AUSTIN — Texas quarterbacks, Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard, will both play when Texas opens the 2015 season at Notre Dame, coach Charlie Strong announced Thursday. August 2-a-days will determine the rotation and who, ultimately, gets the starting nod. Even Texas OC Shawn Watson chimed in.
“It’s not going to be a game of musical chairs,” Strong said, the day before the first preseason workout.
That is, it’s neither a two-quarterback system nor relying on the player with the proverbial ‘hot hand.’
Instead, it will be a reward for the work ethic and competitiveness he has seen in both players, Strong said. It will also serve as a change-of-pace.
“Tyrone is a big, strong, physical player,” Strong noted, “while Jerrod is athletic and can beat you with his feet.”
The biggest question is whether the QBs will beat themselves. Despite occasional flashes during the 2014 season, Swoopes was abysmal the final two games. That’s when he was guilty of five of his 11 interceptions on the season, finishing with an efficiency rating (116.5) that checked-in at No. 90 nationally. Heard, of course, has yet to take a collegiate snap. Yet, the freshman showed plenty of promise in April’s Orange-White scrimmage, completing all five of his attempts against the 1’s on his opening series and capping the drive with a 12-yard TD run.
Heard made significant strides during the final 10 days of spring training, coaches said. Strong conceded at the end of spring drills that he would prefer not to start a RS-freshman against the Irish. Later, he qualified his remark by commenting he “would not be afraid” to start Heard in South Bend.
The Texas-Notre Dame tilt is such a high-profile matchup between two iconic programs that Strong is framing it as a one-game season. His predecessor Mack Brown also compartmentalized certain stretches, and even specific games (Oklahoma, Ohio State) as seasons in themselves. The intent is to target certain games, and then move on to the next phase of the campaign, once the contest is in the rearview mirror. Ideally, it not only keeps players from looking too far ahead but also from dwelling on the past.
Even so, Notre Dame “is such a critical game” that Strong knows it can be a springboard for the rest of the season. Success on September 5th can also go along toward erasing the bitter end of Strong’s inaugural campaign. An uptick with consecutive wins against West Virginia, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State was mitigated by back-to-back blowout losses (TCU, Arkansas) by a combined score of 79-17.
“The way we ended the (2014) season, we need to come out and play well,” Strong said, stating the obvious.
“At the end of camp, there will be a clear-cut starter,” Strong said. “For sure, that’s going to happen.”
So, how will that be determined?
“They have to win the team,” Strong concluded. “Whoever wins the team will win the position. With both guys working hard, you can already see that happening. (That’s why) both will play in the Notre Dame game.”