They met five years ago, on a sticky summer afternoon at a football camp in Perkinston, Miss., and now they speak to each other at least once a month. Vince Young didn‚Äôt expect to form a close relationship with Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair when Young attended McNair‚Äôs camp before his sophomore year at Madison High in Houston, but since that day on the Delta the two have come to regard each other as family. This summer McNair watched hours of Texas game tape from 2003 and offered his protégé three tips that could turn him into an AllAmerica: 1) make his reads quicker, 2) improve his accuracy and 3) rely more on his natural talent.
‚ÄúI listen real closely to everything Steve says, because he‚Äôs the quarterback I want to become,‚Äù says Young, a sophomore who was Parade‚Äôs national high school player of the year in 2001. ‚ÄúHis advice always makes me a better player.‚Äù
Young‚Äôs development will be the key to the Longhorns‚Äô season and, more significant, to coach Mack Brown‚Äôs future. Last year Texas won 10 games--the third straight time it has hit double digits in victories--but lost to Oklahoma for the fourth consecutive year. With each loss to the Red River rival, the pressure on Brown builds. ‚ÄúI understand that we need to do a better job against Oklahoma,‚Äù says Brown, ‚Äúbut I really think we‚Äôre getting closer and closer to the national title. And Vince Young will hopefully help us get there.‚Äù
The 6'5", 220-pound Young, who‚Äôs run 4.5 in the 40, replaced Chance Mock as the starter after the 65‚Äì13 loss to Oklahoma last Oct. 11. Young threw for 1,155 yards and rushed for 998 last season, and though he struggled to complete midrange throws, the Longhorns won six straight games before bowing to Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. He was particularly effective in the Gun ‚Äôn‚Äô Run offense, which gives him the option of running or passing out of the shotgun. ‚ÄúOur offense really started to click after Vince started getting more snaps,‚Äù says senior running back Cedric Benson, who‚Äôs looking for his fourth 1,000-yard rushing season. ‚ÄúNow that Vince has some experience, we‚Äôre a very confident football team.‚Äù
The big question in Austin is, Will Young be good enough to beat OU? --L.A.
2003 RECORD 10‚Äì3 (7‚Äì1, 2nd in Big 12 South)
FINAL AP RANK 12
RETURNING STARTERS 14
KEY RETURNEES (2003 stats)
RB Cedric Benson (Sr.)
Nation‚Äôs leading active rusher (3,706 yards)
LB Derrick Johnson (Sr.)
Horns‚Äô first consensus All-America LB since ‚Äô83
QB Vince Young (Soph.)
Texas scored on 52.3% of drives he directed
DT Rodrique Wright (Jr.)
Led D with 7 1‚ÅÑ2 sacks and 30 QB pressures
T Jonathan Scott (Jr.)
Made smooth transition from right to left side
Consecutive games the Longhorns have played without being shut out. The last team to blank Texas was Baylor, which won 16‚Äì0 in 1980.
Garnet Smith had moved up to starting middle linebacker last fall, but a sprained right ankle in the season opener sidelined him for the year. After taking a medical redshirt, the 6'3", 230pound sophomore is back, this time on the strong side, where he‚Äôll bolster a run defense that ranked 58th in the nation.
Sept. 4 NORTH TEXAS
11 at Arkansas
Oct. 2 BAYLOR
9 vs. Oklahoma*
23 at Texas Tech
30 at Colorado
Nov. 6 OKLAHOMA STATE
13 at Kansas
26 TEXAS A&M
HELP FROM ABOVE
Young has gotten advice from his mentor, McNair, on how to make the most of his abilities.