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Texas QB competition could stretch into fall camp

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Assessing a competition that likely won't resolve itself by the end of the Orange-White game.

Tyrone Swoopes
Tyrone Swoopes
Texas athletics

At the beginning of spring practice, Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong expressed a desire for one of his five scholarship quarterbacks to create enough separation that he could name a starter heading into summer workouts. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened, and Strong acknowledged on Tuesday that he probably won't declare a winner by the end of the Orange-White game.

"You have to allow them to compete and let it play its way out," Strong said. "If it takes that we have to go into the fall camp and then pick a guy, then that's what we will do."

Still, Strong wasn't willing to say that he's unhappy about the current state of affairs.

"Well, the competition is very good," Strong said. "I don't know that by the end of spring that there will be a guy, but you just like to battle right now. I know that Jerrod [Heard] is down, but [Shane] Buechele and [Tyrone] Swoopes, they are competing and doing a very good job of managing offense and moving the ball."

In the zero-sum nature of spring football, it's difficult to tell if the lack of a clear-cut starter emerging is a sign of continued mediocrity or what Strong describes as a "very good" competition. Considering that the two main competitors right now are a senior who has been on campus since the spring of 2013 and an early enrollee who should be preparing to go to prom, it's tempting to conclude that the answer is the former.

So let's recap where things stand with the current division of repetitions in practice:

1. Senior Tyrone Swoopes

Despite the fact that Swoopes has received the majority of first-team reps since the start of spring practice, he hasn't run away with the job, a fact that will not surprise his critics in the least.

However, Strong still maintains that there is growth happening.

"He's mature and much better now," Strong said. "He's going to get better. As you get older you have to get better. There's no need, you should. What we're asking him to do on offense, he's doing those things, so he'll get better and improve. It just comes with age."

Of course, if all this rhetoric sounds familiar, it's because it is extremely similar to what the coaches said about Swoopes last fall. The difference now is that Swoopes did truly seem to establish a comfort level and confidence in running the 18 Wheeler package -- he was more demonstrative on the field and finally began limit his deficiencies and take advantage of his size by running hard downhill behind his pads.

Swoopes has the biggest arm on the team and was making faster decisions than Heard early in spring practice when the media was allowed to watch, but can he be accurate enough on big plays? There have been flashes of that ability, it just hasn't ever been consistent enough to avoid leaving too many of them on the field.

At the least, the Orange-White game should provide a snapshot of where Swoopes is right now and if there is a possibility of a significant jump in his senior season.

2. Early enrollee Shane Buechele

Buechele has a lot of the qualities that new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert wants in a quarterback and it's possible that the Arlington Lamar product's quick transition to the college game -- and the need for the older quarterbacks to learn a new offense -- has allowed the quarterback competition to remain ongoing through spring practice and likely into the summer.

Where players like Jerrod Heard had to learn how to work hard in the film room upon arriving at Texas, Buechele already has a reputation for doing everything right.

"The knowledge of the offense," Strong said when asked what stands out about Buechele. "He is doing a really good job of it, just learning and picking it up. Shane is like a gym rat. He is always around, he is always learning, and is always willing to learn."

So Buechele is already pushing the other quarterbacks and challenging them to raise their games.

"When you get a player like that, it is only going to make the other two guys better because they see how hard he works. It drives them to work even harder. We would not be afraid to start him at all because I know that he would go out there and compete and do what we ask him to do."

Since the coaches won't be afraid to start Buechele, he just has to keep competing, according to Strong, and he could end up winning the job because he knows where to put the football because of his experience in a similar offense in high school.

Backing up that Strong's assertion that he won't be afraid to start Buechele this fall is the fact that he did the same thing with Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville -- the current NFL standout started 11 games that year.

3. Redshirt freshman Kai Locksley

Gilbert already admitted that Locksley's future may be at another position than quarterback, which could possible cause a transfer at some point, Locksley is already on record as saying that he's not going anywhere. For now, at least.

The problem is that he's not receiving many reps, which is a bad sign for him given the fact that he moved to quarterback as a junior in high school after playing wide receiver the previous year, played in a running offense, and also split time with basketball and track.

Strong also seemed to confirm reports that Locksley hasn't always had the best attitude in practice.

"He is doing a good job, but he is just working through some things right now," Strong said. "What we have to do with him is just make sure that he stays involved."

Right now, there are no guarantees that happens.

Injured: Sophomore Jerrod Heard

After suffering a minor shoulder spring in practice last week when he fell on his shoulder wrong, Heard is now out for the remainder of the spring with his injury. Strong said that his rehab is progressing as planned, so getting shut down for the next four practices and the Orange-White game is more a result of the lack of remaining practice time rather than stemming from long-term concern about the impact of his injury.

Injured: Redshirt freshman Matthew Merrick

The former high school basketball player was always considered a long-term project because of his relative inexperience when he arrived at Texas last fall, but it hasn't helped his cause that he reportedly suffered a back injury and has missed most of spring practice. When he was practicing, he wasn't receiving many reps, which seems like bad news for a guy who needs to catch up on a lot of them.