For the first time in program history, the Longhorns have three losses on their record heading into their annual rivalry game with Oklahoma.
At 2-3, Texas has been historically bad this season, and, like anytime a team struggles, much of the blame for its struggles has fallen on the starting quarterback.
With David Ash retiring from football after just one start in 2014, Sophomore Tyrone Swoopes became that guy for the Longhorns. And, while the 6’4”, 243-pound gunslinger has shown promise at times, his 1-3 record as a starter is certainly cause for concern at this point.
Given Swoopes’ rocky start to the season, some have questioned why the Texas coaching staff has yet to even consider giving highly touted freshman Jerrod Heard some reps. But, almost half-way through a season that has been defined by uncertainty for the Longhorns, one thing is for sure: Swoopes is the starter, and that won’t change anytime soon.
“I know exactly where Jerrod [Heard] is at and where [Swoopes] is,” said Shawn Watson, assistant head coach for offense and quarterbacks, after Saturday’s blowout loss to Baylor. “And Ty [Swoopes] is our starting quarterback.”
It even appears as though the coaching staff would prefer to use third-stringer sophomore Logan Vinklarek, a preferred walk-on, if possible. Watson said, if Swoopes were to have to miss a few plays, Vinklarek, who transferred to Texas after serving as the backup at Blinn College last season, would be called upon in his place.
While it’s understandable that Heard’s coaches want to protect his redshirt if possible, the way in which the staff talks about his progress suggests that saving his eligibility isn’t only reason to keep him on the sidelines.
In August, Watson described the playbook as somewhat of a foreign tongue to Heard, who enrolled at Texas in early June.
“Jerrod [Heard] is in China right now,” Watson said at the time “He’s still learning the language.”
Heard has obviously developed in the couple months since Watson made that statement, but, based on what head coach Charlie Strong said this week, it appears he sill isn’t on the coaches’ radar at this point.
“I don’t know if it’s fair to throw [Heard] in there right now,” Strong said. “We just haven’t had a chance yet to even talk about even putting him in the picture yet.”
As a true freshman, Heard obviously hasn’t had a chance to prove himself at the college level, but, considering his high school dominance, it’s hard to believe he isn’t at least worth a look.
At Guyer High School in Denton, the 6-foot-2, 199-pound dual-threat quarterback accumulated more than 6,500 passing yards and 67 passing touchdowns while rushing for nearly 5,000 yards and 67 more scores in three years as the starter. More importantly, Heard led his Wildcats to back-to-back Class 4A Division 1 State Championships in 2012 and 2013.
Those numbers and Heard’s winning pedigree are what have so many confused by the coaches’ comments about his progress.
It is well known that the move from the comforts of high school to the bright lights of college, especially at a pressure cooker like Texas, can be a difficult — see Garrett Gilbert.
Perhaps Heard is struggling with that transition, or maybe he just hasn’t been able to learn the new playbook. No matter the reason, it appears Tyrone Swoopes isn’t the only thing keeping Heard from trading in his headset for a helmet on Saturdays. As a result, anxious fans are forced to play the waiting game; a game they’d better get used to.