Going in to The Opening, it was expected that Texas quarterback commit Tyrone Swoopes would struggle some in a setting that not only wasn't going to showcase his strengths, but also throw him into a competition with a level of speed with which he's had little experience.
So it was no surprise to see an up-and-down performance that included relatively rare highs -- like his team's defeat of top-seeded Alpha Speed, which featured Ricky Seals-Jones (watch video of the event here). Apparently it was enough of a surprise for ESPN to drop him to 100 in the national rankings, and classify him as an athlete.
The drop in ranking was deserved and understandable, but classifying the 6-5, 230-pounder as an athlete? After running a 4.77 40 (all 40 caveats apply, as always), there's no position at which Swoopes projects well enough to necessitate a lack of patience with his development at the only position he'll play in college -- quarterback.
ESPN recruiting analyst Craig Haubert explained the changes ($) regarding Swoopes:
Swoopes (Whitewright, Texas/Whitewright) drops and receives a position change in the process, but everyone please take a breath. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Swoopes has a lot of athletic ability, and at this stage of the evaluation process, our feeling is he's a better athlete than football player right now. At QB, the position he will arguably play in college, he still needs a lot of developmental work. In settings we've seen in person, there is a lot of mechanical and developmental work that needs to be done for him to be successful at the next level. But again, he is an extremely good athlete who has plenty of time to improve, rebound and answer questions that have been raised about him. He just needs to work to get that athleticism to translate onto the field, especially at the QB position, if he wants to have success at the next level at that position.
It seems as if a re-classification of a clear quarterback would require a discussion of what other position they could possibly play, which didn't really happen there, but oh well.
Moving beyond the ultimately meaningless rankings and classifications, an assessment of Swoopes and his potential for the future is in order.
A realistic approach is necessary -- as Scipio mentioned with offensive linemen, the issue isn't where they are at 17, but where they will be at 20 or 21. The same is true with Swoopes. It appears that David Ash will be the quarterback for the next three years, with Connor Brewer having a chance to win that job after that. It should be at least 2015 before Swoopes will compete seriously for the starting position, at which time he would be a redshirt sophomore.
In the developmental trajectory of a player who has participated in relatively few camps, plays other sports during the offseason, and doesn't even have a great deal of 7on7 experience, those three years might as well be several lifetimes in regards to where he could potentially be at that point -- essentially a different quarterback
So, step back from the ledge if you find your feet hanging over the abyss.
Let's start off the with the positives. Honestly, there aren't a ton, but the overriding fact is that every time it seemed like maybe Swoopes just didn't have it, he would make a throw that clearly flashed his potential and upside. The type of throws that prove he will be a quarterback, and potentially a good one.
The arm strength is there and will only improve as he actually spend some significant time in the weight room and learns how to transfer his weight and use his hips and core to put more torque on the football. Right now, his ability to make the opposite-hash-to-sideline throws is just a little better than marginal, but arm strength has never and will never be a significant concern.
And as he has done near the end of other events once he began to adjust either to new drills or the speed of play, Swoopes was able to elevate his play on Sunday, recovering from a poor Saturday finish to turn in a game-winning drive, including a perfectly placed fade in the endzone to a leaping Jake Butt. The type of throws "athletes" don't normally make.
Unfortunately, Swoopes then regressed for the rest of the day and struggled again with his decision-making, which segues well into his issues.
The photo attached above illustrates several. First of all, Swoopes is holding the ball loose with one hand, common in 7on7 events as quarterbacks get lackadaisical with their ball protection due to the lack of pass rushers.
Notice as well that the Whitewright star is holding the ball low, too, which lengthens his delivery and makes a quick release nearly impossible. He's also looking to his right, where he seems to feel the most comfortable. As a result, he has trouble coming off reads in those directions and finding open receivers to his left.
When he does make it through progressions, which he does at a rate noticeably slower than other quarterbacks at the event, his footwork tends to let him down, as he doesn't keep his feet live and underneath him, which has a negative impact on the rest of his mechanics and may be part of the reason why the ball flutters out of his hand at times.
Finally, Swoopes has a somewhat Vince Young-esque low release, sometimes almost sidearming the ball. Given his height, it's not a huge disadvantage in terms of impacting his passing lanes. The old Texas coaching staff didn't have much success altering Young's mechanics, but perhaps Swoopes will be more able and Harsin more capable of fixing that particular flaw.
Overall, there's really not much right at this point with Swoopes and his mechanics -- he needs a lot of work there. Barring major unforeseen circumstances (certainly possible at a transitory position like quarterback), he'll have plenty of time at Texas to work refining those aspects of his game.
Right now, there are just flashes and evidence of some level of competitive greatness. And he is a good runner who plays faster than his 4.77 40. The 6-5, 230-pounder also received the stamp of approval from Harsin after the Texas co-offensive coordinator worked with him for three days last summer. For now, both get the benefit of the doubt.
Causes for concern? Yes. Causes for panic? No. Causes for considering him an "athlete"? No.
If Haubert got one thing right, it was asking for everyone to take a breath.