AUSTIN, Texas -- Left with just a week to prepare and without an unquestioned starter, Texas will have to improvise at quarterback.
Well, then, Texas has just the right guy -- Case McCoy. The junior, who often takes plays on a circuitous route, has taken one of his own right back to the starting position under center. Yep, given a choice between the stoic and heroic, Texas chose the latter.
Now the Longhorns have to figure out, for the second straight season, what they have in McCoy.
"The whole focus is to get Case prepared to go play against [Kansas State],'' co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. "What do we have to do in these next three practices to play at the level that we have been playing? And not put ourselves in bad situations like we did in the last game?''
The first thing Texas has to do is to get McCoy to understand he does not have to be the hero. Not every play. The last time McCoy started he attempted to unfurl the cape and fly. Thing was, the Superman role was already taken by his opponent across the field, Robert Griffin III. And McCoy wound up the villain, with six turnovers beside his name.
Now here comes another Heisman candidate in Collin Klein. While he might be Captain Ordinary, it works. His offense produces. So too does his defense. In fact, the Wildcats lead the nation in turnover margin.
McCoy's last pass was a turnover against TCU. It was the result of a play -- a first-down play with time on the clock -- when McCoy tried to do way too much and threw the ball way too short into triple coverage.
Clearly the mantra for McCoy against KSU will be for him to play within himself. But even that mindset might be flawed. That's because the parameters within McCoy's mind of who he is and the skills he possesses do not exactly match what he produces.
Take the aforementioned pass into triple coverage. McCoy had the belief -- within himself, mind you -- that he had the arm strength to loft the ball on the run over those three defenders and into the hands of Jaxon Shipley. In reality, he does not possess that skill. So McCoy has to be brutally honest with himself.
It would also help if the coaches were brutally honest as well. Texas coach Mack Brown stated he has no reservations about McCoy's arm strength in what could possibly be windy weather in Manhattan, Kan. Harsin, the coach who calls the plays, was slightly more realistic, but said Texas would not be too limited in the shots it takes down the field.
To be fair, McCoy has added 15 to 20 pounds and is significantly better with the downfield pass. He hit Mike Davis with two 30-yard-plus sideline-route balls against Oklahoma and Kansas that were a testament to that. But he is not a quarterback who can drop back and hose it down the middle to Davis streaking 45 or 50 yards away.
McCoy also has completed 67 percent of his passes and thrown four touchdowns against only the aforementioned pick. That's a huge step up from last year's five starts when McCoy had a 61 percent completion rate, four picks and seven touchdowns.
Still, McCoy is immature in terms of live experience with this playbook. Harsin appears to understand that and as such will work this week at exploiting and expanding on the things that are more suited to McCoy's talents.
"There are probably some things that we will limit in the quarterback position just from what David has done,'' Harsin said. "Case is a guy who has shown he can scramble. Case does a nice job of moving the pocket and moving it around and getting out in space. So there are some things that we can do to get him moving around more.''
There very well could be more rollouts and quick-hitters. The screen game, both inside and outside, comes into play with McCoy in the game. Texas also likes to work the tight ends and Shipley much more when McCoy is at quarterback.
That's not to say Harsin won't throw a deep route in there. But McCoy is more comfortable getting the ball out quickly. And the coaches also are more comfortable when McCoy remains on rhythm, on schedule and making the play they drew up on the paper.
In other words, even though the coaches are improvising this late in the season, they do not want or need their quarterback to do the same.