More and more, it appears that Texas will go with freshman Shane Buechele as its starting quarterback.
The Longhorns have had just a handful of practices, but the two QBs getting the most snaps are Buechele and senior Tyrone Swoopes. Sophomore Jerrod Heard, who started 10 games last year, is running as the third-teamer. He missed half of spring practice with a shoulder injury.
The only public evidence of Buechele’s ability came in the spring game. An early enrollee, Buechele took advantage of his head start by completing 22 of 41 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Swoopes has a big arm and is more experienced, but he has been plagued by inaccuracy. Last season, his biggest contribution came in short-yardage packages.
Buechele is the son of former major-league third baseman Steve Buechele. Since arriving in Austin, he has impressed coach Charlie Strong with his competitive desire and his leadership abilities.
“He carries every intangible thing you could want in a quarterback,” first-year offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert said. “He’s got those things – leadership, hard work, camaraderie with the guys.”
Gilbert’s offensive scheme runs on fast tempo and no huddle. On passing plays, the quarterback gets the snap, makes a read and throws. Buechele will need to demonstrate an ability to see the field and throw accurately. Thus far, it appears the freshman understands what Gilbert wants.
“When he came into the system, it sunk in that he’d been accustomed to it,” Strong said. “It wasn’t hard for him to come in right away and make those throws and put the ball where it’s supposed to be put.”
Texas has a scrimmage scheduled for Saturday. Depending on how the quarterbacks perform, Texas could make a decision soon after. If Strong and his coaching staff are convinced they’ve found The Guy, he would then have three weeks to prepare for the Sept. 4 season opener against Notre Dame in Austin.
“But again, we’ve got to make the right decision,” Gilbert said. “We’re going to get a good evaluation under our belt. Feel real good about it, collaborate with coach about it, and we’ll ride from there.”
Working smarter, not harder
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has done away with that old-school staple of pre-season practices – two-a-days.
“The NCAA says we get 29 practice opportunities,” Gundy said. “We’re going to use 24. So we won’t have any doubles.”
Consider this a continued evolution of a head coach who regularly and meticulously assesses and studies his program. Gundy has determined that it’s more beneficial to hold some walk-through practices and work on the mental side of the game.
But don’t get the idea that Oklahoma State is no longer concerned about strength conditioning and getting “football tough.” Gundy believes the offseason training work done by strength coach Rob Glass prepares the Cowboys for the rigors of the season.
“As I watch over a period of years with the athletes now, they come out of June and July conditioning in such great shape that I just don’t feel like that we need as much as we used to,” Gundy said. “The mental preparation we’re getting is as much and more. The physical part has been reduced by about 10 percent.”
Baylor considering more 3-4 usage
Toward the end of last season, Baylor often shifted from its 4-3 defensive alignment to a three-man front. That gave the Bears an extra player for pass coverage, but it also increased the blitz and run-support combinations.
This season, Baylor might go to the 3-4 look even more. One reason is that it’s effective. Another reason is that the Bears’ defensive line is undergoing a massive makeover while the linebacker unit has more experience and depth.
“It gives us more linebackers on the field to make plays,” said Baylor senior linebacker Aiavion Edwards. “We have a lot more speed on the field, and there’s a lot of different groups we can put in there. Anybody we put in will play fast and give it all they have.”
Edwards, Travon Blanchard and Taylor Young are three linebackers who can support run stopping, rush the passer, and drop into coverage.
“We can get in some more three-mans, and we may want to do that any way because we have so many athletic kids,” Baylor interim coach Jim Grobe said. “With all the fun-and-gun stuff in the Big 12 and across the country, having more speed out there won’t hurt you.”
D-line depth issues at WVU
West Virginia’s defensive line depth has atrophied because of two injuries.
Junior defensive end Xavier Pegues, projected as a backup, will be out until at least late October after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.
Another backup, nose tackle Jaleel Fields, is out with a knee injury. The team also dismissed senior defensive end Larry Jefferson over the summer.
The Mountaineers are down to nine scholarship players on the defensive line, and there’s not much experience with four freshmen and a junior-college transfer. Jon Lewis, a former walk-on, was moved to tight end in the spring but is now back on the defensive line.
“We have nine bodies, so they have to stay healthy,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said.
The final word
Kansas State opens practice Monday. For Bill Snyder, it’s his 25th season as the Wildcats’ coach:
“Really it’s just another number. I think about it so little I wouldn’t have known it was the 25th unless I had read that some place. I just know that I’ve been here a long time. I don’t see a great deal of change. I might be a little softer. That’s what they say happens with age. I don’t try to fight how I evolve. I’m 95 percent the same I was 25 years ago. I think that’s the case.”