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May 20, 2011

Mailbag: Could Texas lose some QB depth?

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. Click here to send Olin a question for a future mailbag.
Depth and competition are coveted commodities for coaches. One enhances the other, and they're supposed to make a team better.

In theory, competition for a starting role brings out the best in players. Then, the starter is backed up by a capable replacement.

But a quarterback competition often results in diminished depth. That position is typically filled by Type-A personalities with strong egos and leadership skills. The loser of a competition isn't content to watch from the sideline, at least not for long.

When a quarterback competition involves two or more players in the same class or perhaps separated by a year, the loser often transfers to a program where he's confident he'll play.

That happened at Texas in 2000. Quarterback Adam Hall was part of a heralded 1999 recruiting class that included Chris Simms. Realizing he was behind Simms in the competition, Hall transferred to San Diego State and started there for two seasons.

It happened again in Austin six years later. Jevan Snead lost the competition to Colt McCoy and transferred to Ole Miss, where he started for two seasons.

Don't be surprised if the Longhorns repeat that experience in the near future.

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On the move?

Do you see any of the Texas quarterbacks transferring?
Keith in Bowling Green, Ky.

Whenever a program recruits two or more highly rated quarterback prospects, there is a good chance one of them will transfer. Unlike other positions, only one can play and most quarterbacks aren't willing to accept being second-team for more than a season or two.

Texas' roster now has four quarterbacks who were rated at least three-star recruits - junior Garrett Gilbert (five stars), sophomore Case McCoy (three stars), redshirt freshman Connor Wood (four stars) and true freshman David Ash (three stars). None truly distinguished himself during spring football, and coach Mack Brown has said the starting job remains open. The job won't be won until August.

Word out of Austin is that Gilbert and Wood may have the lead in the competition. If that is indeed the case and one of those wins the job, the guess here is McCoy would be most likely to leave because he's already used a year of eligibility. But that's just a wild guess. Nobody can say for sure.

Of course, quarterback transfers aren't new or rare occurrences.

For example, in the '70s Vince Ferragamo couldn't break into the starting lineup at California. He was behind Joe Roth and Steve Bartkowski. Ferragamo transferred to Nebraska. About 30 years later, Nebraska would get its starting quarterback in similar fashion when Sam Keller transferred from Arizona State after losing a competition with Rudy Carpenter.

Tennessee can provide another example. In 1994, the Volunteers' recruiting class included a couple of high-profile quarterbacks - Peyton Manning and Branndon Stewart. When it was clear Manning would be the starter, Stewart transferred to Texas A&M, where he became the starter and eventually passed for three touchdowns to help the Aggies upset Kansas State 36-33 in the 1998 Big 12 championship game.

More recently, Joe Flacco transferred to Delaware after starting his career at Pittsburgh. Nick Foles transferred to Arizona after originally signing with Michigan State. Purdue's Robert Marve started his career at Miami. The list goes on and on.

Trojan horses

What do you think of USC's running backs?
Dale in Stockton, Calif.

The Trojans potentially have more running back depth than any team other than Oregon.

Marc Tyler and Dillon Baxter signed with USC as five-star prospects. D.J. Morgan was a four-star signee. Any one of them could have a tremendous season in 2011.

But USC fans should be the first to know that a stockpile of individual talent doesn't guarantee tremendous success at a position. Five years ago, USC's backfield was log-jammed with five-star recruits Stafon Johnson, C.J. Gable and Joe McKnight. Though all had good careers, none reached the star status of so many previous Trojans running backs.

Teams can have great success by using a committee approach. It sure worked for SMU's "Pony Express" of Eric Dickerson and Craig James in the early 1980s. Virginia Tech frequently has used a two-tailback tandem with great results. Last season, Wisconsin had three backs rush for 1,000 yards. (Well, Montee Ball only gained 996, but you get the point). TCU, the team that beat the Badgers in the Rose Bowl, had one 1,000-yard back and two others who rushed for at least 500 yards last season; in 2009, the Horned Frogs had three backs who rushed for at least 600 yards.

USC's backs have the potential to have that kind of production. But I think it would best serve the Trojans if one emerged as the obvious feature back and the others had complementary roles.

Revisionist history

In your last mailbag, you referred to Reggie Bush as a Heisman Trophy winner and USC as having won the national championship with him. That is not how we should remember that period. Cheaters should not be held in high esteem. Don't you think Texas should be the national champion from 2004? And should we still consider Bush the Heisman winner?
Gene in Chambersburg, N.C.

True, Bush was asked to return his Heisman, but that doesn't change the fact that he did win it.

As far as USC goes, the NCAA still recognizes the Trojans as the 2004 national champions on its Web site. And I just can't forget that 55-19 dismantling of Oklahoma ever happened.

If USC is stripped of that championship, Texas would not be recognized as the '04 champion. No doubt, the Longhorns had a great season, finishing 11-1 and defeating Michigan 38-37 in the Rose Bowl. But if USC was stripped of the '04 title, the obvious choice to be recognized as champion would be Auburn, which finished 13-0 and ranked second in the nation.

Of course, many around the country felt Auburn should have played in the national championship game that season, but that's another issue.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.
Got a question for Olin's Mailbag? Click here to drop him a note

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