Jerrod Heard

Junior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes remains the number one option according to head coach Charlie Strong. At Saturday’s Orange-White scrimmage, Swoopes went 17-for-31 for 159 yards and one rushing touchdown.
Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Coca-Cola versus Pepsi. Chocolate versus vanilla. And now: Swoopes versus Heard. 

Whether junior Tyrone Swoopes or redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard should start at quarterback for Texas is a polarizing question. 

Both quarterbacks finished Saturday’s Orange-White scrimmage with similar stats — leaving unsettled the all-important question of who should start come fall. By the end of the game, it appeared both Swoopes and Heard were in the same positions they had when spring practice started.

“Ty is still our No. 1 guy,” head coach Charlie Strong said.

The Texas team (Orange) beat the Horns team (White), 27–16, Saturday to conclude Texas’ spring practice. During the first half of play, Swoopes quarterbacked the Orange team, which consisted of the first-team offense and second-team defense, and Heard quarterbacked the White team, which consisted of the second-team offense and first-team defense.

“I feel good about [the quarterback competition],” said Swoopes, who finished 17-for-31 with 159 yards and one rushing touchdown.

Heard put up similar numbers, going 20-for-29 with 177 yards, one interception and a rushing touchdown.

“I really tried to distribute the ball to the good playmakers,” Heard said. “This offense is really built for that, so I really try to put the ball in those guys’ hands.”

Heading into Saturday’s scrimmage, Texas aimed to display its new fast-paced offense, where players would sprint to the line of scrimmage after a play was over to get another play started as soon as possible. But the offensive pace was not as consistent as Strong hoped.

“You want to see the pace be a little quicker,” Strong said. “Just looking to the sideline trying to get [the signals], it’ll be quicker because that’s what you like to see — just a quicker pace, more up tempo.” 

While the offense is new for the Longhorns, both quarterbacks are familiar with the tempo. Toward the end of Heard’s high school career, Guyer High School quickened its offensive pace. Swoopes ran the same type of offense at Whitewright High School. 

“I’m really excited about [the new offense],” Swoopes said. “It’s pretty much what we’ve all done in high school. We’re all used to the up-tempo, no-huddle kind of the thing, so it’s just kind of getting us back to our ways.”

Other aspects of the Texas offense shined. Sophomore running back D’Onta Foreman showed particular strength, scoring one touchdown and racking up 84 yards on 12 rushes.

“It’s always fun when you watch big D’Onta run behind his pads. … He’s a guy that can run behind his pads and move people out of the way,” Strong said.

With the end of spring football, the next time the Longhorns take the field will be Sept. 5 against Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. Strong will hope to have his team and, most importantly, a starting quarterback ready in time.

Freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard and sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes will both get reps with the first team.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Four months after the Longhorns’ 31–7 loss to Arkansas in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl, head coach Charlie Strong still has a bitter taste in his mouth.

“[The loss] burns; it will continue to burn,” Strong said in February. “I guess what burns you more than anything is that when you go and compete, and you feel like we didn’t compete at the level that we should.”

Strong’s first chance this season to get the team competing at his desired level arose in late March when the members of the spring 2015 roster took the field for four weeks of spring practices, all leading up to this weekend’s Orange-White game. The practices yielded several changes for the team, including a revamped up-tempo spread offense that will be put on display Saturday for the first time.

While the offense is a work in progress, Strong expressed satisfaction with what he has seen so far.

“Just with us installing the new offense and trying to tweak it, I think that we’re looking at each day trying to get better, and we’re accomplishing that,” Strong said.

The Longhorns hope their new offense will be a better fit for the team, allowing for a faster-paced offense.

“It allows us to go out there and play aggressively,” senior lineman Marcus Hutchins said. “I think this year, with this offense and tempo, our speed will fit us even better, and I’m excited to play in it.”

In addition to scheme changes, Strong hopes that competition will generate improvement. The Longhorns have already had several key position battles this spring, including a quarterback duel between junior Tyrone Swoopes and redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard.

Swoopes took most of the first-team reps in spring practices, but Heard is not far behind. Most recently, Strong said Heard’s play was better, but lacked Swoopes’ consistency.

Senior running back Johnathan Gray praised both quarterbacks and said he expects them to be ready come Saturday.

“You’re going to see a smarter Jerrod [Heard] and a smarter Swoopes — guys who can operate the offense and bring us to where we need to be,” Gray said.

