As a reminder, I’m posting one thought per day in a series of 15 posts over the course of 15 days until we get to game day.
With 14 days left until kickoff, this is the second post of the series.
If you missed the other posts, the links are below
Post #1 - “The Youth Movement Continues”
The three scenarios
As we creep closer to kick off, no public announcement has been made on who will start at quarterback for the Longhorns. Though at this point, whether you’re a fan of the decision or not, it’s looking more like Swoopes will take the first snap and get the first shot at controlling the position.
In the event that Swoopes is the starter against Notre Dame, there are really three scenarios for how the rest of the season plays out (in no order).
Scenario #1 - Tyrone Swoopes starts against Notre Dame and plays well enough to hold on to the position for another week. And each week after that, he plays well enough to hold on to the position all season.
Even if Texas loses against Notre Dame, as long as it’s a close game and Swoopes holds his own, he’ll be the starter heading into the UTEP game the following week. And if he continues to do enough, he’ll hold onto the position all season.
For this to happen, Swoopes doesn’t need to emerge as some elite-passer. And realistically, even under the direction of a new offensive coordinator, the likelihood of Swoopes developing into an elite passer over the course of one offseason isn’t going to happen. We’ve all seen his body of work.
But for this scenario to play out, Swoopes just needs to play well enough to help his team win. That means not doing anything to put his team in a bad position to lose.
In the eyes of the coaches, having a veteran quarterback play well enough to help the team win isn’t a bad scenario when it also gives the true freshman quarterback a year to take it all in.
Things just may not play out this way.
Scenario #2 - Shane Buechele comes in within the first few weeks of the season to replace Swoopes and doesn’t look back.
This is the dream scenario for most fans. Shane Buechele rides in as the answer to the drought that’s plagued the quarterback position since Vince Young and Colt McCoy played their final games in burnt orange.
This is also a scenario that has its own challenges when talking about a true freshman quarterback.
It’s easy to make the case that Shane Buechele is already the more polished passer between he and Swoopes. Coming out of high school, he was seen as a quarterback who could make a variety of throws with good accuracy. And during his short time at Texas so far, he’s performed well enough to remain in the competition for the starting job.
If history repeats itself and Swoopes struggles early in the season, Buechele will get a shot at the starting role and a chance to take the job away from Swoopes.
In this world, Buechele shows enough to be named the guy early. Maybe it happens against Notre Dame, maybe it happens before UTEP or Cal. Either way, it happens before conference play.
Though this wouldn’t be the exact same scenario for multiples reasons, we can’t talk about this scenario without acknowledging that this wouldn’t be the first time Coach Strong rolled with a freshman quarterback the majority of a season.
As a true freshman at Louisville in 2011, Teddy Bridgewater got his first start the fourth game of the season against Marshall. And he started every game after that the rest of the season.
The Cardinals record that year? 7-6, including a loss in a bowl game.
The differences between Bridgewater’s situation and that 2011 Louisville team compared to the 2016 Longhorns are immense. Bridgewater’s first chance as a starter came when current starter, Will Stein (who’s ironically a grad assistant on Coach Strong’s staff in Austin) was sidelined for a few weeks with a shoulder injury.
Stein was also originally a walk-on and a career reserve until briefly winning the job prior to the 2011 season.
The key takeaway, though, is that if Strong does roll with Buechele for most of the season, it won’t be his first time going down this tough road.
The life of a true freshman quarterback isn’t easy. There’s a new, bigger playbook to learn, new teammates to get to know, and a quicker game speed to adjust to. Every opponent will be one he’s never faced before. And the spotlight from fans and the media is huge.
That’s all the football stuff. There’s also the whole “college” side of life to get adjusted to as a true freshman as well.
Fortunately for Buechele, after enrolling early in the spring, he’s had an extra semester and a summer to help with the adjustments. If he is the answer at quarterback, we’ll know within the first week or so whether he has something special or not.
He’ll either go the way of other recent, successful true freshmen quarterbacks like Jared Goff, Josh Rosen, and Jake Browning (yea I know, my examples happen to all be Pac 12 guys) or he’ll leave us with more question marks, which leads us to our third scenario.
Scneario #3 - Both Swoopes and Buechele have up and down moments early in the season, and neither takes firm control of the starting job all season.
This scenario probably gives most fans the biggest headache. Whether it was Applewhite and Simms, Young and Mock, or even Snead and McCoy, the whole “two-quarterback system”, “on-going competition” or whatever you want to call it has never left a great taste in anyone’s mouth at Texas.
Different from the scenario where Buechele would be the starter and Swoopes would come in only to run his 18-wheeler package, if this scenario happens, it’ll mean neither quarterback fully settled in and played consistently enough to be the easy choice.
Since I’ve seen it before, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Swoopes struggle in the pocket again when the lights come on. If Buechele also struggles this season, I tend to think it will be due to turnovers more than anything else.
The other version of this scenario, and one I cringe at, is one where Buechele is named the full-time starter too late in the season. If Texas is going to ride with Buechele, that decision needs to be made within the first couple of weeks before conference play.
Without any real games or competition to analyze, we don’t know too much more than we already do. But regardless of who starts against Notre Dame, we’ll have a good idea of what Texas is working with pretty quickly.
Either Swoopes will play well enough, Buechele will come in and display why he’s clearly the better option, or neither will settle in enough to take control of the position all season long.
If I were to take a guess, I’d say Buechele emerges as the guy before we get into conference play.