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July 25, 2007

McCoy growing into role as Longhorns' leader

SAN ANTONIO Mack Brown was supposed to take only one more question in his session at Big 12 Media Days.

A young man in the balcony overlooking the stage interrupted the last question for one of his own.

"How do you feel about small-town guys? Are they good guys?"

As it turns out, one year of starting at quarterback for Texas and tying the NCAA freshman record for touchdown passes does a lot for confidence.

Brown quipped back to his star quarterback, Colt McCoy of Tuscola, Texas (population roughly 700): "Well, some of them are ones that stay healthy."

The quarterback situation at Texas is far more relaxed and settled than it was this time last year, when Vince Young left the Longhorns without a signal-caller with any game experience.

McCoy was a folk hero in Tuscola, a coach's son and two-time Class 2A MVP, but big-time schools didn't fawn over him like they did some other Texas players. Nevertheless he landed in Austin, where he redshirted and beat out true freshman Jevan Snead for the unenviable task of following Young on the defending national champions.

McCoy, despite being limited by a pinched nerve in his neck in two games last year, helped the Longhorns put Young in the rearview mirror.

Texas didn't repeat, but McCoy put together one of the best freshman seasons in NCAA history, passing for 2,570 yards and a school-record 29 touchdowns.

Current players and former Longhorns alike were pleased to say the least.

"They were all in shock," Brown said. "It was such an easy transition, and we did not think it would be."

McCoy's quick maturation has put Texas in the national title hunt once again and has made McCoy a Heisman contender.

It's not just awards and wins for McCoy. He has taken over the Texas huddle in the last year.

"I feel confident that my teammates respect me and they're comfortable with me, they understand me, and they know I'm going to fight," McCoy said. "Everything is a lot easier. Earning their respect last year was hard, never playing the position. Now they're looking for me to run 7-on-7s."

And there's little reason not to expect a leap from McCoy in his second season as a starter. He has spent the offseason bulking up to improve his arm strength. He has a star receiver in Limas Sweed and is showing some of the same leadership qualities that defined Young, though maybe not in the same way.

Young was the jokester, not above passing gas in the huddle to ease the tension.

"Each man is different. Vince is more of a jokester," Sweed said. "That was just to loosen things up. Colt is in there and having fun, but he's different."

Judging by his entrance at Big 12 Media Days, McCoy may find his inner jokester as well.

"He's anticipating playing well and winning and being a team guy instead of who's going to start. And that's a great relief for us from this time last year," Brown said. "He'll probably be more animated this year because he'll be more confident."

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.

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