On the other side of the ball, senior Peter Jinkens, junior Timothy Cole and redshirt freshman Edwin Freeman will be competing for the vacancies at the linebacker position left by injured players and departing seniors.

Other notable position battles include the wide receivers, tight ends and offensive line — positions that gave the Longhorns trouble last year.

While Strong said he’s satisfied with the team’s progress, they will have their first chance to demonstrate that progress Saturday.  

“On Saturday, it’s going to be different,” Hutchins said. “It’s going to be a different era — a different team. You just got to tune in and watch.”

Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

Texas is just halfway through spring practices, but things appear to be coming together in an off-season filled with change.

Head coach Charlie Strong’s staff is still implementing a new spread offense, but the unit looked fluid during Monday's practice with several successful drives in 11-on-11 drills. Strong said after practice that the offense looked particularly good during Saturday’s scrimmage, and it appears that the unit is starting to gel operating without a huddle.

Though Texas’ offense has shown improvement through spring play, the Longhorns will only go as far as their quarterback come fall. Currently, rising junior Tyrone Swoopes is taking the majority of the first team reps, but the quarterback battle seems to be tightening.

Redshirted freshman Jerrod Heard has made some serious strides since the first practice. He completed several downfield passes through tight windows, which is something he failed to do in the opening part of the spring and through much of the 2014 season. He also showed off his speed with a long scramble up the middle and some lengthy runs on options and other designed quarterback runs.

Swoopes looked sharp at times, but he also made some poor throws and was clearly not on the same page with his receivers on a few occasions. After practice, Strong said that Heard played better, but that Swoopes has been more consistent overall through spring. He also said that he hopes both quarterbacks will be ready in the fall.

While Heard impressed, Monday's biggest takeaway may be the improvement in the receiving corps, which struggled often struggled gaining separation last season leaving Swoopes and the offensive line vulnerable to opponents’ pass rush. Specifically, rising junior Jacorey Warrick and rising sophomore Dorian Leonard stood out as potential difference makers on the outside for next season.

Warrick ran crisp routes, made impressive catches and showed explosiveness taking a number of screens and flat routes for touchdowns. Leonard used his six-foot-three frame to box-out defensive backs and make tough grabs in traffic. Both players took almost all of their reps with the first team offense and should compete for starting spots come August.

Though the offense often shined with electrifying plays, the defense, which has been decimated with injuries this spring, also showed improvement. The unit mostly lined up in the nickel with four down linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs.

Both redshirted freshman linebacker Edwin Freeman and rising junior linebacker Timothy Cole showed off their instincts and athleticism in pass coverage while filling in for injured senior linebacker Dalton Santos. Freshman Malik Jefferson also impressed in his quick transition to inside linebacker after playing mostly outside before Santos’ injury.

In the secondary, rising sophomore safety Jason Hall made some big hits, while rising sophomore cornerback Antwaun Davis showed his ball skills breaking up several passes on the outside.

Overall, Strong says that he believes that the team is accomplishing its goal of improving each day, and that’s the most important part of spring practice. The Longhorns still have a few weeks to keep improving before they’re put to the test at the Orange-White game on April 18. 

Running back Chris Warren from Rockwall High School smiles with his family after signing with Texas. Warren is one of 28 recruits in Charlie Strong’s first recruiting class.

Biggest signees for Texas: 

Malik Jefferson was Texas’ most highlighted recruit as the nation’s top linebacker. But Jefferson wasn’t the only monumental recruit for head coach Charlie Strong’s first official recruiting class.

The Longhorns signed two tall receivers who can provide playmaking abilities in 6-foot-2 John Burt and 6-foot-4 Gilbert Johnson. Texas’ starting quarterback next season — whether it be sophomore Tyrone Swoopes or redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard — can have the confidence to throw the deep ball when either receiver has a height advantage on a cornerback.

Texas also signed Chris Warren, a 6-foot-2, 239-pound running back who is ranked the No. 8 running back in the nation, according to 247Sports. Warren has the ability to run strong up the middle and to gain a significant amount of yards after contact because of his solid frame.

In addition, the Longhorns found success at the tight end position, signing of Devonaire Clarington, the No. 7 tight end in the nation, according to 247Sports. Clarington’s athleticism, combined with his height and strength, will stretch the field for the Longhorns because of his ability to run down the seams and be a mismatch for most linebackers.

