Given the week to week nature of the 2014 Texas Longhorns' development, and the immediacy of the news cycle that follows, the evaluation of Tyrone Swoopes as the Longhorns' QB has ranged from cautious optimism regarding to his upside to dejected resignation about his lack of progress. And with the inconsistency of Swoopes (as well as his inexperienced offensive line), the evaluation hasn't been the same on consecutive weeks.
After David Ash went down, Tyrone Swoopes became the only option. The offensive braintrust of Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline had no choice but to structure an offense that highlighted Swoopes' unique talents and slowly build up everything else around him.
In 2014, they knew they would succeed as he succeeds or fail as he fails.
In 2015, they will have options.
Odds are the QB position will be an open competition come spring 2015, likely between the now-sophomore Swoopes and redshirting freshman Jerrod Heard. It would be an open competition with no clear favorite.
For Swoopes to continue on as the quarterback for the Longhorns, he's needed to show the coaches continued improvement on the practice field every week and steady results between the lines on Saturdays. And while fans can't say for certain how Swoopes is faring Sunday to Friday, we can see the results on Saturday and know the two are more than just correlated. Following Tyrone's strong performance in Stillwater, Shawn Watson mentioned a one on one film session with Swoopes the Sunday following his rocky performance against West Virginia.
So while the success in Stillwater was important in giving the coaches another upward trending data point in the quarterback's performances, it may not have been the biggest boon for Swoopes' prospects moving forward. For Swoopes individually, it is becoming bowl eligible. And gaining the mythical bowl practices.
It's the same bowl practices that a young David Ash used to cement his position as the Horns' starter in 2011 following a season he split time with Case McCoy. After McCoy was given the final two starts of the season, including the win to send Texas A&M packing to the SEC, it was Ash given the first team reps through bowl practices and into the bowl game. Ash's performance against the Cal Golden Bears in the Holiday Bowl was unspectacular, but the bowl reps and performance laid the groundwork for Ash taking over as the guy in 2012, where he posted a top 15 season statistically.
It's the same bowl practices that a young Garrett Gilbert didn't get following the disastrous 2010 season. Now, if the Horns managed 6-6 in 2010 and made a bowl, it's possible nobody is fired following the season and we enter a dark parallel universe where Greg Davis is still calling -1 yard bubble screens and 3 yard dump downs to tight ends on 3rd and 9. But whether Gilbert got the extra bowl practices working one on one with Greg Davis, or an interim OC Major Applewhite, or under new OC Bryan Harsin, it's possible the opportunities could have led to a better start for him 2011, especially considering his entire offseason leading up to 2010 was wasted as the Horns abandoned the "downhill running game" Mack Brown sought for the year.
Bowl practices aren't a magic wand that turn bad QBs into good QBs and good QBs into great QBs. But 10 to 15 extra practices, where Tyrone Swoopes and Shawn Watson can devote a bulk of their time to developing good habits, studying film, and drilling the finer points of the Horns offense into muscle and mental memory, is no small deal. It will be more productive for Swoopes as a player as they don't need to devote a bulk of time to opponent-specific study and gameplan implementation. And, unlike in the coming spring, Tyrone Swoopes will still be the guy. He won't be splitting that time or reps or preparation with Jerrod Heard.
With his contributions to Texas's win over OSU, Tyrone Swoopes bought himself something invaluable as it relates to his future prospects: time. Time for a raw prospect could be the difference between being the team's leader and being a position change target. Time Swoopes was robbed of as he was thrust into the spotlight following David Ash's retirement and time that was gambled away on a late night in Ft. Worth last year. Time to make himself a better player, and the Texas Longhorns a better team.