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Texas QB Jerrod Heard getting significant reps in practice

An update on the back-up true freshman signal caller.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The last time that Texas Longhorns true freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard was a topic of conversation, head coach Charlie Strong was affirming after the Baylor game that sophomore Tyrone Swoopes would remain the starter moving forward.

Since then, Swoopes has turned in two impressive individual performances in the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma and at home against Iowa State, throwing for 355 yards and three touchdowns and adding 145 yards and two more touchdowns on the ground.

Suffice it to say that the sophomore is now entrenched as the starter.

That fact, however, didn't keep a beat writer from asking Texas play caller Shawn Watson on Tuesday about the 247Sports' top dual-threat quarterback prospect in the nation from the 2014 recruiting class.

And while Watson didn't really have a progress report on Heard, he did mention that the 6'2, 199-pounder is getting a lot of work during the week.

"The way we practice, you've heard me talk about the way we practice with our backups," Watson said. "Our two guy gets a lot of reps, our twos in general get a lot of reps, so we've been able to bring him along. He's actually been sharing reps in 7-on-7 because of the way we practice 7-on-7, so he's gotten that against the defense. He's gotten against the look that we're getting ready to play, for example the opponent this week -- Kansas State. Then he gets a scout period, also. He gets the majority of them, he gets all of the two reps."

There's also time for individual coaching from Watson during other portions of practice, the important mental reps that will allow Heard to develop a deep grasp of the Texas offense.

"What we try to do is when Ty[rone Swoopes] is going in and we're out of that type of realm of practice, because there's times when we put 'good on good' when we do competitive drills, ones on twos, twos on ones, he's with me. I talk him through and have him give me the mental aspect before Ty runs it, and then he obviously goes out and runs the offense, this week, for example, against K-State, against our defense to give him a faster look."

During games, Heard isn't on a headset because Watson wants him watching and observing instead of paying attention to the conversation between the coaches.

That still doesn't answer the question of where the young passer is on the developmental curve, but the lack of concrete information there isn't overly surprising given Strong's response to those questions several weeks ago.

"I don't know if it's fair to throw him in there right now and just say what he can't do," Strong said after the Baylor game. "We just haven't had a chance yet to even talk about even putting him out there in that picture yet."

What else has Heard been up to recently besides taking all of those reps in practice?

A recent 40-yard dash time, perhaps? That was the perspective from the media folks who saw the tweet on Monday.

But while Heard is certainly fast, a 4.3 40 is a little bit absurd, though not impossible to attain when in front of coaches who may have an itchy trigger finger on the hand-timed runs.

At one point, the athletic advantage that Heard possesses over Swoopes as a straight-line runner and in change-of-direction ability was an important selling point for those who wanted to see the younger player in action. Now, with the installation of a bigger quarterback run package that is better featuring the athletic ability that Swoopes does have, those calls have subsided.

For now, Heard will have a chance to learn from Watson, whose stock as a quarterbacks coach is increasing in concert with the rapid development of Swoopes, and sit out his true freshman season, a luxury that Swoopes did not have last season.

Barring an injury to Swoopes, a year of Heard's eligibility won't be burned and that's the best thing for him and for the Texas program.