HD Analysis: How does Texas respond?

How will Texas respond to the news QB David Ash has suffered another head injury and will miss the BYU game Saturday and that fifth-year center Dom Espinosa is having surgery Wednesday to repair a fractured right ankle? We dive in with an HD Analysis:

Texas' entire season outlook undoubtedly changed Monday when Charlie Strong first announced fifth-year senior center Dom Espinosa will have surgery Wednesday to repair a fractured right ankle and then dropped the headline that could rock the 2014 season:

"David Ash won't play this week," Strong said.

Strong said Ash began suffering concussion symptoms - headaches and dizziness - after UT's 38-7 victory over North Texas and believes it was the result of a hit he took when he dove on a fumbled snap in the first half of the game.

Tyrone Swoopes will be the starter at QB against BYU. The same Swoopes who might have been moved to tight end if Max Wittek had graduated from USC and transferred to Texas.

"Tyrone is big and physical," Strong said. "Now, it's just about making the throws. And he's never been in total command of the offense. That will be different for him. So we'll get him ready."

Strong said OT Desmond Harrison will return from suspension this week vs BYU ( WR Daje Johnson and S Josh Turner will not) and that the offensive line should solidify in front of Swoopes.

Harrison and Kennedy Estelle will start at the tackle positions. Sed Flowers and Kent Perkins will be at guard and Jake Raulerson will be at center. Swoopes and Raulerson have worked together a lot on the second-team offense.

Strong said the leadership on offense now has to come from the team's running backs - Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown.

And Strong said he won't be looking to yank Swoopes for true freshman Jerrod Heard at the first sign of trouble.

"We have to have confidence built," Strong said of Swoopes. "You can't just pull him. There's enough around him where he doesn't have to do it all."

In the spring game, Swoopes got off to a rocky start, throwing an interception on his first possession. At halftime, Strong said he told Swoopes, "You're a good player. Now, go out there and play the way you're capable of playing."

Swoopes played much better in the second half, throwing two TD passes.

The knocks on Swoopes are that he just lacks overall confidence because he played at tiny Whitewright High School and didn't have winning records there. That he takes to long to recognize things (and now won't have Dom Espinosa to help him) and that he holds the ball too long and then isn't accurate on short and intermediate throws when he finally releases the ball.

Coaches tried to simplify things for Swoopes in the spring (when Ash was out with a foot injury) by cutting the field in half with rollouts, boots and nakeds.

Behind the scenes, we were hearing if Ash is out for a short time (a game or two) it would be Swoopes at QB but that if Ash was out for an extended time, the coaches would probably turn to the freshman Heard (who has much more presence and is a gifted runner but also needs work in the passing game) and live with Heard's mistakes.

Strong was peppered with questions about how no one knew Ash had suffered a head-injury-causing hit in the first half and was still playing late in the fourth quarter.

Strong said when he talked to Ash throughout the game he never indicated that he had taken a hit that would cause concern. Strong indicated that players often keep injuries to themselves because of their love of the game.

When asked if Strong would step in and keep Ash from ever playing football at Texas again. Strong said Texas' medical staff is the best and will take every precaution.

"I'm not going to approach it like he's not going to be here," Strong said. "I don't know what they are evaluating.

But Strong added: "We can never ever jeopardize a young man's health to win a game. That will never happen."

It was against BYU last year when Ash first suffered a concussion that forced him to miss the following game (against Ole Miss). When Ash returned in Game 3 of 2013 vs Kansas State, he suffered another concussion that caused him to miss the final 10 games.

When told Texas fans would be holding their breath every time he took a hit this season, Ash said before the North Texas game he was relying on his faith to carry him.

Four of Texas' next five games are against BYU, UCLA, Baylor and Oklahoma. Strong could sense the panic even in the questions being asked of him with regard to Ash's injury.

"We have a football team to coach, and we have to go play," Strong said. "Other players have to step up. With Tyrone, you're going to have to tweak the offense some. How much, I don't know. But he can handle it. We'll get it fixed."

Strong has been training the minds of his players to be different the past 8 months. Now, we'll see how far along this team is from the one that folded against BYU last year to the one that can probably hear the words "toughness and togetherness" in their sleep.

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MY TAKE: The offense will have to be simplified for Swoopes. The problem you run into is that part of Swoopes' strengths are QB running plays. But the more you run the QB now, the more he's exposed to the possibility of injury.

But Strong is right. The coaches and players need to rally around Swoopes as if he's the second-coming and take an us-against-the-world mindset and hope the Texas defense is really pissed off and ready to show how far its come from last year's Pulverizing in Provo when UT gave up 550 yards rushing (a school record for BYU and a school record in the wrong direction for Texas).

Everyone knew the potential was there that Ash could suffer another head injury and be lost. It's here now. And that's complicated by the loss of Dom Espinosa and Espinosa's ability to read the defense and help calm the huddle.

As Strong said, the leadership on offense will now start with running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown. They will have to keep pumping Swoopes' confidence before, during and after any adversity that strikes in the BYU game.

More will be counted on from the Texas defense, and the Longhorns could use some plays on special teams to generate offense - something that did not happen in Game 1.

"We have enough to work with," Strong said.

Strong and strength coach Pat Moorer pride themselves in training minds to handle adversity.

With Ash and Espinosa out, adversity - huge adversity - is here, aleady, heading into Game 2.

Strong knows from Monday's press conference that everyone will run out in the streets and scream the sky has fallen on Texas football. The only people Strong has to convince it hasn't are in his locker room.

If he does that - and Strong will see it as the ultimate challenge and opportunity for his team to show college football just how tough the Strong Horns really are - all the other noise won't matter.


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