With all talks of Everett Golson coming to Texas silenced, Charlie Strong and the Longhorns are still unsure of who will start behind center September 5 in South Bend.
Last season, Tyrone Swoopes stepped in as Texas’ quarterback following the retirement of David Ash (sounds weird to say in college sports, huh?). However, his starting position is not completely secure for the 2015 season.
Swoopes, a junior, struggled at first, but found his stride mid-October. However, he slipped again at the end of the season, finishing with only 57 passing yards, an interception, and zero touchdowns in a bowl loss to Arkansas.
Finding consistency from his quarterback is Strong’s primary concern. Swoopes showed his ability to throw for over 300 yards and rush for nearly 100 yards in multiple games, but he could never carry on his success to the following week.
Jerrod Heard, on the other hand, is the new kid on the block. Not much was said about the redshirt freshman by coaches last year, but the tables have turned. In fact, Heard is looking to start over Swoopes. Reports from Austin are saying that Swoopes looks the same as he did last season, but Heard keeps getting better and better.
In the spring game a few weeks ago, Heard looked a bit better, but not good enough to easily take the starting role. He threw 20-29 for 177 yards alongside a rushing touchdown. However, he had one mistake by throwing an interception in the second quarter. Swoopes went 17-31 on 197 passing yards and a rushing touchdown.
Swoopes has the stronger arm, but Heard has the better accuracy. Both have speed, but Heard appears to be more comfortable throwing the ball than Swoopes is.
Heard also has the ability to run a fast-paced offense and keep the chains moving more effectively than Swoopes. Swoopes’ fatigue started to take over as the spring game progressed as he made some poor decisions throwing the ball, somehow managing to avoid an interception.
In an interview with Dallas Morning News’ Chuck Carlton, Strong said that at this point, Swoopes is still his man.
“I don’t know that Heard has done anything yet to unseat him as a starter,” Strong said. “I said he’s closed the gap, which is what you want.”
The only reason Swoopes will probably start against Notre Dame is due to Strong’s conservative approach. Swoopes wasn’t an utter disaster last season, so Strong will most likely stick with him. However, he will be on a tight leash, and Heard could get the nod at any point in the opening months.
On top of losing a few key receivers, Texas will need more help from the quarterback than what they got last year. After a few losses or interceptions, Heard could potentially become that man for Strong and the Horns.