When Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong met with the media last Tuesday, it was hardly surprising that redshirting freshman Jerrod Heard came up as a topic of conversation after the horrific performance from sophomore starter Tyrone Swoopes against TCU.
The last update on Heard was play caller Shawn Watson saying in late November that his young passer was "starting to get it."
For a coaching staff that has been willing and able to look at the long-term trajectories of its players, redshirting Heard was always a priority because putting an unfinished product on the field when unnecessary "would make us look like what we say is not what we mean or what we deliver," according to Watson.
Contrast that to the reasoning for playing last year from former head coach Mack Brown -- that Swoopes had to play because there weren't any other back ups. In a quest for a Big 12 title that was probably always illusionary because the two best teams on the conference schedule came in the two last games, that was understandable for Brown but ultimately to the detriment of Swoopes and the program.
Strong and Watson have the critical latitude not to worry about a few handoffs or simple plays from the back up in case of an injury.
So Heard has kept his redshirt and worked on understanding the offense and worked on understanding college coverages.
"The thing about Jerrod is, when you come and you have to face it each and every day and it moves so fast for you sometimes, you've just got to slow him down, and it's going to happen for him," Strong said. "It's a development stage, and he's developed because Shawn Watson has done a great job coaching quarterbacks. We'll just continue to coach him."
All the continued coaching in the name of ensuring the highest level of competition in the spring. In limited context, there's a junior wide receiver who believes:
Texas WR Marcus Johnson effusive in praise of backup QB Jerrod Heard, who he said "will prove why he won two state championships."— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) December 16, 2014
To be clear, Johnson wasn't endorsing Heard over Swoopes, but said, "We need competition and he'll definitely bring that."— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) December 16, 2014
The winning pedigree of Heard enabled some of the outsized expectations for the freshman entering the program and could remain as a critical ingredient for a tough-minded demeanor and unshakable confidence that would set Heard apart from Swoopes, whose slump-shouldered attitude through much of the game against TCU drew serious ire from his head coach.
At the same time, Swoopes has a much higher physical upside as a passer than Heard, who has a significant advantage in quickness.
Neither one is a savior since Watson has admitted that his freshman is behind the curve that Teddy Bridgewater set.
But actually having competition this spring will be the start to finding improved play at the quarterback position.