is now. Case can come off the bench and help this team win. Last year we didn’t have two guys capable of coming in and winning games.”
Modern-day recruiting has changed a lot, kids committing much earlier and more often breaking their commitments, or so it seems.
That led to some questions about whether or not the coaches treated a recruit who had given a verbal commitment but said he would continue to take visits was treated like a solid commitment.
Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops said no way.
“He’s not committed if he’s taking visits,” Stoops said. “We tell them that. We say, ‘If that’s the case, then you are not committed. We will not accept that commitment and we will keep recruiting guys at your position. In the end, you’re kidding yourself if you think that’s a commitment.”
Stoops offered an analogy.
“Envision I’m going to tell my wife we’re going to get married in February but until we do I’m going to date these other three girls all through September and October and November until we get married,” Stoops said. “It doesn’t work.”
Stoops’ in-state rival, Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State, was asked the same question about commitments and had a different take.
“Each kid is different based on family background, geography. There’s really no correct answer. I would venture to say when you are taking other visits you have to know in the back of your mind there’s a chance he won’t come to your school,” Gundy said.
Gundy was asked if maybe the adults around the kid, parents and coaches, have a responsibility to see a kid keeps a commitment.
“Like anything else, you’d like for it to be that way, but I don’t know it works out that way,” Gundy said. “Recruiting has gotten so blown out of proportion now — a kid commits and he sees his name go across the bottom of national TV channels — that it’s gotten to the point of a little cat and mouse game. Parents and coaches can’t be held responsible for an 18- or 19-year-old changing his mind.”
Gundy had to replace Brandon Weeden this season at quarterback, which is a difficult task in and of itself, and he’s doing it with true freshman Wes Lunt inheriting the job.
Certainly, Gundy has to prepare himself for some growing pains that he didn’t have to go through with the experienced Weeden as a senior.
“He’s a little further along than I thought he would be,” Gundy admitted. “There will be mistakes, growing pains. We had them with Brandon Weeden here and he was very mature with his age. You have to understand we named him the quarterback and he’ll make mistakes and you go with it and keep playing him.
“We have to do the best we can to understand his mistakes and how he’s progressing. We think we have a pretty good feel for that from our experience in the offense.”
Most of the attention at Baylor has been on the fact that Robert Griffin III, the quarterback and Heisman winner, declared early and went into the NFL draft, but in truth the offense was depleted by other losses to the NFL, too.
In addition to Griffin, inside receiver Kendall Wright, running back Terrance Ganaway and offensive tackle Robert T. Griffin were drafted, meaning Baylor sent five offensive starters to the NFL.
“You don’t replace those people,” Coach Art Briles said. “We had five people drafted from the offensive side, which is the most drafted from one offense in modern football. It hasn’t happened in the last 25 years, I’ve been told.”
They have been working on getting similar production from other people.
“We knew we had to figure out a different route,” Briles said. “We have good people on campus. We feel good about our depth that we’ve collected over the last three or four years recruiting-wise. Now we have an opportunity and they have an opportunity to go make a name for themselves because not everybody knows their names.”
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.