The maturation process of Texas Longhorns quarterback Tyrone Swoopes through the offseason has the junior primed to take over a bigger emotional role on the team, according to senior running back Johnathan Gray.
In speaking with the media after the team's first spring practice, Gray offered positive indications of the 2013 starter's advancements in several critical areas.
"He's grown up a lot," Gray said. "He's been more of a leader. He's pushing guys past their limits, and it's what you want from a quarterback. He's starting to lead us, and I see it from him."
Many perceived that intangible quality as lacking in Swoopes. Legitimate justification underlies that perception -- when the offensive line and offense overall started to collapse against TCU and Arkansas, Swoopes clearly became a significant part of the problem with his decision-making and overall demeanor.
He was whipped and looked like it.
Both performances combined with Swoopes' low-key nature and lack of winning pedigree from high school to spur serious criticisms of his confidence and natural leadership ability.
But experience and growth can happen quickly for a quarterback like Swoopes who has worked hard to improve his physical conditioning this spring by working with the skill positions. Now leaner, according to at least one observer, the junior is winning drills against those players, head coach Charlie Strong said on Monday.
Does that mean that Strong is saying Swoopes is faster than the fastest players on the team? It more likely means that Swoopes is out there working hard and finishing first as a way to lead by example. Doing that could make him more comfortable taking a vocal role because that's the natural progression of quarterbacks, even the low-key ones. It started to happen with David Ash before his concussions, after all.
To what extent is Swoopes winning the hearts and minds of his teammates?
Jonathan Gray on Tyrone Swoopes: "He is our starting quarterback as of right now."— Ryan Autullo (@AutulloAAS) March 25, 2015
Strong hasn't been nearly as definitive in setting up the quarterback competition, though it's technically true that Swoopes is something of a starter because he did take all the first team reps on Wednesday as the incumbent. However, there's nothing conclusive about the leadership question with Swoopes yet.
Still, the rhetoric from Gray is positive and may signal important behind-the-scenes intangible developments from Swoopes that could significantly impact his resiliency and overall performance.