After junior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes' erratic 2014 campaign, head coach Charlie Strong preached the need for a quarterback competition. Now, with days until the season opener, Swoopes has earned his coach's trust.
“I'm convinced [Swoopes has] won over the locker room, just the way he's played and how he really has came on and just his leadership ability right now,” Strong said. “I've said that, the guy that wins the quarterback position has to win over this team, and he's won over the team.”
Swoopes’ inconsistencies were detrimental to Texas last season. The Longhorns lost five of the seven games in which he threw an interception, and his tendency to hang his head through struggles proved contagious on the Longhorns’ sideline.
Strong emphasized this offseason that Swoopes needed an attitude change. While he’s yet to take the field this season, Swoopes has already adjusted his attitude, according to senior running back Johnathan Gray.
“Tyrone [Swoopes] is like, ‘I can't wait to step on the field and prove that we're back, prove that I can lead the team and I can be a leader for the team,’ and we're all rallying around him,” Gray said. “That guy has done a complete 180, and for the better. We love him for it, and I'm ready to see what he can do this year.”
The attitude adjustment isn’t Swoopes’ only improvement. He’s grown as a pocket passer and is no longer putting the offense at risk with his decision-making. With a new offense geared around tempo and lengthy drives, the Longhorns are banking on Swoope newfound caution with the ball.
“Last year you see him making so many not smart throws,” junior safety Dylan Haines said. “Then you look at him this year and he’s so much smarter and he’s not making bad throws. When he sees something he shouldn’t throw, he goes to his next read. ”
Swoopes enters this season with a year of experience with the starting job. He said he’s focused on watching film, pushing himself to work harder and gain chemistry with his receivers. He also emphasized that he’s improved his ability to process and anticipate events on the field.
Through spring and fall camps, his hard work has translated into better results.
“I’m reacting better,” Swoopes said. “I know where everyone is, where they should be and where they’ll end up.”
Despite his improvements on the field, Swoopes’ emergence as a leader is still vital for the Longhorns. As the offense’s general, it’s critical that he demonstrates an ability to point his teammates in the right direction and set the offense up for success. Most importantly, however, he needs to lead by example.
Swoopes’ teammates and coaching staff swear by his enhanced work ethic and vocal leadership, yet he still remains modest about his improvement. He prefers to let his play speak for itself.
“I mean, I feel like mostly it's just my play,” Swoopes said. “I'm just showing people that I've gotten a lot better since the last time we played, and didn't really feel like I had to do anything different outside of that.”
Swoopes will be under the microscope this season until he proves that he can lead a winner. His shortcomings last season have already motivated him to work harder and improve his craft this offseason. The next step: winning football games.
“I know I can do it, and just going out and doing it, that's the last thing I've got to do,” Swoopes said. “I feel like I'll be able to do that.”