Meet the QB candidates

No straw polls will be taken.

Ballots? Nope.

Secret votes? Try again.

There will be no hanging chads or recounts. One decision. One man. And though, Mack Brown has said the quarterbacks will help him decide "by their actions on the practice field," there will be no vote. Brown will make the call, and only when he's ready.

Longhorns fans have been waiting for a while on this one. They want a decision and they want it now. Well, put down the tattered copy of Phil Steele for a second. Here is that opportunity. Decision 2011 is now yours. Take your pick (as if you haven't already):

The Incumbent

Garrett Gilbert has a lot of things going for him: Big arm, smarts, experience and enough mobility to be dangerous but not unpredictable.

He'd be the perfect quarterback, if nobody had seen the junior play last season. But 2010 sent his approval rating plummeting. And, worst of all, Gilbert can't defend himself or explain himself. All four quarterbacks are off limits to the media.

Oh well. There is this to report about Gilbert:

"He's done a good job," co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said.

Not exactly the best campaign slogan.

The job Gilbert has to do in camp is regain the trust of coaches and teammates. Texas was 116th in turnover margin last season, and Gilbert's 17 interceptions were a big part of the problem. Add that to the four he threw in the national title game against Alabama the previous season and Gilbert is averaging nearly 1.7 interceptions per game.

Co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite's first words when asked who will win the quarterback race: "You look at who takes care of the ball."

Gilbert, who also threw the lone pick of the spring game, has to prove he can do just that.

The Contender

Freshman David Ash has done absolutely nothing in a Texas uniform. Then again, unlike Gilbert, there is no evidence to be used against him.

There have, however, been some glowing remarks about him from teammates.

"He has demanded people's respect from the start," senior safety Blake Gideon said. "He is not too shy to chew somebody out or whatever. Or get in somebody's face to make sure they get their job done."

That can be interpreted in a number of ways, but it sounds as if Ash already has a comfort level with the playbook, his role and his teammates. That is a strong start for a true freshman who threw for almost 8,000 yards in high school.

Whether that translates into anything come Sept. 3 against Rice is another question. Ash's youth doesn't seem to have Gideon too concerned, "as long as he plays within the scheme and does his job and doesn't try to go out there and do something spectacular.

"The way that offense is set up they can move the ball on anybody. If they are just patient and they throw the ball where they are supposed to, run the ball where they are supposed to and they settle for the right plays, then they can move the ball."

The Vice President

Connor Wood appears to have all the qualities necessary for the top spot. He was a big-time recruit. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, he has the size. His older brother, Jeff, played college ball at Texas A&M, which gave him a chance to see what it takes to perform at the college level.

Add all that up and he is still just one step away from the starting job. Even his spring game (8-of-14 for 82 yards) was adequate, but not exactly scintillating.

Wood, who redshirted last season, might not be the most glamorous choice. And like Ash he is an unknown commodity on the field, but he does at least have a year in the program.

The question is: Can he manage the game from the field, not the sideline?

The Legacy

Case McCoy has the pedigree to be the next leader of the Texas offense. In the spring, the sophomore showed he had some of the game required as well.

While he didn't rip strong-arm throws down the field, McCoy did manage to put together a 9-of-11 performance with a few passes of 20-plus yards. What that signaled was that McCoy could manage the game.

Harsin's offense is predicated on quick, smart throws, not go routes. Under Harsin, Boise State's Kellen Moore averaged a respectable 14 yards per completion last season. Many of the longer completions were short routes busted open by Titus Young and Austin Pettis, who averaged 17 and 13 yards per catch, respectively.

Most importantly, Moore did not throw many interceptions. He had only six against 35 touchdowns. Moore and McCoy are both guys who do not stand particularly tall in the pocket and can move around if they need to, but prefer to find the safety valve. Two other guys Harsin coached at Boise State, Taylor Tharp and Jared Zabransky, are much the same stature and played much the same way.

So, McCoy may might be the closest thing to what Harsin is used to having at the QB spot. Texas, for that matter, is pretty used to having a McCoy under center as well.

While the competition and campaigning continue, intangibles will play a key role in the final decision.

"You have got to have great leadership at that position," Brown said.

What is clear is that none of the quartet separated themselves during summer workouts. So this debate, which could have been settled had a clear leader emerged, has gone from a simmer to a full-fledged boil.

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas sports and recruiting for HornsNation.com.

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