This Saturday night when the Texas Longhorns tee it up against the Kansas Jayhawks, Tyrone Swoopes should be back under center for Texas.
Stop laughing and hear me out.
We have learned two things over the last week. First, Jerrod Heard is not yet the dual threat Texas needs at quarterback. He is an electric athlete with tons of potential, but he is not ready to take on even moderately good FBS defenses.
Two, Texas will have to throw the ball if they want to have any chance of winning a game outside of Kansas the rest of the year. With a bowl game still a remote possibility, they need to do whatever it takes to get there. After all, mailing it in and playing for next year would send a horrible message to a team that already has a bad habit of mailing in their performances.
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Iowa State showed the college football world exactly how bad the Texas offense is once you contain Heard and force the Longhorns to throw the ball. You can bet our last four opponents will attempt to duplicate what the Cyclones did. Kansas may not have the horses to pull it off, but the other three do.
This then is the perfect time for the Longhorn coaching staff to demonstrate some anticipation (!) and put Swoopes back in and give him a chance to work through his issues and gain some confidence. Swoopes is the only legitimate passing threat on this team and if we were to mix in some 18 Wheeler run plays and a healthy dose of two back power running, the Texas offense might get back on track.
After that, Swoopes led Texas to victories over both West Virginia and Tech last year and both games become much more winnable if Texas can establish some kind of offense. We can’t hope to win a shootout with either team, but a ball control offense with a reasonable ability to pass could control the clock enough to give Texas a fighting chance.
If they stick with Heard, I don’t see that happening. Jay Norvell and Charlie Strong can’t blame poor weather or heavy balls for Heard’s performance against Iowa State. In fact, any semblance of a downfield passing game has been missing since Oklahoma State first thought to contain Heard and force him to win with his arm. The failure of OU to do the same thing is still mind boggling. If Texas remains the one dimensional force that they’ve been since Big 12 play began, then all hope is lost. Ready yourself for 4-8 and a long offseason.
Yes, going back to Swoopes could ignite a quarterback controversy. Strong needs to win and should go with whichever quarterback gives him the best chance to do that. At this point, I think Swoopes is a better option. With Swoopes, we at least know that the capability is there. We’ve seen how good he can be when he puts it all together. It was likely that tantalizing proposition that led Shawn Watson to go with Swoopes to begin the year. It looks like he might have been right all along.
We all made the mistake of thinking that Heard was the answer based on two games against two of the poorer defenses on our schedule. It was easy to do because Heard looked so good in those first two games. However, Heard has been a non-factor throwing the ball since then, and though his escapability makes him dangerous, once you take away that ability, as Iowa State did, Heard brings little to the table.
At this point, even if they decided to go to the dreaded two quarterback system, the coaching staff has to find a way to generate some offense. Neither player has done enough to claim the job as his own. Even if you do decide that this year is a lost cause and begin playing for next year, why not start the quarterback battle now?
The worst case scenario is that Texas takes advantage of their weak opponent this weekend and decides to ride Heard and the running game to an easy win (shades of2011). The staff fools themselves into thinking they’ve figured it out. Then they find themselves right back in the muck next week against West Virginia when the caliber of opponent improves.
If they don’t at least try to get Swoopes some kind of meaningful playing time this weekend, they might as well forget it going forward. You don’t want to try to rebuild his confidence in a hard fought game against teams fighting for their bowl lives. I don’t believe Swoopes is a savoir for Texas, nor is he the long-term answer at quarterback. He could still be an important player on this team, though. This is the time to find out and they need to do it.