Texas coach Mack Brown is being coy about his quarterbacks.
The Longhorns report Thursday for the 2011 season with last year’s starter, Garrett Gilbert, fighting for his job. He threw 17 interceptions as Texas fell to 5-7 in 2010, its first losing season in 13 years.
Gilbert now is trying to fend off challenges from sophomore Case McCoy, the younger brother of former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, and freshmen Connor Wood and David Ash.
Brown gave little hint Wednesday of who he expected to emerge as the starter for the Sept. 3 opener at home against Rice.
”We do think we’re in a real healthy spot because we do have four quarterbacks who have a chance,” Brown said Wednesday at the Austin Sports Commission Texas Gridiron Kickoff luncheon.
”We’ve got to make it work. … It’s about who is going to win,” Brown said. ”I’m not worried about it. I’m excited about it.”
Case McCoy threw just one pass last season as Gilbert’s top backup but might have outplayed him in the spring game, passing for 124 yards and a touchdown, with most of it coming against the first-team defense.
Gilbert passed for 2,744 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, and the former Gatorade national high school player of the year took the brunt of fan criticism over Texas’ failures, which included a 2-5 record at home. But he’s not the only starter fighting to keep his job. Brown has said every position is open between now and the first game.
”None of us earned the right to be entitled to anything,” Brown said.
Last season was Brown’s first losing season as a head coach in 20 years dating to his days at North Carolina. Brown responded by revamping his staff with seven new assistants, including co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin from Boise State and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz from Mississippi State.
Other assistants from the Big 12 and the SEC and the overhaul brought youth and vigor to the staff, Brown said.
”Last year wasn’t fun. Reorganizing the staff was,” Brown said. ”All these new ideas have come in and now what we need to do is make them work and make them work for Texas.”
After winning the national championship in 2005 and playing for another in 2009, Texas is picked to finish somewhere in the middle of the now 10-team Big 12.
”We’d rather be first,” Brown said. ”Last year, none of us were proud of what happened to us on the field.”
Brown also said he was excited about the new Longhorn Network, a collaboration with ESPN that launches Aug. 26 and will be a 24-hour showcase for Texas sports.
Texas’ 20-year, $300 million deal with ESPN has raised some concerns among other Big 12 programs that it shifts too much wealth and power to the Longhorns. Earlier this week, the league’s athletic directors agreed the network would not broadcast Texas high school games for one year, which some schools had feared would give the Longhorns a recruiting edge.
”It’s on the cutting edge of what’s happening in college football,” Brown said. ”I think it’s going to be fun for us. What great exposure for young coaches (and) tremendous exposure for players.”