"No more excuses."
The Texas Longhorns wore that motto on the back of their T-shirts throughout the offseason. And so it goes for junior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, who has now made 13 starts for the Longhorns and has fewer and fewer excuses for his inconsistencies and lack of clear, significant improvement.
For some perspective on just how poor Swoopes has been to this point, just compare his stats to those of former Longhorns quarterback Garrett Gilbert:
Gilbert, of course, had shoulder surgery after his 14th start and then transferred, going on to have a successful college career at SMU. Shockingly enough given how he played in burnt orange, Gilbert has managed to hang around the NFL the last two seasons, currently occupying a spot on the Oakland Raiders practice squad.
The only area where Swoopes has a clear advantage is in his decision-making. The biggest surprise? The difference in rushing yards -- Gilbert came to Texas as a pro-style quarterback and showed better running ability than anticipated, while Swoopes hasn't been able to translate his perceived dual-threat ability to the college game.
Gilbert never improved much between his up-and-down performance in the national championship game as a freshman and his final start in 2011. So how far has Swoopes come during his 13 starts?
Here's what Scipio Tex said about Swoopes after his first start against BYU at this time last year:
- Swoopes is big, strong and has a live downfield arm
- He's reasonably mobile - certainly capable of operating in a rolling pocket or running a bootleg
- He's competent on single read short routes against zone or off coverage
- His ability to read defenses is poor
- He is raw and lacks reps in a college level offense, much less one predicated on reads and getting into the right play pre-snap
- He doesn't step up into the pocket with pressure - he will self-sack and self-pressure
- He overestimates his athletic ability in relation to legitimate college defenders
- His ability to change plays or adjust to defensive overplay is poor beyond a basic binary audible - which most defenses should pick up and adjust to within one quarter
- He currently self-defines and conducts himself as a playmaking dual threat QB, but isn't
- Accuracy is inconsistent, ranging from very good to oh my God
In the 12 starts since, is Swoopes much improved in any of those areas? He perhaps has a better understanding of his athleticism in comparison to the players he goes against, getting north-south more often against Notre Dame instead of attempting to take the edge. He didn't melt down and turn the ball over against the Fighting Irish, as he did during the last several games of the 2014 season.
However, on the whole Swoopes is basically the same quarterback he was a year ago, a major disappointment since the expectation was that he would start to hit the upward trend in his growth curve about this time.
Too often, Swoopes follows up his good plays with inexplicably poor throws that showcase a lack of fundamentals. Consider the 48-yard bomb to freshman wide receiver John Burt that marked the offense's longest play by far last Saturday. After two quick runs produced only one yard, Swoopes had sophomore wide receiver Armanti Foreman open on a crossing route with room to run:
As Swoopes followed Foreman across the field with his eyes, his feet weren't tied together with them -- look at how he hits the back of his drop and instead of re-setting to his right, his feet die, resulting in a throw behind Foreman. Exactly where his feet were pointing.
On another play earlier in the game, Swoopes failed to step into a different throw to Burt down the seam, leaving it short and uncatchable.
So despite the talk of improved footwork, the junior showed little to no improvement in that area, negating his arm strenght, which is one of his few unquestionably good assets.
Back in the spring, Texas head coach Charlie Strong said that Swoopes was a better quarterback, he just didn't know how much better and would not until the season started. Well, the season started and though the offensive play calling and offensive line did Swoopes no particular favors, Swoopes looked only marginally better, if at all.
For a team that is preaching "No More Excuses," that means that time is running out on Swoopes to more consistently show the flashes that defined his performances against Oklahoma and Iowa State last year.
With redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard splitting first-team reps with Swoopes during at least one practice this week, it's probably time to give Heard an extended opportunity to see if he can show any flashes of becoming the long-sought, long-term answer at quarterback for the Horns.