February 22, 2009

Spring football: It's now or never for John Chiles

With spring football starting on Friday, we preview the quarterback position …

On the roster: Colt McCoy, senior, 6-3, 210; John Chiles, junior, 6-2, 215; Sherrod Harris, junior, 6-3, 220

The battle: Colt McCoy is the franchise. No breaking news there. But the battle for McCoy's backup is one of the most intriguing storylines of the spring. John Chiles, one of the top recruits in the country two years ago, is fighting for his life as a Longhorn QB. Coaches went to him after the 2008 regular season and asked him what he wanted to do: switch positions or keep playing QB? Chiles said he wanted to be a full-time quarterback. He showed a great attitude in bowl practices. Now he has to start convincing coaches that he gives UT the best chance to win should something happen to McCoy. Otherwise, freshman Garrett Gilbert will most likely take over the backup job and play in 2009 before taking over the starter's job in 2010. This scenario would basically spell the end of Chiles' time at QB at Texas. He would have to move to another position (linebacker, tight end, etc.) or transfer to keep pursuing his dream of becoming a QB.

Who could surprise in the spring: Chiles. Coaches can grade his ability to throw the ball in drills where he faces no pass rush. They can see if he's becoming more accurate by seeing if he can hit receivers in stride without the defense on the field. So from day one, he'll be under the microscope. Sherrod Harris is a smart kid with talent, but the coaches have consistently rated Chiles ahead of him on their draft boards. So Harris would have to do some pretty incredible things to climb into what appears to be a race between Chiles and Gilbert to be McCoy's backup this fall.

Who could surprise in the fall: Gilbert. The freshman-to-be from Lake Travis already has a Texas playbook and will be able to attend spring practices and watch, even if he's not enrolled in school. If he grasps the offense the way he's grasped everything else, he'll be a tough one to beat in the fall.

What needs to happen: From a coaches' standpoint, it makes the most sense if Gilbert wins the backup job and then starts in 2010. Under that scenario, Connor Wood and Case McCoy could redshirt in 2010 and have two years of eligibility remaining after Gilbert's time at Texas is done.

Final analysis: Texas appears to be in good shape at the quarterback position for years to come barring injury. The odds suddenly seem stacked against Chiles, and not all of it is his fault. Let's face it, when he got into games the last two seasons - even when he would get time early in games - it was often with the second-team offense. That didn't help his cause. And only the coaches and Chiles truly know if Chiles has committed himself to improving the way he should have over the past two years. But there should be no mystery anymore. It's now or never for Chiles. If he doesn't have a great spring, it could be decision time for him about his position or his choice of school.

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