Champions now, Texas' future lies with Young

Published: Friday, January 6, 2006 at 10:37 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 6, 2006 at 10:37 a.m.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) - The Texas Longhorns' drive to the national championship depended on Vince Young. So does their future.

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Texas quarterback and game MVP Vince Young holds up the championship trophy after Texas beat Southern California 41-38 in the Rose Bowl, the national championship college football game, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2006, in Pasadena, Calif.

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

It won't necessarily be a pass or run that makes the difference. Instead, it'll come down to a personal decision he makes with his family.

Whether the quarterback returns for his senior season or leaves for the NFL will have a huge impact on Texas' chances of defending its first outright national championship in 36 years.

"I'm just so proud of the work by this whole football team," Young said Thursday. "Basically, (I'll) sit down with my family members, talk with coach (Mack) Brown, a guy I truly, truly, respect .... I know that my future is pretty blessed right now."

It would be hard for Young to make a wrong decision for himself.

Leave now and he'll likely be one of the first players drafted, perhaps even the No. 1 pick overall by his hometown Houston Texans. Stay in college and Young is the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy next season.

The deadline for declaring for the draft is Jan. 15.

If he stays, pencil in the Longhorns as the 2006 preseason No. 1 and make reservations for the Fiesta Bowl, the site of the Bowl Championship Series title game.

The Longhorns are built to repeat their title with Young. Texas would return 14 starters, including most of an offense that averaged 51 points in 2005 and won the title by beating No. 1 Southern California 41-38 in the Rose Bowl on Wednesday night.

If he leaves, Texas is left with a lot great talent around untested freshman quarterbacks.

Young's backup this season was fifth-year senior Matt Nordgren. The only other scholarship quarterback on the roster was freshman Colt McCoy, who didn't take a snap. The Longhorns expect to sign at least one quarterback this year.

Young's stunning performance against USC showed just how hard he'd be to replace. Not just his game-record 467 total yards and three touchdowns, but his intangible leadership in crunch time.

"He's the best big-game player I've ever seen," senior tight end David Thomas said.

Brown won his first national championship and didn't feel like talking about Young's future the day after the game. He wanted the players to savor the win before worrying about the future.

"How many people get this moment?" Brown said. "We want our guys to enjoy it."

But he also said that he won't try to pressure Young one way or another. In eight seasons at Texas, Brown has had nine first-round draft picks and none left school early.

"He's done as much for the University of Texas as any single athlete in any sport has ever done. How ungracious for us to try to force him into making a selfish decision," Brown said.

Southern California quarterback Matt Leinart faced a similar choice after last season. With two national titles already won and a Heisman Trophy in hand, he stayed in college and brought his team all the way back to play for a third championship.

Young and Leinart talked about that decision at the Heisman ceremony in New York. Young said Leinart told him to "go with your heart."

Young rushed for 1,050 yards, passed for 3,036 and accounted for 38 touchdowns this season. Stay or go, the Longhorns return two of their top rushers in Jamaal Charles (878 yards, 11 TDs) Ramonce Taylor (513 yards, 12 TDs ) and all of their top wide receivers.

They must replace Thomas, one of Young's favorite targets and one of the most consistent players the last three seasons.

On defense, they'll have to replace All-Americans Rod Wright at tackle and Michael Huff at safety. Huff won the 2005 Thorpe award as the best defensive back in the country.

Like last season, an early-season matchup with Ohio State could chart the course for a national championship or sink it. Texas won 25-22 in Columbus back in September and the Buckeyes travel to Austin for the rematch.

The Longhorns will start the season with a 20-game winning streak, the longest in the nation.

Texas returns to spring practice on Feb. 24. Maybe Young will be there, maybe not.

"Next year's team hasn't won a game," Brown said. "There's not going to be another Vince Young. We can win football games at Texas because we won them before Vince got here, and we'll win them afterwards."

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