UT Meets the Press Prior to First Practice

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By Mike Blackwell
Posted Aug 5, 2012
Copyright © 2014 InsideTexas.com


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Case McCoy (Will Gallagher/Inside Texas)

No, Mack Brown did not name a starting quarterback Sunday during his press conference the day before the Longhorns begin fall practice. But both David Ash and Case McCoy were made available to the press, both were swarmed by cameras and recorders, and both showed how truly different they are, at least when the camera lights come on.

But of course, UT's starting quarterback job will be settled on the (closed to the media) practice field, where the camera lights will never shine.

Both were endearing, if in completely different ways. McCoy was comfortable, expressive, using his hands to help him talk, thick hair spilling at the back from his Longhorn cap, looking like he just got back from the lake. Ash was quieter, but sometimes in a playful and dry-sense-of-humor kind of way; he was definitely more guarded than McCoy. Which, maybe without getting too psychological, is a pretty good reflection of their on-the-field tendencies, too.

Both want to be the starting quarterback, and both will continue their battle on Monday, when the team will report for practice.

Brown was typical Brown Sunday, upbeat and giving a good-natured needle to a reporter who arrived moments after the press conference began. As expected, he said he was perfectly comfortable with his quarterbacks jockeying for position less than a month from game one, and he was also extremely forthcoming when talking about the off-the-field incident last spring involving Kenny Vaccaro, Alex Okafor and Barrett Matthews.

In a nutshell from Sunday: the quarterbacks will earn the starting job at practice, the passing game must be better in 2012, the special teams need some work and the defense should be outstanding and more comfortable in its second year in the Manny Diaz system.

But the main media interest was shown in the quarterbacks, of course.

"They will make the decision for us," said Brown, who mentioned Facebook, Twitter, Sonya Richards-Ross, new practice uniforms and a possible NCAA stipend for players long before addressing the quarterback issue. "I do think some people panic over it and say it should've been done in June (a quarterback decision). I love the fact that if you're not really sure and it's not clear cut, that the guys had to compete and lead the team all summer. They will have a much better feel now than they did when they left spring practice.

"And tonight at our team meeting we will tell them, 'We're going to make that decision, not you all.' I've heard from the team about both quarterbacks, and now we'll decide."

As for the quarterbacks, both said they will benefit from the passing of time. Both listed "maturity" as something they've both gained since last season. McCoy mentioned last season's Baylor game specifically, saying that he didn't move himself out of a funk in the middle of the game when things began to turn south. McCoy gave off the vibe that he would sure like you to jump into the boat with him and wet a hook.

Ash - much more careful in his delivery and appearance - used an analogy to emphasize his maturation.

"We don't expect babies to write novels," Ash said. "Freshmen quarterbacks don't usually break open the record books and win championships. But we do expect babies to grow up; and I've had a year to grow up and I'm excited about that."

When asked what he had improved upon over the summer, McCoy said, emphatically, "leadership."

"I think I improved on the way I interact with the team, the way I lead different guys in different ways," McCoy said. "And also, I improved on arm strength."

Someone asked McCoy when a starter would be named and he said, "Hopefully by the first game…they have to have a starter by then, right?"

Ash used the "pregnant pause" twice in his conversation with the press. One reporter asked him if he would rather just let his football do his talking rather than answering questions from the media, and Ash looked at him right in the eye and said, "Yes." After it was clear he wasn't going to elaborate, the reporters dutifully laughed. The second pause came after a reporter asked Ash if media was making too much of the quarterback decision.

"Yeah," said Ash.

Seconds later, a reporter asked Ash if it bothered him to be given the term "game manager."

"I just think we're going to put 11 players on the field to win a game," Ash said seriously. "If it's a game manager, okay; if it's a touchdown thrower, that's okay. If it's a ball hander-offer, that's okay too."

Ash said his primary area improvement came in the field room, where he has attempted to grasp the offense "front and back and sideways." When pressed about areas of leadership that he has worked on during the summer, he said he had been reading a book titled "Living Leaders" but also admitted that he wasn't so sure how to quantify leadership.

"What is leadership?" Ash asked. "People say it's a lot of different things. But when it comes down to it, it's really an abstract term. I think guys want to follow a guy who's going to put them in the end zone, so that's my goal."

Brown directly addressed the media on the subject of the "embarrassing moment with the law" by saying that all three players had "terrific summers." However, he was also brutally honest with his assessment of the incident, which evidently involved players not leaving an area when asked to leave by police.

"When you're asked to leave an area and you don't, its disrespect for authority," Brown said. "Coaches are authority figures, police are authority figures, the university president is an authority figure, the athletic director is an authority figure. I thought it was foolish.

"I understand they ordered the pizza, and I understand they were hungry. But still, if you're asked by an authority figure to leave, leave. If they had left, we wouldn't be talking about this.  But everything I'm hearing from the summer is that they've been very respectful, that they shouldn't have done what they did and they're trying to put themselves back into leadership roles.

Both Okafor and Vaccaro addressed the lessons they have learned from the incident.

"The incident definitely humbled us," Okafor said. "No matter who you are, nobody's above the law, you have to respect authority."

For Vaccaro, who became a father in February, the incident was a wakeup call.

"What happened was a big eye-opener for me," Vaccaro said. "I've got a lot at stake. My whole family is on my back, so I can't take anything for granted."

When asked why he didn't make himself available for the draft, Vaccaro used the incident as an example.

"I don't think I was mature enough," Vaccaro said. "I don't think I'm ready for the NFL. You saw what happened. That can't happen in the NFL…I need to grow as a man. I wasn't ready. I don't think I was ready to have that kind of money and to be free. And I want to do more at Texas."

More notes from media availability will be posted Monday.

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