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Why Tyrone Swoopes could start at QB for Texas vs. Notre Dame

The offense finally fits and there are plenty of playmakers to decrease the pressure on the senior.

Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The sentiment sent shock waves through the Texas Longhorns fan base — there was a chance that senior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes could start for the ‘Horns in the defining season opener against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, despite all offseason indications to the contrary.

Just know that Swoopes didn’t read any of it.

"Swoopes has been beaten up so bad, he won’t read anything [written about him]," head coach Charlie Strong told SB Nation. "The kids who have been beaten up a lot will tell the other guys, ‘Don’t do it. You think that guy online is your friend? Ok, just wait. Your time is coming.’"

After a wasted redshirt season courtesy of one of former head coach Mack Brown’s most destructive moves before finally stepping aside, Swoopes has mostly been a scapegoat or a punch line since Strong took over.

In one infamous exchange during the litigation of former offensive line coach Joe Wickline’s contract, Strong couldn’t even remember Swoopes’ first name.

For the record, it’s Tyrone.

For the record, he’s a quarterback who was always known to be raw coming out of high school, where he competed at a low level and split his time with basketball and track. Reps were always going to matter.

Three up-and-down seasons later, Swoopes has one last chance to re-write the narrative surrounding his career.

NCAA Football: Texas at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

And he may be the leading candidate to start at quarterback for the ‘Horns when the season opens at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on September 4, because maybe those reps will finally tell.

A year ago, days after former play caller Shawn Watson teared up in a press conference talking about Swoopes and days before Texas got blown out by Notre Dame in South Bend, the career of the once-promising passer looked over.

Then Jay Norvell took over at play caller and Swoopes took off in the 18-Wheeler package, scoring a touchdown on four carries against the Sooners and adding another crucial touchdown pass to secure the 24-17 upset.

All of a sudden, the formerly demure Swoopes developed some confidence.

"I think that last year, with the package that we put in for him, he's had some success with it and that, more than anything, helps him with his overall attitude and how he really feels about himself," head coach Charlie Strong said during the spring.

"So now when you watch him take the field, he has that confidence about him, which I didn't think he had last season. Now he has that confidence factor there, now it's more or less now, 'Hey, I know I can do this now. Now it's about me going to go get it done.'"

Indeed, Swoopes found a role on the team as he finally discovered the impact he could have as a tough, downhill runner, ultimately contributing to the modest success during the 2015 season with 451 rushing yards on 6.1 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns.

Swoopes even led Texas to a season-ending victory over Baylor in Waco with an efficient performance that included two touchdowns.

All of a sudden, he was becoming a vocal leader and a catalyzing force on the team.

The other reality lost in all the inconsistency and overthrown passes is the fact that Swoopes has had some big-time moment in burnt orange.

Remember the comeback against Oklahoma in the 2014 Cotton Bowl that fell just short? The game-winning passes against Iowa State in the same season?

Once upon a time, Swoopes was force to be reckoned with in up-tempo situations, but never had a chance to consistency play fast to get into a rhythm.

Under new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert, the fourth person in four years to call plays for the Swoopes finally has the opportunity to generate that same type of rhythm against any opponent in any scenario courtesy of Gilbert’s approach to the game.

The quick passes help the senior find a groove with that scattershot accuracy, while the emphasis on a physical running game highlights the best of Swoopes and the Smash Brothers, junior running back D’Onta Foreman and sophomore running back Chris Warren.

"Some of the passes are just quick passes," said Foreman. "It helps the quarterback get into a rhythm. Sometimes last year, the plays took a while to develop, and I feel like the quarterback couldn't get into a good rhythm like they wanted to get into at first. So now this, we get quick passes and then we might go downfield or whatever."

In sum, the offense with Swoopes behind center opens up the power running game that head coach Charlie Strong so desires, but can’t run with freshman Shane Buechele.

"I think this offense, it caters to his style of play," said Foreman. "Tyrone always has positive energy. He may get down sometimes if he's not playing well, but for the most part it's short-lived. He's always trying to boost the team and be positive about everything."

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Texas Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

If the running game doesn’t produce the necessary big plays, Swoopes should have the ability to hit tall, explosive wide receivers like sophomore John Burt and freshman Collin Johnson in the passing game, as he’s demonstrated in practice with an improved ability to avoid overthrows and put the football where the receivers can get up and get it.

With a rapidly-expanding group of targets who can do exactly that, it becomes increasingly easier to understand why Swoopes could start the opener.

Teammates like Foreman have certainly taken notice.

"When I talk to Tyrone, you can see him and his competitiveness and just trying to go out there and make all the right throws. He's changed so much, just with the passes he makes, the accuracy."

So maybe it’s time to give him one last chance.

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