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Making the case for QB Jerrod Heard as the Texas starter

Two skills make the sophomore a serious contender in the ongoing competition.

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jerrod heard spring
Jerrod Heard
Texas athletics

Lost in the Summer of Shane and discussions about a possible position change looming for Texas Longhorns sophomore quarterback Jerrod Heard, it’s easy to forget the unique skill set possessed by the 6’3, 201-pounder.

During the spring, Heard’s candidacy for the starting job took a hit when he suffered a shoulder injury that kept him out for roughly half of the 15 practices, including the Orange and White game.

So it’s difficult to assess how much he improved after struggling down the stretch as a redshirt freshman and it’s also easy to dismiss him because he didn’t play in the spring-ending showcase and freshman Shane Buechele was so impressive.

But here’s what we do know about Heard — he’s one of the most dangerous running quarterbacks in the country and his deep ball was surprisingly effective last season.

According to Pro Football Focus, only Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson had better rushing grades than Heard among returning Power Five quarterbacks, who led Texas in carries and finished second on the team behind running back D’Onta Foreman with 556 yards on the ground, despite missing most of the final two games due to injury.

When Heard was healthy, his 163-yard, three-touchdown performance against Cal and a 115-yard effort in the upset of Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl provided full evidence of his upside there -- when the Denton Guyer product gets in the open field, he’s extremely difficult to tackle.

The bigger surprise last season was his efficiency in stretching the field vertically -- he completed 44.9 percent of his passes of 20 yards or more, including three touchdown passes. His adjusted completion percentage of 59.4 percent on those throws ranks No. 1 among returning Power Five passers, an impressive feat given the fact that he’s competing against superstars like Watson and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield for that honor.

It didn’t take long for Heard to show off that accuracy, either, as Heard hit wide receiver John Burt in stride for a 69-yard touchdown pass out of halftime against Rice to help break open a close game in his first collegiate start.

Against Kansas, Heard connected with Burt on an 84-yard score. Only eight passing plays in Texas history have gone for more yards.

After that game against the Owls, Heard admitted that he couldn’t make a throw like that several years ago. He still struggles at times with his accuracy on short passes and spinning the football in general, but there has been enough progress in that time to suggest that he still has some untapped upside.

After rehabbing from the spring-ending shoulder injury, Heard is back to 100 percent and ready to provide the Longhorns with another legitimate option at quarterback in case Buechele doesn’t separate from the older options or struggles early in the season.

There’s even still a chance that Heard could fulfill some of the immense potential that he promised in that magical performance against the Golden Bears last September.