From all appearances, the Texas Longhorns coaching staff wants junior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes to seize command of his position. Unfortunately for the staff -- and fans hoping for improvement this season -- Swoopes just wasn't able to show anything more than extremely limited progress against the Notre Dame Fighitng Irish on Saturday.
All the offseason rhetoric indicated that Swoopes had an edge, that he was eager to prove all his doubters wrong, that he won the team, that he improved his footwork. Instead, Swoopes looked like essentially the same player he was last season, failing to do much to raise the spirits of his teammates through adversity and exhibiting the same questionable footwork that too often resulted in inaccurate passes.
As a result, the quarterback competition that lasted since the Texas Bowl loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks until just last week now continues with redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard, who did not appear in the second half in South Bend.
"With Tyrone and Jerrod, we're going to go through this week and then we're going to make that decision later on at the end of the week," said head coach Charlie Strong on Monday.
The decision not to play Heard in the second half seemed puzzling at the time since Swoopes provided so little spark, but Strong said it was because the staff felt the veteran quarterback provided the team the best chance to get back into the game. In other words, Strong and company still don't trust Heard much as a passer.
Indeed, assistant head coach for offense/quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson said recently that Heard is where Swoopes was last season, not exactly a ringing endorsement of Heard's progress since last fall, when he arrived unprepared to play and struggled to focus as he took his redshirt season.
Now he'll get another opportunity in practice to show that he's deserving of the starting role.
"Well, even though it was open earlier, he competed, and it wasn't like it was a big separation between those two," Strong said. "So now when you go into it, like we're in situations where we go Tuesday and Wednesday where we actually compete at practice, where he's going to be placed in some situations where we have to compete and go move the football."
With Swoopes continuing to show limited upside and ability to become a competent college quarterback, Heard looks like the best opportunity for Texas to improve its play at the position, if only because he's a much more dynamic athlete than Swoopes in the open field. Perhaps Heard can't complete passes longer than 20 yards down the field, but Swoopes only did that once against Notre Dame himself.
The only thing that remains clear is that the Longhorns aren't any closer to finding a legitimate quarterback than they were when Garrett Gilbert took over the job in 2010. And that's a huge hindrance to Strong's attempts to rebuild the Texas program.