Forget a redshirt -- the 2016 season for Texas Longhorns football will feature early enrollee quarterback Shane Buechele on the field. Four and a half months away from the opener against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, head coach Charlie Strong was unequivocal about Buechele's future playing time when asked about it by Ricky Williams on the Longhorn Network.
Yeah, pretty excited to watch Coach Strong and Ricky talk tomorrow on Texas Gameday.— Longhorn Network (@LonghornNetwork) April 16, 2016
Coverage starts at Noon CT.https://t.co/gkJgSC14qo
"Oh, god yes. He will play in the fall. He will play."
In listening to Strong and his players, it's not hard to figure out why.
No matter what time of day it is, when Strong walks down a hallway in the Texas football facilities, odds are that Buechele will be there. He's just a gym rat like that.
To understand what it takes to be a professional athlete, it takes a professional work ethic, and the 6'1, 191-pounder soaked that attitude up from his father Steve, who played 10 years as a utility infielder in the major leagues. The elder Buechele didn't do it by being the most talented player on the field, he did it by paying attention to the details, making easy plays look routine in the field, and taking his base when opposing pitchers ventured too far inside.
Now his son is taking those efforts to heart after an incredible prep football career at Arlington Lamar that culminated with 6,379 total passing yards and 73 touchdowns. Despite a lack of ideal size and despite time spent excelling on the baseball diamond like his father, Buechele still finished as the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
In football, there's no position more difficult to evaluate than quarterback -- there are no guarantees of any players making the leap from high school to college or college to the NFL. The best in the business still make mistakes that cripple franchises and programs. But Buechele has seemingly accomplished that feat remarkably well leading into his first public action as a Longhorn on Saturday.
No one knows it better than the players. Strong recounted the story of senior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes coming to him and telling him that Buechele is someone who can get it done and will make him better as a player.
If Swoopes says those things with his coach in candid moments, when sophomore offensive guard Patrick Vahe shares his feelings on Buechele, it's easier to believe that he's being sincere.
"The thing that impresses me about him is that he's a player that's trying to make it," Vahe said. "I understand his story that he told me. I love Shane, man. He's a good guy. So that's what really impresses me about him."
For new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert, it's about Buechele's understanding of the offense and what he wants a quarterback to accomplish in it.
"He's headsy," Gilbert said. "He's got a live arm about him. He carries himself well. He's got a high football IQ, competitive, and just a guy that he's urgent about what he does and how he does it. But he's got a lot of room for growth or improvement."
Among all the superlatives cast towards Buechele, citing room for improvement hardly qualifies. Yet, it's one of the most heartening aspects about the young passer -- no matter how much he's already maximized his skill set with an arm that belies his size, an intuitive understanding of the game, and a relentless work ethic, it would be ludicrous to imagine that he doesn't have an impressive ceiling to reach.
And so Buechele is already working in an incredible vacuum. No matter what Swoopes and sophomore Jerrod Heard do moving forward, there will be opportunity available for the youngest of five scholarship quarterbacks on the Texas roster.
He's earned it, already.