View Full Version : What's a defense to do?

10-15-2004, 08:59 AM
Oct. 15, 2004, 12:32AM

What's a defense to do?
Four multidimensional quarterbacks highlight two Big 12 matchups this weekend
McNeal could be emphasized a little more

Nearly every Sunday, Reggie McNeal sat next to his mother and was glued to the television. Quarterback Warren Moon was Regina McNeal's favorite player, and she rarely missed a Houston Oilers game.

Reggie sat there through elementary school and junior high studying Moon's moves. He fell in love with Moon's ability to run and pass and started studying other players with similar traits such as Randall Cunningham and Michael Vick.

By high school, McNeal spent his free time studying highlight film of Vick, whose ability to drop back or run intrigued the Lufkin native.

"That's what I wanted," McNeal said. "I wanted to be that way. But he is one of the greats. I'm trying to get to his status."

Now in his junior season at Texas A&M, McNeal is starting to emerge as one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the country.

This weekend, two games will feature four of the Big 12's most versatile quarterbacks. McNeal and the Aggies play Donovan Woods and Oklahoma State. Vince Young and Texas face Brad Smith and Missouri.

Doing well

McNeal has been the strongest so far this season. He is the only one of the four who hasn't thrown an interception and has completed 58.8 percent of his passes. He is also second in the Big 12 and 15th in the nation in total offense, averaging 278.6 yards per game.
"As I've said many times, if I got to order me one (quarterback) out of the catalog, I'd pick a Reggie McNeal," Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione said. "I mean, he's fast, he's athletic, he overcomes my coaching mistakes, and he's a passer, not a thrower."

This season, McNeal has shown the potential Franchione saw when he first took over the team. McNeal has become as much of a threat with his arm as with his legs.

It has been a three-year progression for McNeal, however, and one that isn't unique.

Growing pains

Young is enduring criticism similar to what McNeal battled last year, mostly surrounding his ability to pass. Young, who averages 55.6 yards rushing per game, has thrown eight touchdown passes and two interceptions this season. He has completed 56.6 percent of his passes, but he connected on only eight of 23 against Oklahoma last week.

Texas coach Mack Brown said the Longhorns must improve their passing attack if they want to win their final six games. And though Young is coming off his worst outing of the season, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel is still worried about the matchup.

"There will always be criticism, especially after you lose a game," Pinkel said. "I look at him, and I just see this guy who continues to improve, and I think he is developing and will be one of the great quarterbacks in the country."

Pinkel understands the criticism Young has endured, mainly because he has heard similar complaints about Smith, whose ability to run has been lauded while his passing has been scrutinized.

Big-time numbers

Smith's only bad outing this year was in the Tigers' loss to Troy, after which Smith and Pinkel absorbed criticism for the quarterback's staying in the pocket too much.

But Smith's numbers have been impressive throughout his career. This season, he has thrown 10 TD passes and three interceptions while completing 56.6 percent of his attempts.

Last season, Smith fell 23 passing yards shy of becoming the first player to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.

"Because he's such a great runner, he probably doesn't get enough credit for his passing," Brown said of Smith. "These guys don't want to be stereotyped as runners. They want to be seen as complete quarterbacks, and they are."

The new guy

The youngest in the group is Oklahoma State's Woods, a redshirt freshman who is undefeated in five starts. He has run the Cowboys' offense efficiently despite compiling mediocre numbers. He averages 20.8 yards rushing per game and has completed only 26 of 52 passes.

Even though OSU hasn't dropped a game and is ranked 16th in the nation, many Cowboys fans are waiting for true freshman Bobby Reid of North Shore to take over.

Reid was in the running for the starting job before injuring his shoulder in the spring. He has been cleared to practice and might still play this season.

Miles said he is pleased with Woods, however, and hopes to increase the Cowboys' passing attack when Woods and the receivers become more acclimated with each other and the system.

"We like him," Miles said. "We feel that he is coming along very, very well. He's doing the things that we need him to do to help us win. And he's giving his team every opportunity to win with his play, and we're excited with him."

McNeal has proved it takes time to develop. He gave a perfect demonstration of his maturity last week against Iowa State during a situation that likely would have ended in a safety or interception last season.

On second down with 21 yards to go, the Aggies were backed up on their four-yard line. The Cyclones blitzed, and McNeal was stuck in the end zone trying to scramble away from two defenders. He stepped away from one and spun away from the other. Just when it looked like he was going to run, McNeal saw Jason Carter coming back toward the ball. McNeal tossed him a short pass, netting the Aggies 23 yards for the first down. :smokin

That highlighted a 96-yard scoring drive that gave the Aggies a 20-3 lead.

"I have a lot of confidence in him right now," Franchione said. "You're not afraid to call anything at any time because you know he's going to adjust and handle the situation well. As a coach, that's a real comforting feeling. You can call that riskier play and still know that Reggie will take care of it.

"What we're doing on offense is really fun right now. The reason it's fun is because Reggie has such a command of things."

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