Jerrod Heard Not Ready To Be UT QB?

The question in Charlie Strong’s mind does not appear to be whether he should burn Jerrod Heard's redshirt at quarterback if Tyrone Swoopes continues to struggle. But rather can Heard close the gap on Swoopes as a passer?

I'm told Heard is so far behind Swoopes as a passer that there could be real questions about if Heard will be able to play quarterback at the DI level unless he improves in that area by leaps and bounds.

The ideal situation at quarterback for Texas in Strong’s mind appears to be for Swoopes to continue to progress, because he has a cannon arm and would be the team's most experienced option in 2015 while Zach Gentry redshirts.

"Tyrone can throw the 15-yard out from the far hash, and the ball gets there in a snap," one source said. "He has NFL-caliber arm strength. And when he's settled down and steps into his throws, he's accurate. Last week, he was off.

"And the defenses are only going to come up with more looks to confuse him as they study more of his film. He's got to continue to study and grow and do more and more of that to keep up."

If Swoopes stalls out, there is a very good chance Texas would turn to the JUCO ranks to find a quarterback as an insurance policy for 2015.

The initial plan was to have Max Wittek come as a graduate transfer from USC and battle David Ash for the QB job - both with two years of eligibility. Under that concept, there was a very good chance of Swoopes moving to tight end.

Now, Swoopes is the one being developed with an eye toward the future at QB, while Heard may struggle to play quarterback at Texas in a pro-style offense.

Some will find this post hard to stomach and may not choose to believe it. But this is what we're being told.

Please read the next two chunks of text to get the view point of a college football coach who also recruited Jerrod Heard and agreed to speak to HD on condition of anonymity.

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HEARD NOT READY TO START … BUT WHAT ABOUT SPOT DUTY?

I had a long talk with a college football coach (not at Texas) who also recruited Jerrod Heard to play for him. And he had some interesting thoughts on what to do with Heard.

First, he wasn’t surprised when I told him that it appeared the Texas staff thought Heard was way behind as a DI passer.

“Jerrod is a zone-read, quarterback-option guy,” the coach said. “He’s a truly gifted runner. And when Mack Brown recruited him, it was a clear message to me that Texas was going back to try to recapture the zone-read success it had with Vince Young.

“At Denton Guyer, Jerrod just didn’t throw the number or kinds of passes a guy like Kenny Hill threw at Southlake Carroll. In many ways, Jerrod is kind of like Michael Vick – a talented, talented runner and raw passer who can throw a nice deep ball.

“But he’s had so little time working in a passing offense that for him to get the concepts down that Shawn Watson wants him to master, it’s going to take a while. Probably this whole season.”

But the college coach said he doesn’t understand why there’s not a package of 8-15 plays, centered around QB option, that Heard could come in and run as a change of pace that could provide a spark. The coach said those plays are probably already getting repped in practice in case Swoopes is injured and Heard has to take over.

“Having two quarterbacks who do completely different things is hell on a defense,” the college coach said. “And Swoopes and Heard are completely different. Swoopes is a passer. Heard is more of a runner. But there has to be a handful of bootleg or rollout throws that Heard can handle with a run-pass option.

“There’s no doubt in my mind Jerrod could handle that. And it would give defenses a lot to think about to have Heard in there as a runner. Those runs that Swoopes takes for 4 or 5 yards, Heard would take for 20 or 30 yards. And that Texas offense is desperate for explosive plays. I mean, right now, there’s absolutely no explosiveness.

“And that defense needs some hope. They’re fighting like hell, and they keep looking up at a scoreboard without any points.”

The coach said it’s not fair to the rest of the team or to Heard if there’s some way Heard could be helping Texas currently while gaining some experience to compete for the job next season.

“If they’re truly concerned about if Jerrod can master the pro-style offense and might even be thinking of moving him to a new position, then see what he’s got now, even as a running quarterback. Let him show you. Some kids just have a great feel for the game and make plays, and I think Jerrod might fit into that category.

“And you can sell it to Tyrone that mixing in Heard for a play or a series at quarterback is purely a way to confuse the defense.”

The college coach said Shawn Watson’s experience working with Taylor Martinez at Nebraska in 2010 (Martinez was a redshirt freshman) would be similar to what he’d be dealing with in Jerrod Heard.

“Martinez was a raw passer, but his running ability was so explosive, he just paralyzed defenses,” the coach said. “Martinez was a 4.47 guy, and Heard is about the same. Martinez ran for nearly 1,000 yards his first year at quarterback at Nebraska.

“You have Heard run some zone read with Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown, and suddenly you free up those backs to make plays. You add the speed sweep series that Texas ran under Major Applewhite with Heard at quarterback and Daje Johnson or Armanti Foreman constantly in motion – and the defense has to pause for a split second to see if those speed guys are going to get the ball. If Heard hands it off or keeps it, you’ve got a speed guy with the ball.

“That stuff loosens up the box. It gives your blockers a little edge. It creates better running lanes and worse tackling angles for the defense. I’d almost be surprised if they haven’t been working on all that to spring on Oklahoma this week.

“This would be a perfect time to spring something like that on Mike and Bob Stoops. Otherwise, they’re just going to send Eric Striker and Charles Tapper after Tyrone Swoopes all day. And if Swoopes was jarred by getting hit by Baylor, wait until Saturday at the Cotton Bowl.”

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WOULD STRONG REFUSE TO CHANGE UP THE OFFENSE?

The college coach who offered his thoughts about Jerrod Heard also noted that it seems like Charlie Strong is being stubborn about various aspects of the offense – “as if he has three years to get things right on that side of the ball.”

“The various things they’ve done on offense makes you think Charlie Strong has told Shawn Watson to just keep building a pro-style offense whether they have the personnel to run it or not,” the coach said.

But that can backfire, the coach said.

“They were running basic running concepts into an eight- and nine-man box at Kansas,” the coach said. “That was either a boot-camp exercise in trying to toughen an inexperienced offensive line and a couple pretty special running backs. Or it was some of the most unimaginative play-calling you’ll see at a big-time program.

“Where is the misdirection? The counters and traps? The zone blocking one way and bootlegging the other? The speed sweeps and fake speed sweeps? With Tyrone Swoopes behind that line, you’d think the misdirection stuff would be their bread-and-butter.

“Instead, you’ve seen a lot of basic running plays where the coaches are expecting these inexperienced lineman to just beat their man. And the results have been ugly. If Charlie’s trying to prove a point to his linemen, that can be done in practice every day. Texas fans expect to see the coach trying to do everything possible to score points and get this team at least six wins and a bowl game.”

At some point, Texas’ lack of identity on offense could start to hurt recruiting – and it may be happening already – with Texas 2015 commits WR John Burt and RB Jordan Stevenson taking other visits.

“Charlie told uncommitted recruits to wait and see Texas’ product before making a decision,” the coach said. “Even though, David Ash and their center (Dom Espinosa) got hurt, you had to anticipate Ash might not make it based on his history. You probably should have prepared Swoopes to be the starter all camp with Ash’s injury history.

“And you had to be working to get (Jerrod) Heard ready for whatever plays he could operate comfortably – even if it’s a small number. But Charlie seems to be saying to Watson, ‘Don’t worry about changing things up or rushing Heard out there, just install the offense. We get a pass this year.’

“There’s only so much of a non-scoring offense Texas fans will watch before they’ll think, ‘Charlie doesn’t know what he’s doing on offense’ or ‘Charlie has the wrong guys running his offense.’

“And that may not be a fair assessment of Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline, who’ve both been a part of hugely successful offenses. But Texas can try a few more things on offense, even mixing in Heard to see if he generates any kind of spark.”

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