Finding the Fozzy

Fozzy Whittaker ran the Wild to success a year ago

The season after Fozzy Whittaker's graduation, Texas is looking for his namesake as the trigger-man of the Longhorns' "Wild Fozzy" formation.

It was a common sight last year: Fozzy Whittaker in the shotgun at quarterback, super-speedster D.J. Monroe gets sent into motion, and the Longhorns unleashed their "Wild" formation.

At times, the cat-quick Monroe received the ball on a jet sweep, bending the edge. More often, it was Whittaker dancing his way to daylight. And still other times, the formation led to a trick play, via a reverse or some other gadget conjured up by offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin.

Most of the major players are back. But gone is Whittaker, someone so successful in his role at quarterback that many people labeled Texas's version of the formation the "Wild Fozzy." And so the Longhorns enter fall practice before the 2012 season looking for someone to play the Fozzy role.

"I think we've got to look at that," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "The Wild Formation is something we've really got to make a hard decision early to see because Fozzy was perfect. It just all worked for him. It doesn't work unless Bryan Harsin feels the chemistry with a guy and he can call plays and get the play set to fit the guy.

"So Johnathan Gray may be a guy," Brown said. "Is Malcolm Brown a guy? Is Daje Johnson a guy? Or could it be a guy like Jalen Overstreet? I haven't ever seen Jalen play or practice. So I just really don't know how to answer that."

It's early, but the Longhorn players at Big 12 Media Days indicated that one of the newcomers — Overstreet, Gray or Johnson — could fit well at that spot. But as Coach Brown was quick to point out, the position comes with some unique positional demands. In fact, Brown said it was difficult to put a finger on just what made Whittaker so successful in that role.

"I don't know," Brown said. "I watched and I listened because we hadn't run it very much and when we did, we didn't run it good. And he was so natural with his patience and his timing. So I think there's a lot more to that position than just being fast or being a guy that can throw. And after that, we didn't run it well, and it just didn't work.

"It was funny that Fozzy would start to the left and find the crease over the right side and go over there where nobody was there," Brown said. "So it just worked for him. So I think we've really got to look at it, and we probably wouldn't run it unless we find a guy like Fozzy that can do that."

Can one of those younger players step into that role? The smart money would be on either Overstreet or Gray. Overstreet was a dual-threat quarterback in high school and is experienced with running the zone read, which has similar features. And he's likely a better thrower than some of the other options, while his strength and power as a runner is another benefit. Gray, meanwhile, might be the closest replica to Whittaker the Longhorns have: a runner with outstanding vision, balance, quick feet and the patience to find secondary openings. And while Johnson could also factor in, he figures to be better as an understudy for Monroe's eventual replacement.

But whoever wins the job will have big shoes to fill.

"That was a big formation for us last year ... Bryan Harsin said Fozzy did it better than anybody he's ever seen," Brown said. "We've got to make sure that we have the right guy that can do it well enough that it's a force for us."

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