It was the great debate for the 2013 Texas recruiting class -- Whitewright QB Tyrone Swoopes or Wichita Falls Rider QB JT Barrett? Or even Colleyville Heritage QB Cody Thomas, who emerged later on the radar than the other two, but has had his stock explode quickly throughout the month of February.
That debate now appears to be moot, as multiple sites are reporting on Friday morning that Swoopes has committed to Texas, giving the Longhorns the possible franchise quarterback they thought they had years ago when Garrett Gilbert committed and the most physically gifted since landing Vince Young in 2002. With the commitment, the Texas coaches also avoided the potentially difficult decision of whether to wait for Swoopes or to go ahead and offer Barrett or Thomas at JD2.
Though Swoopes was apparently rather shy on his first Junior Day visit to Austin (and how endearing is that for a star quarterback?), the staff is now going to ask him to take a leadership role on the offensive side of the ball. His first call could very well be to close friend Ricky Seals-Jones, the Sealy WR/TE whose commitment has seemed imminent for days, but could have simply been waiting for Swoopes to pull the trigger first.
Here are the thoughts from Swoopes from way back last spring, before many highlights were even available for him:
First of all, he's relatively advanced for a dual-threat quarterback, showing off a strong arm, decent footwork, and the ability to make some big-time throws. To make another comparison, Swoopes is further along than Matt Davis was at this stage last year mechanically and to continue down that lazy path, Swoopes looks a bit like Vince Young with a delivery that isn't quite ideal, coming out around shoulder level rather than over the top and at the earhole of his helmet.
If one highlight is enough to demonstrate his upside, it comes at 1:35 of this clip. Rolling right, Swoopes unloads a rocket 60 yards downfield that he puts on the fingertips of a diving receiver. So while Swoopes would have been better served to have taken just a hair off the ball to allow his receiver to keep his footing and continue into the end zone, it's the type of big-time throw that leads an observer to believe that Swoops is more than just a running quarterback, an assertion backed up by an MVP award at a TCU camp last year that would have focused solely on his ability as a passer.
Without having more film to analyze, that leaves only statistics to parse and dissect.
The good? Swoopes threw only two interceptions as a sophomore in 161 attempts, or one interception every 80.5 attempts for a 1.2% interception rate. Last season, Texas quarterback threw an interception once every 26 passes, while Boise State signal-caller Kellen Moore only had one in 64 passes intercepted.
The negative is that Swoopes had some up-and-down performances on his way to completing 55% of his passes -- there is still some room for development. In two comfortable wins during the middle of the season, Swoopes completed only five of 16 and seven of 19 passes. Once again, without context or watching the film, it's hard to say what went wrong in those games, simply that Swoopes wasn't particularly efficient.
Another positive is that Swoopes shows the ability to change speeds on his throws. He has the arm strength to put some serious velocity on the football, but he also shows touch on short passes and screens, making sure that he delivers a catchable ball.
It's as a runner that the VY and Pryor comparisons make the most sense. As always, the listed 4.59 40 time may not be entirely accurate, but it's also clear that Swoopes moves at a different speed than the 2A competition he faces and his height means that he won't ever look as fast as smaller plays, while making the speed that he does have a bit deceiving, particularly for defensive backs trying to take the correct angle.
Like pretty much any quarterback compared to Young, Swoopes isn't quite as electric with the ball in making defenders miss, but he does have good short-area quickness and acceleration for a long strider and shows some ability to use a defender's momentum in his own favor, much as Young did. And as expected for someone his size, he can run through some arm tackles and can maximize that ability at times by getting behind his pads, no easy task for a player his size.
Tyrone Swoopes (early junior highlights) (via 247SportsStudio)
Despite all the comparisons to Vince Young and Terrelle Pryor, during the first Junior Day Mack Brown simply told Swoopes that they didn't want him to be the next Vince Young, they just wanted him to be the first Tyrone Swoopes. Apparently Swoopes bought into that, despite national attention in recent weeks, including offers from Alabama and Ohio State.
The commitment from Swoopes also confirms that co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin is indeed willing to transition to a more spread-based offense, or at least one that features a true dual-threat quarterback capable of running the zone read and option games. And why the heck not? There's nothing more beautiful than getting the numbers right in the box by optioning off defenders.
Speaking of Harsin, the second-year coordinator fell in love Swoopes last summer during a three-day camp, so despite whatever inane criticisms the 247Sports people want to level at the star prep quarterback, Harsin's opinion seems like the most significant here.
It seems like that Swoopes fell in love as well and all he needed was for his mother to see the campus and agree it was the right fit for him, which happened at the first Texas Junior Day.
But back to Swoopes and the impact that his commitment will have on the Texas program. He is a bit raw as a passer, even though his mechanics are generally pretty sound, so he'll need some time to develop in the program before he's fully ready of being a starter and leading Texas to a national championship, but he'll have that time with David Ash and Connor Brewer in front of him on the depth chart when he arrives.
As a result, whatever concerns there are about his competition level or his consistency in the passing game, he won't be asked to step onto the field as the leader for the Longhorns until he's a much more polished passer than he is today. And, really, that's the only step that he needs to take before he can become an absolute monster of a weapon in burnt orange.
If I sound giddy here, it's because I am.
Hook 'em, Tyrone. And bring some of your buddies on offense with you.