Biggest disappointment for Texas:

The question the Longhorns face — a question as big as Texas — is who the quarterback will be next season. Swoopes wasn’t consistent enough when it came to getting the ball to his receivers, and Heard has not yet been tested. Although Texas signed Kai Locksley, who, according to Strong, will play quarterback, he isn’t a marquee name in the quarterback position.

After four-star quarterback prospect Zach Gentry flipped his commitment to Michigan, five-star quarterback Kyler Murray was the Longhorns’ last hope to get a top-ranked quarterback recruit. However, Murray ended up sticking with his original commitment at Texas A&M.

The last time the Longhorns found consistency at the quarterback position was with Colt McCoy. Texas now has to work on developing Locksley, Swoopes or Heard in order to improve on last season’s quarterback play.

Texas wins the Big 12 in recruiting:

Texas has the No. 11 recruiting class in the nation, according to 247Sports. Oklahoma’s No. 15-ranked recruiting class was second among Big 12 schools, followed by Texas Tech at No. 33. That leaves the Longhorns with the No. 1 recruiting class in the Big 12.

Texas signed 14 recruits ranked in ESPN 300, and the rest of the Big 12 combined for 20 such recruits. Strong alluded last year he wanted to put the “T” back in Texas, and the results of his first recruiting period at Texas is a big first step toward that statement.

Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes looks to recover from an inconsistent season and fight to remain the starter.
Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones kick-started his college career by lighting up the scoreboard against some of the best competition in the nation and winning a national championship in his first three games. The offensive outburst by the redshirt sophomore prompted an outpouring of praise for Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and his ability to recruit and coach a roster with three All-American caliber quarterbacks.

Back on the 40 Acres, the mood was a little more gloomy. Jones’ downfield rockets and Meyer’s bold and creative play calling stood in stark contrast to the Longhorns’ dismal performance at the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl, where the burnt orange and white accumulated only 59 yards of total offense.

If the Longhorns want to rejoin Ohio State as college football royalty, they will need to find a quarterback and coaching duo to lead the way. The options at quarterback look promising, as Texas will likely burn freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard’s redshirt next season, and sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes will have the off season to develop. Kyler Murray, five-star quarterback recruit and Texas A&M commit, even stopped by the University of Texas campus for a visit Wednesday.

The tutelage of Shawn Watson, Texas’ assistant head coach for offense and quarterbacks, who coached current Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville, is set to launch one of the Longhorn quarterbacks into All-American consideration. At this point, however, it is hard to tell if Watson is the right man to coach Heard, Swoopes or any other quarterback on the roster.

Watson was a member of head coach Charlie Strong’s staff at Louisville when the Vikings drafted Bridgewater, but it is still unclear at the moment whether it was Watson who bolstered Bridgewater to prominence or the other way around.

When at Louisville, Bridgewater was a mobile quarterback who could still thrive when sitting back and embracing his role as a pocket passer. Watson tried to run a similar offense in his first year of play-calling duties at Texas, but to no avail.

Swoopes showed he is not Bridgewater, as he often looked uncomfortable dropping back and scanning the defense — a requirement for a pocket passer. When the offense went downhill in the Kansas State game, Watson and the rest of the staff seemed to make little effort to change the game plan in order to attempt to use Swoopes’ powerful legs to their advantage.

Heard is the clear next-in-line if the “Tyrone Swoopes experiment” does not work out, but his blazing speed appears to be better suited for an offense that avoids under-center sets and embraces the option. It has yet been determined whether Heard can achieve success when sitting back and reading a defense. If he cannot do so, the Longhorns will have to spend springtime courting pocket passers or start making serious changes to the offense.

Watson showed moments of brilliance as a play caller, even with a patchwork offensive line. But if Watson’s young quarterbacks prove incapable of being pocket passers during spring practice, he will have to put Louisville’s formula for success behind him and tweak the offense in a way that better incorporates his quarterbacks’ skill sets.

Swoopes’ rapid growth has many thinking he might just be the quarterback the Longhorn football program has been desper- ate for ever since Colt McCoy left in 2010.

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

There is perhaps no college quarterback more honest than sophomore Tyrone Swoopes.

After a rough outing against Baylor, he admitted to being nervous in the game’s early stages. He looked a little sluggish in the open field against Oklahoma and was quick to acknowledge that he’s not exactly the fastest guy out there. And this week, Swoopes conceded that he didn’t believe his offense was capable of scoring the 48 points that it needed to squeak past Iowa State.

Heck, Swoopes even confessed that he didn’t know if he’d ever get to call the Texas offense “his.”

