James Brown battled Shea Morenz for the starting quarterback role in 1994. (Tom Lankes/American-Statesman)

BEVO BEAT Football

5 Texas quarterback battles to remember

Posted March 29th, 2016

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There are a lot of positions up for grabs right now during Texas’ spring football, but one sticks out like a 5-7 record and 38-3 Notre Dame loss.

Who is going to be the quarterback?

Jerrod Heard, Tyrone Swoopes, Kai Locksley, Matthew Merrick and Shane Buechele are all legitimate possible starters. Heard started 10 games last season. Swoopes has started 14 games in his career and actually ranks 13th all-time in the Texas career passing yards (2,972 yards).

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But neither enter with a strong grasp on the starting job. Locksley was a high-level recruit when he chose Texas last season and redshirted. Buechele graduated high school early to participate this spring and has a shot at winning the job.

So how many times has this happened? Here are five times where Texas football had a quarterback competition:

Donnie Little vs. Rick McIvor, 1979 and 1980

To be fair, Donnie Little was also in a quarterback battle in 1978 with Randy McEachern and Mark McBath, but Little fought every year to win that job until he switched to receiver his senior season to help his NFL chances.

Little, the first African-American quarterback to start for Texas, was named the starter as a sophomore in 1979. He went 8-1 in his first nine games, but an injury brought McIvor off the bench and he went 1-2 down the stretch.

In 1980, Little was again the starter, but injuries forced McIvor into the role, and he was named the starting quarterback after he beat Houston. The two traded starts because of injuries that season.

Little moved to receiver in 1981 and McIvor became the starter. Little went undrafted and played in Canada and now lives in Round Rock.

McIvor was drafted in 1984 by the St. Louis Cardinals (yes, once there were two St. Louis Cardinals professional sports teams) and was cut in 1986. He returned to Fort Stockton and is now the sheriff Jeff Davis County.

James Brown vs. Shea Morenz, 1994

10/14/95 Photo Toom Lankes Texas_OU football Texas' QB James Brown on a roll. The game ended in a 24-24 tie although the Horns had a 21-0 lead in the early portion of the game.
James Brown was the starting quarterback versus Oklahoma in 1995. The game ended in a 24-24 tie although the Horns had a 21-0 lead in the early portion of the game. (Tom Lankes/American-Statesman)

Morenz was one of the top quarterback recruits in the nation in 1992, while Brown picked Texas in 1993 in spite of Morenz being there. Morenz was the starter in 1994 following Brown’s redshirt freshman season in 1993. A Morenz injury in a loss to Colorado put Brown under center and the next week he beat Oklahoma. Morenz returned to the starting spot the next game, but that game was against Rice, and Texas lost.

Few things will cause you to lose your starting job quicker than losing to the Rice Owls.

The Brown-Morenz battle was over. Brown officially became the starting quarterback following a Morenz shoulder injury before the Texas A&M game and Brown led Texas to a bowl win over future Texas coach Mack Brown and North Carolina, 35-31.

Morenz left football completely to focus on baseball.  Brown went on to become one of the best quarterbacks in school history and one of the best quarterbacks Texas had in the 1990s, setting a handful of passing records that were seemingly all broken by Major Applewhite.

He does still own the record for highest completion percentage for a freshman with 81.5 percent.

Chris Simms vs. Major Applewhite, 2001

This is probably the most famous quarterback battle in Texas football history and was a national story at the time.

Simms was the high-profile recruit who chose Texas over Tennessee and was the son of Phil Simms.

Applewhite was the hot-shot quarterback who was breaking Texas records and was capturing the hearts of Longhorn fans everywhere.

In 2000, Applewhite started nine games and passed for 2,164 yards and 18 touchdowns. As a sophomore the year before, he passed for 3,357 yards and 21 touchdowns. As a backup in 2000, Simms threw for 1,064 yards and eight touchdowns (and seven interceptions) in 117 attempts.

