Column: Heard should start over Swoopes

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It has been all bad news for the Longhorns since they routed North Texas, 38-7, last Saturday.

Senior center Dominic Espinosa is most likely out for the season after breaking his ankle against the Mean Green, taking away a vital part of Texas’ offensive line. On Wednesday evening, head coach Charlie Strong suspended two of the Longhorns’ offensive lineman because of a violation of team rules, leaving this week’s line with a combined five total starts. But the most devastating loss is starting quarterback David Ash, whose concussion symptoms returned after the game last weekend, sidelining the only quarterback on the roster that has started a game at this level.

In place of Ash, Texas gave sophomore Tyrone Swoopes the starting job, hoping he can lead the Longhorns to victory against Brigham Young, who embarrassed Texas last season. However, with a tough stretch ahead for Texas, the Longhorns’ would be best equipped to win with true freshman Jerrod Heard at the helm.

Swoopes had the media buzzing when he first signed with Texas in 2011, giving Longhorn fans flashbacks to Vince Young with his stature and athleticism. However, since then, he has failed to live up to the lofty expectations.

The 6-foot-4, 243-pound quarterback was only able to win one game as a senior at Class 2A Whitewright High School, as his team finished his final season 1-9 after a disappointing postseason run his junior year.

It’s difficult to make a case for a quarterback to lead one of the most historic NCAA programs in the country, when he had trouble winning two games in a high school division that is only a small step above 7-on-7 ball.

Heard, on the other hand, tallied two state championships during his time at Guyer High School, a 4A school. He recorded a 36-8 record as a starter with 6,512 passing yards and 65 passing touchdowns during his three years while competing against many of the top high school athletes in Texas.

However, the biggest difference between Heard and Swoopes is confidence and leadership. When Swoopes took the field in six games last season, he looked timid and uncomfortable, throwing just five completions for 26 yards. He struggled with accuracy and had little success scrambling, which was his supposed strong suit when he arrived on the
40 Acres.

In comparison, before Heard was even enrolled at Texas, he had assumed a leadership role for the Longhorns. On multiple occasions, he made visits himself to other recruits to help push them to come to Texas, and Strong continually relied on him when he needed assistance.

When Sports Illustrated writer Andy Staples visited the dual-threat quarterback last season, while he was still in high school, he said Heard already “talked and acted like a college senior.”

While Swoopes certainly has the potential, he is a risky choice for a team and head coach that is under a lot of pressure. With Ash out and the offensive line dwindling, Heard has the combination of talent, leadership and game management skills that the Longhorns need.