Forgive us for thinking that it must be September 20, 2015 once again.
In the heady aftermath of former Texas Longhorns quarterback Jerrod Heard’s incredible performance against the California Golden Bears that included a late touchdown run that should have tied the game, Heard looked like the next big thing in college football.
A dynamic runner, he looked like the answer to years of quarterback problems on the 40 Acres.
And then he proved that he wasn’t, which is why the current chorus of calls for a triumphant return to the position are extraordinarily silly — why would anything be different this time?
As advanced scouting caught up with Heard, who was once ranked as the consensus No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the country, the returns on his rushing ability diminished quickly. And he never showed that he could read defenses and consistently make the right plays with his arm.
Heard went over 100 rushing yards in the upset of Oklahoma that season, but failed to break that mark, or even approach, during the second half of the season.
Against Oklahoma State and TCU he averaged 2.5 and 1.9 yards per carry, respectively. Nine carries against Iowa State produced only 13 yards. By the end of the season, he carried the ball seven times for a loss of one yard in the final two games.
Through the air, things weren’t much better — he averaged 2.4 yards per attempt on 20 passes against TCU and 2.9 yards per attempt against Iowa State.
Ultimately, Heard finished the season with five touchdowns and five interceptions passing.
By August of the following year, he switched positions to wide receiver, realizing that he could have a greater impact on the team catching passes instead of throwing them.
When head coach Tom Herman arrived last November, he never once gave any public indication that Heard was going to receive a full evaluation at quarterback.
When the team entered spring practice with only two scholarship quarterbacks, Herman never gave any indication that he thought Heard was anything more than an emergency option capable of running a handful of plays to get Texas out of a game.
When the team entered fall camp with only two scholarship quarterbacks, Herman never gave any indication that he felt differently about Heard than he had since his arrival.
Even after the shoulder injury suffered by starting quarterback Shane Buechele that will keep him out of practice on Tuesday, and possibly longer, Herman didn’t provide any indication that he’s considering a full-time position switch for Heard.
“We'll have to move Jerrod back there to kind of do double duty a little bit,” Herman said. “But he'll get a lot of reps at the two quarterback spot. And then, but still get some of his reps at receiver.”
Herman did say that back up Sam Ehlinger is as close to being ready to play as “any true freshman I've ever been around.”
And Heard has spent the last year working almost exclusively at quarterback after missing some reps during spring practice in 2016, including sitting out the Orange-White game.
In other words, even if he might have been expected to improve as a quarterback, he hasn’t had the opportunity and only knows the offense run by Tom Herman and coordinator Tim Beck in terms of what it asks of him as a wide receiver and emergency quarterback with a handful of plays available.
So while Heard may be forced into action this season, and perhaps even forced to move back to quarterback, there’s nothing to indicate that he’s a better option than Buechele or Ehlinger.