For the first time since fall camp opened last Saturday, the Texas Longhorns held a scrimmage on Saturday. However, the practice was difficult to evaluate for head coach Charlie Strong because of injuries — freshman center Zach Shackelford is day-to-day with an ankle injury, while running backs D’Onta Foreman and Chris Warren were held out for minor issues.
Sophomore Jake McMillon worked at center in place of Shackelford. At wide receiver, Strong said that junior Lorenzo Joe isn’t yet able to put any weight on his injured hamstring and has been on crutches.
The good news is that Strong praised the effort of his team in the midst of those important injuries.
"The guys have been really working hard and have done and unbelievable job," Strong said.
Once those players get healthy, Strong wants to focus on whether or not his defense can tackle those big backs. To accomplish that goal, Texas has been focusing on tackling fundamentals a year after the defense struggled to get opponents to the ground.
As always, the ongoing quarterback competition was a topic of conversation and Strong provided some insight as to why there isn’t yet a starter.
"When we decide, we’ll talk about it," Strong said. "The team will know. We can’t let Notre Dame know."
So don’t expect an official announcement from the school at any point before the opener.
On Friday, the topic of conversation was a report from Orangebloods that had senior Tyrone Swoopes leading freshman Shane Buechele, which completely upended the narrative of the spring game standout being a shoo-in to win the job.
However, if Swoopes did indeed have an edge on Thursday — which isn’t the case according to the information Burnt Orange Nation is receiving — Buechele out-played his older counterpart during the scrimmage, according to The Football Brainiacs:
I was told that Buechele successfully sustained more drives and as a result had more first team reps than Swoopes, though I was told that Swoopes was able to sustain drives better than he has in the past. Again, sounds like much of what we’ve been hearing which is Buechele was, at least in the opinion of this particular source, the better quarterback but Swoopes has clearly gotten better himself.
Strong wants both players to be ready to play against Notre Dame and plans on using both of them in the season opener. With Swoopes set to reprise his role in the 18 Wheeler package, that may be another indication from Strong that Buechele is likely to win the starting job.
Even if Buechele doesn’t win the job during fall camp, it sounds like he will have every opportunity to win it on the field once the season begins.
One player who is no longer at quarterback is sophomore Jerrod Heard, who moved to wide receiver this week and quickly made his presence felt with his athleticism.
Strong recalled the conversation that led to his switch — Heard went to his head coach and said that he wanted to play, expressing a desire to work at wide receiver when asked which position he preferred.
Heard is still taking some reps at quarterback, but since he isn’t taking early as many as he was in the past, redshirt freshmen Matthew Merrick and Kai Locksley are getting more work. Locksley even reportedly worked some with the second-team offense during the scrimmage.
The selflessness of Heard is emblematic of a changing mindset with the whole team, according to Strong — instead of fighting position changes, players are now embracing whatever chances they have to make an impact for the team.
In terms of focus, attitude, and discipline, Strong believes this is a totally different team and that greater competition at every position has driven that change.
In 22 days, Notre Dame will put that narrative to the test against the two Texas quarterbacks set to play in the game.