The Summer of Shane is about to come to an end with the start of fall camp in several weeks, but the buzz around Texas Longhorns freshman quarterback Shane Buechele was still ever present at Big 12 Media Days in Dallas on Tuesday.
As expected, there were a number of questions about Buechele, leading to some interesting stuff from head coach Charlie Strong.
“There’s nothing he can’t do”
During the spring, Strong referred to Buechele as a baller, saying that other players already recognize that ability in him. It’s also an ability extends past the football field. Past the baseball field, even, where he spent so much time growing up.
“Last night me and Bluiett was talking about it and Bluiett, every time I walk in the game room and see him and Bluiett there they're shooting pool and Bluiett is like, ‘There’s nothing he can’t do,’” Strong said.
Ping pong. Basketball. Golf.
While discerning where the talent begins and the work ethic ends is difficult — however much it is of both and in what percentage — the end result is that Buechele is baller at it.
The talent helps breed belief. The work ethic bleeds into the how the rest of the team approaches football.
“Just like his overall attitude, within the whole team it's seepin', seepin', seepin',” Strong said.
The job is yours for the taking, kid
Since declining to name a starting quarterback coming out of the spring, Strong has at times opted to refer to all three quarterbacks contending for the job when asked about Buechele.
On Tuesday, a reporter managed to flip the script in a revealing way.
A telltale sign: I asked Strong if his QB can be his best player. He answered by saying he's young, but just has to manage the game. But....— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) July 19, 2016
...I never mentioned Buechele's name specifically. He just assumed that's who I was talking about. And that says a lot.— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) July 19, 2016
And another tell came when I asked if more than one QB might play against ND. Strong said yes, because he wants to keep Swoopes' package.— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) July 19, 2016
So, yeah, there’s a little confirmation that Buechele just has to keep from losing the job as much as he needs to win it after fall camp opens at the beginning of August.
Well, there is one dark-horse candidate...
Strong got the question about the starter at quarterback one too many times and decided to surface the name of a passer who also has some grittiness, notable pedigree, and even better height and experience than Buechele:
Asked to name starting QB for 609th time, Strong joked it's walk-on Trey Holtz. "Then you'll see on the scoreboard, Charlie Strong fired."— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) July 19, 2016
He’s obviously joking about the last part — #TreyHoltzforTexasQB2016.
Listed rather generously at 6’1 and 191 pounds, Buechele is a player the coaches would have to manage in the running game, much like the former staff managed sophomore Jerrod Heard last season in certain games — the true freshman still has to add strength in the weight room.
In fact, it’s the one area where no amount of effort and natural talent can make up for the pure time needed to accomplish that goal.
“The thing he needs to do now and he's working on it is getting bigger and stronger because he understands he's going to take some hits,” Strong said. “We haven't hit him. We can hit Swoopes because he's bigger and he tries to run them over anyway. So they don't want to hit Swoopes. But with Shane, it's about him getting bigger and stronger.”
Without seeing any particularly revealing looks at Buechele recently, it’s hard to tell how far he’s progressed this summer. The good news is that Strong seems intent on supporting Buechele with the 18-Wheeler package, a move that makes complete sense despite the fact that the ‘Horns didn’t use it in the spring and can limit hits on the freshman while adding a third Smash Brother to the equation.
It’s no longer breaking news that Buechele is a gym rat and there’s certainly little surprise left in hearing that Strong found the freshman quarterback and freshman wide receiver playing pool at the Texas football facilities on Sunday before the Texas head coach headed down to San Antonio.
Neither is the description by his head coach about what he does well, but Strong does make an important point about the implications of all those things.
“When you look at him on the field he just puts the ball in the right place and he understands the offense, but he's going to study the game and he does a really good job of setting the game and he can always get better. You can always improve.”
You can always improve.
It seems self-evidence (and it should be). The thing with Buechele is that he has the right mix of attributes to be the guy for Texas.
All signs point in that direction until they don’t.