UT QB Major Applewhite, left, is a happy camper on the sidelines with back up QB Chris Simms, right, after Simms made a fourth quarter appearance for a TD pass against Stanford. Taylor Jones/For AA-S 9/4/99
Major Applewhite, left, is a happy camper on the sidelines with back up Chris Simms, right, after Simms made a fourth quarter appearance against Stanford in 1999. (Taylor Jones/For the American-Statesman)

Applewhite was coming off an injury entering the 2001 season, but few figured that coach Mack Brown would bench his record-breaking, senior quarterback for an unproven junior. He did. Simms passed for 2,603 yards and 22 touchdowns with 11 interceptions that year. Applewhite, in spot duty, had 379 yards in 46 attempts.

Texas went 11-2 that season, spurred by freshmen like running back Cedric Benson and linebacker Derrick Johnson.

But Applewhite’s miraculous near comeback against Colorado in the Big 12 title game, and Simms’ injured finger, put Applewhite back in the starting spot for the bowl game, where he was the game’s MVP in the  47-43 win over Washington.

Simms was booed a lot in his Texas career before heading into the NFL, where his promising career was destroyed by a violent injury.

Meanwhile, Applewhite is still  beloved at Texas even after his rocky tenure as the team’s offensive coordinator a decade later.

Chance Mock vs. Vince Young, 2003

Before Chance Mock became a fixture on Austin radio, and before Vince Young became Vince Young, they were quarterbacks competing for Texas’ starting job.

Mock was a backup quarterback in 2001 and 2002 behind Chris Simms and Major Applewhite. When they left, the former Parade All-American from The Woodlands High School was prime to step in.

But a redshirt freshman was waiting in Young, also from the Houston area.

Mock started the first six games in 2003, going 4-2. But a rough Kansas State game had Young taking over and leading a comeback. Mock was named the starter against Oklahoma the next week, but Young replaced him as the quarterback.

This is how the season went. Young and Mock split time. Young started the Holiday Bowl against Washington State, but Mock ended it, nearly completing a comeback.

However, Mock never really was a factor again and fought transfer rumors the rest of his career.

Young did this.

Mock was fixture on Austin sports radio and is a real estate agent in Austin. Young’s post football career has been all over the map.

Jevan Snead vs. Colt McCoy, 2006

04/1/06 Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN; The 2006 Texas Football Spring Jamboree was held Saturday evening at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium and signifies the end of spring practice for the defending National Champions. Quarterbacks Colt McCoy, left, and Jevan Snead, right, leave the field together after the game as both had a solid first public appearance. (related story)
Quarterbacks Colt McCoy, left, and Jevan Snead, right, leave the field together after the 2006 football jamboree game. (Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman)

Texas was the reigning national champions, but Young had graduated and a redshirt quarterback, McCoy, and the Parade all-American true freshman, Snead, were competing for the starting job.

Unlike the others on this list, this battle took place in camp and wasn’t really an in-season issue. McCoy was sensational his freshman season. Snead lost the job before the season started and had his freshman moment when McCoy suffered a shoulder injury against Kansas State. It wasn’t a great moment. Snead fumbled twice and Texas trailed by 21 in the game. He rallied to cut the score to three though.

McCoy was still battling injuries leading up to the final game of the season against Texas A&M, but it didn’t matter and McCoy started.

McCoy went on to win more games (45) than another Texas quarterback. He owns many Texas passing records. He led Texas to the 2009 BCS National Championship Game and is probably one of the most beloved football players in the history of Texas.

Snead transferred to Ole Miss after his freshman season. Following a standout 2008 season, Snead was generating a lot of buzz and flirted with the NFL. Instead he returned to campus and Ole Miss was ranked No. 8 to start the season. They went 9-4  overall and beat Oklahoma State 21-7 in the Cotton Bowl. But Snead was, well, not that good his junior season. He threw 20 touchdown passes but threw 20 interceptions. He went undrafted, despite being viewed as the No. 2 quarterback in the draft before his junior season.

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