With David Ash gaining an extra year of eligibility and top recruit Jerrod Heard arriving on the 40 Acres this off-season, the Whitewright, Texas, native didn’t think he’d ever be the starter in Austin.

“I honestly did not,” Swoopes said. “I know a lot of other people didn’t think I would be either.“

Even his coach, Charlie Strong, wasn’t sure if Swoopes could handle the responsibility. After his struggles back in April, Strong joked that he considered taking advantage of his quarterback’s size somewhere else on the field.

“I go back to spring practice, and the spring game was like, wow, can he play quarterback?” Strong said. “I was going to tell him to move to another position.”

For what it’s worth, Swoopes never considered changing positions.

“No, I honestly didn’t,” Swoopes said. “I knew there was going to be growing pains. … So, I knew it was just going to be difficult at first."

Difficult indeed, but through it all, Swoopes maintained a level head and continued to put in the hours, knowing he might still get his shot.

“I knew I needed to stay ready,” Swoopes said. “[I] just went out and practiced every day, worked hard and just kind of came into what I am now.”

What he is now is a dual-threat gunslinger with a propensity to fill up the stat sheet.

The sophomore threw and ran for a total of 800 yards against Oklahoma and Iowa State, a two-game stretch that has only been matched by two others in program history: Vince Young and Colt McCoy. Not bad company for a guy who has only started six games.

Just a couple weeks ago, fans and media alike were clamoring for Heard to replace Swoopes. That narrative has quickly changed.

Swoopes’ recent success has many of those same people wondering if he is the dominant signal caller the Longhorns have been desperate for ever since McCoy left Austin in 2010. 

His teammates aren’t looking so far ahead, but they, too, have noticed his exponential growth, and their expectations have risen accordingly.

“Every week that he plays better, our expectations get higher,” said senior receiver John Harris, who has been Swoopes’ favorite target this season. “He can be that guy here. I don’t understand why people doubt him.”

There aren’t many doubters left, but if those who remain do have one thing to hang their hat on, it would be Swoopes’ inability to win the big game thus far.

As the leader of the offense, Swoopes has come close against the likes of UCLA, Baylor and Oklahoma, but he hasn’t been able to come up with a victory. He’ll get another chance this week against No. 11 Kansas State on the road.

“I think every quarterback has got to go out and get the big win because those big wins are what begin to define your career,” said Shawn Watson, quarterbacks coach and play caller. “I think that’s big for [Swoopes], and that’s his next step.”

As long as he continues to play the way he is now, Swoopes will eventually get the big wins.

Many of his teammates claim they’ve seen the potential in him for some time now, but there’s no way too many people thought he could be this good.

I, honestly, did not.

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.

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.

Redshirt junior David Ash suffered concussion symptoms after the North Texas game which will force him to sit out the Longhorns' next game against BYU.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

It took just one game, and possibly just one hit, for Texas junior quarterback David Ash’s concussion symptoms to return in 2014.

Longhorn head coach Charlie Strong announced Monday that Ash, who missed 10 games because of multiple concussions last season, will have to sit out this weekend’s game against BYU after he experienced concussion-like symptoms yet again after last Saturday’s 38-7 victory over North Texas.

“Ash took a hit in the first quarter,” Strong said. “We are going to evaluate it more with our medical staff. But we just made the decision that he will not play this week.”

Strong and his staff believe the injury occurred when Ash fumbled a snap on Texas’ second drive of the game and was hit by North Texas defensive end Jarrian Roberts as he jumped on the loose ball. Strong said the coaches and medical staff did not know of any issues with their starting quarterback until after the game, when he complained about a headache and some dizziness.

“During the game there was no symptoms,” Strong said. “We got a call [from Ash] late that night, and we were able to get him with the trainers.”

While Ash told the staff that he believes the injury occurred early in the first quarter, he took several hits throughout the game that may have caused the symptoms to return.

No further details were provided about the extent of Ash’s head injury or how much time he might miss, as Strong indicated they will wait for the medical staff to do more evaluating before they determine whether Ash will be able to return this season.

In Ash’s absence, sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes is expected to get the start this weekend while true freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard will be the backup.

“We went out yesterday, and Tyrone was able to execute the offense and practiced well,” Strong said “We have two quarterbacks, and we’re just going to turn it over to them and let it happen this week.”

Swoopes has limited experience, having played sparingly at the end of last season. The 6-foot-4-inch, 245-pound dual-threat quarterback was six for 13 for 26 yards and rushed for 79 yards and one touchdown as a freshman.

