As the incumbent starter (for the moment, at least), there's an ugly truth about Texas Longhorns quarterback Tyrone Swoopes -- he has one of the worst passer ratings of all qualified returning passers in college football.
Ranked No. 54 out of 62 qualified quarterbacks (250 or more passes, passer rating of 110 or higher), Swoopes also sits behind six other quarterbacks to come out of Texas in the last several years. Only former Lake Travis and Texas Tech quarterback ranked behind Swoopes on the list after a disappointing first season at Virginia Tech that included a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 18 to 15.
Top returning passers from the state of Texas:
- J.T. Barrett, Ohio State (No. 1) -- So, this turned out to be a major mistake. More on that later.
- Driphus Jackson, Rice (No. 8) -- On the Texas radar early in the process, Jackson's only BCS offer was from Minnesota and though he was highly productive at state power Cedar Hill, he was too short at 5'11 to ever receive serious consideration from the Horns.
- Trevone Boykin, TCU (No. 12) -- Even with the West Mesquite product's rise to Heisman contention last season after being moved to wide receiver briefly in 2013, there hasn't been much revisionist history about Boykin. Classified as an athlete out of high school, Boykin always had good athleticism and some raw tools, but his fit in the Air Raid system installed last year and the emergence of other weapons around him made his success unlikely to happen at Texas instead.
- Greg Ward, Jr., Houston (No. 19) -- Another undersized spread quarterback in a lesser conference, Ward even spent some time at wide receiver while a Cougar. Competition caveats aside, it's remarkable that the Tyler John Tyler product achieved such a high rating for a program that ended up firing its head coach.
- Tommy Armstrong, Jr. Nebraska (No. 31) -- A teammate of Malcolm Brown at Cibolo Steele, Armstrong didn't receive much attention from Texas until it became clear that another 2012 quarterback take was necessary. Circling back after his Nebraska commitment didn't work and he was inconsistent enough last year that it's hard to criticize Armstrong's recruitment by Texas too severely. Though it would be nice to have him on the roster right now.
- Trevor Knight, Oklahoma (No. 41) -- Had the Horns been willing to take a second 2012 quarterback early in the process, Knight would have been an easy take as a lifelong Texas fan. A one-time Texas A&M commit before ending up at Oklahoma, he's been inconsistent enough during his career that his presence on this list says a lot about how poorly Swoopes played last year in terms of his passer rating.
Takeaway -- Swoopes will have to improve dramatically to catch up with his fellow Lone Star State products, but it's worth pointing out that besides Barrett, all of the players on the list are either older or play at a lower level. And other than Barrett, the only real criticism is that Texas took Case McCoy in 2010 and that limited the ability to take another quarterback in 2011 after securing the early commitment from David Ash. Given the offer list of Connor Brewer at the time of his commitment, it's hard to fault Texas for that take. If it comes down on anyone, it would be Bryan Harsin, as Brewer was his guy.
Here are the 2013 prospects to make the list:
- J.T. Barrett, Ohio State (No. 1) -- Enough said.
- Jared Goff, California (No. 14) -- The consensus four-star prospect and Elite 11 finalist plays in an Air Raid offense and received extensive playing time as a freshman.
- Sefo Liufau, Colorado (No. 33) -- A high three-star prospect who committed early without any other offers, Liufau set a number of single-season Colorado passing records last year, but also committed 15 turnovers.
- Anu Solomon, Arizona (No. 36) -- The victor in the quarterback battle that also included Brewer, Solomon benefited from a redshirt season out of high school powerhouse Bishop Gorman, the breakout season from Cayleb Jones, and the offensive expertise of Rich Rod.
- Justin Holman, Central Florida (No. 38) -- Barely a three-star prospect out of the Atlanta area, Holman had some impressive offers out from Arizona State and Missouri. Credit now-retired offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe for his evaluation and development of Holman and Blake Bortles, though Holman did throw 14 interceptions last season. Like Swoopes, Holman played sparingly as a freshman.
Takeaways -- Out of Swoopes' five peers from major conferences to turn in successful seasons last year, Barrett, Goff, and Solomon all clearly benefited greatly from the offensive systems in which they played. It's hard to pin down the specific reasons why Liufau and Holman had success, but this list demonstrates how few 2013 quarterback prospects played at a high level at the highest levels last season.
Other than natural progression with more reps and game experience, the biggest help for Swoopes would come in the form of better playmakers around him, improved offensive line play, and a more effective offensive strategy that would provide him some of the same advantages afforded players like Barrett, Goff, and Solomon.
And the spring should provide some perspective on whether any of the improvements around Swoopes will happen, not to mention insight into whether the junior will even keep control of the starting job.