NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Rookie quarterback Vince Young will make his first NFL start for the Tennessee Titans on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.

The first quarterback taken in this year’s draft at No. 3 overall, Young had spot duty in the Titans’ first two games. But the winless Titans are 0-3 and hoping the quarterback who led Texas to the national title in January can provide a spark to their offense. The Titans said they chose Young over Matt Leinart or local favorite Jay Cutler in the draft because of his potential. Coach Jeff Fisher promised he wouldn’t start Young until the rookie was ready, and Fisher said Monday that veteran Kerry Collins would start against Dallas (1-1).

But Collins, who was not signed until Aug. 29, has struggled to pick up the offense. Collins has been intercepted six times with only one touchdown and a passer rating of 42.3 – less than Young’s 58.8 rating in spot duty. Young left Texas after his junior season and a brilliant performance in the Rose Bowl against Southern California. The 6-foot-5 Young made attending all of training camp a priority, and he agreed to terms on a contract the day the Titans reported for camp in July. The quarterback who went 30-2 at Texas doesn’t believe starting a rookie quarterback is a sign a team is giving up on the season. He often has cited Ben Roethlisberger, who set a record by winning his first 12 starts as a rookie, as an example he’d like to follow.

“If you think like that, it will be like that,” Young said. “But if you have confidence that this rookie guy is going to come in and make plays like Matt Leinart or Jay Cutler or any of those guys, if you believe in those guys, you can win ball games.”

Young is 10-of-23 for 133 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He played one series in the Titans’ opener, and he played one series in the first half and the entire fourth quarter in a 40-7 loss at San Diego.

The Titans did as much as possible since the Miami loss to prep Young for his debut. Offensive coordinator Norm Chow said Young has made tremendous strides because he is very determined to be a great player.

“He studies, he works and he’s disciplined. He has great leadership skills. He’s determined, and because of that, the work ethic comes along with it. If you’re willing to work at it like he is, you continue to get better,” Chow said.

The Titans almost forced themselves into this decision with the way they have handled the quarterback position this year.

They traded Steve McNair, Young’s close friend and mentor, in June after not allowing the former co-MVP to work out on their property. They made Billy Volek the starter at that time, then brought in Collins after their third exhibition, and Volek demanded to be traded that same day.

Tennessee finally traded Volek to San Diego on Sept. 19. Collins played better last week in a 13-10 loss at Miami, but Young’s athleticism, confidence and knowledge of the offense already has his teammates looking forward to what he can do.

“He settled down really quickly,” receiver Drew Bennett said. “He’s picked up the offense really well, and I think everybody thinks he’s on the brink of being a really great player.”

AP-ES-09-30-06 1916EDT


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