“Offensively, we’re going to have to tweak it some for Tyrone,” Strong said. “Tyrone can handle it. I’m not concerned about that. The team will rally around him; we’ll be able to get it fixed and move on.”

Heard just arrived on campus this fall after an illustrious high school career at Guyer High in Denton. He threw for 2,148 yards and 22 touchdowns and ran for another 2,172 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior last year.

“Now it’s going to move very quickly for [Heard],” Strong said. “He’ll be right behind Tyrone, and he’s always just a play away [from being in the game].”

Given the lack of experience for both Swoopes and Heard, Strong emphasized the importance of the two signal callers acting as game managers and allowing the rest of the team to step up and fill the void left by Ash’s absence.

As for the rest of the team, the players are confident that no matter who is at quarterback, they can still win games as a team.

“We’ve got to get together,” said senior defensive back Quandre Diggs, a leader in the Texas locker room. “We’ve got guys on scholarship that should be ready to go. If your number gets called upon, you should be ready to go. You can’t be too concerned. We’re going to miss those guys, but, hey, life goes on.”

San Antonio Brennan High School defensive end Derick Roberson.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo | Daily Texan Staff

While the Texas coaching staff eagerly anticipates this week’s national signing day, the wheels are already rolling for next year’s recruiting class. 

With seven commitments, Texas is beginning to lay the foundations for a solid 2014 group. 

Quarterback Jerrod Heard is known for his level-headed leadership and competitive nature. After overcoming a 16-point deficit in the Class 4A Division I state title game this season, Heard rallied his team to win Denton Guyer High’s first state title.  

Despite five other offers, Heard, who threw for 4,000 yards and 52 touchdowns in his junior season,committed in August and already sees himself as a Longhorn.  

Defensive end Derick Roberson didn’t hesitate for long either. As a top defensive end in the state, he has a solid frame and strong film that upstaged other edge rushers. 

“I came home from jogging and my dad handed me the phone and said it was Coach Akina from UT,” Roberson said. “He told me they offered and that they wanted me to come to school. I committed right away.”

Abilene Cooper junior Lorenzo Joe was raised as a Longhorn fan. When Joe was offered the chance to play at Texas he didn’t hesitate to commit, despite an offer from Texas Tech.  

Though he started as a high school quarterback this season, Joe was recruited as a wide receiver for the Longhorns and brings his signature fluidity and flexibility to the field. 

The coaching staff took it upon themselves to find running backs who can fill the gaps that will be left by Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron upon their graduation in two years.  

The first is Donald Catalon, a junior at Eisenhower High School in Houston. Lauded for his balance, great feet and instincts on the field, Catalon is well-recognized as one of the top running backs in the state.  

“Duke,” as he’s known, had offers from Oklahoma State, SMU and Texas Tech, but committed to Texas in August.  

The second, Daniel Gresham, a fullback from All Saints Episcopal in Fort Worth, had offers from Ole Miss and Tennessee. Hailing from Louisville, Ky., Gresham was raised as a Cardinals fan despite moving to Texas at age 12. 

Admired for his ability to break tackles and consistent speed, Gresham traveled to Austin in June for a training camp and was charmed by the Longhorn experience. Though he didn’t get to meet Mack Brown, the coaching staff left an impression on him. 

“I loved it,” Gresham said. “Coach [Major] Applewhite was my favorite. He’s a real cool guy.” 

Fellow All Saints player Demetrius Knox committed to Texas in November. Standing tall at 6 feet 5 inches and 300 pounds, Knox is one of the top-ranked offensive guard in the state , and possesses a knack for technical footwork and explosive power on the field . 

Texas’ seventh recruit, a speedy junior from Sharpstown High School in Houston, was eager to cut to the chase when it came to the recruiting process.  

Despite the fact that colleges were just beginning to bait him with the prospect of offers, Roderick Bernard pledged his allegiance to Texas. 

“I committed to Texas today. I’m a Longhorn,” Bernard said last Wednesday night.  

Coveted for his quickness, Bernard garnered attention as a defensive back and was named a First-Team All-District selection. Additionally, he made the second team as a wide receiver, scoring nine touchdowns and tallying 790 yards. 

Early commitments mark a change in recruitment strategy that took place last August. Prospective Longhorns used to have to hold off until February of their junior year to announce their commitments, as well as attend UT junior day to receive an offer. 

Now, young commits no longer have to be silent regarding their pledges to play for Texas.