KOD: Jerrod Heard and Texas' QB battle

There is a major shift going on in the offensive philosophy at Texas. When spring football starts on March 25, it will be all about the dual-threat QB and the QB run game.

It wasn’t that way at this time last year.

Back then, it was all about David Ash, the anticipated transfer of Max Wittek upon graduation from USC and the looming commitment of 4-star QB Zach Gentry, who also fit the pro-style mold.

Those days are gone.

The QBs now are Jerrod Heard, Kai Locksley and Tyrone Swoopes – all of whom have the ability to make big plays with their legs as well as throw. That will be reflected in the offense in 2015. And it will be reflected in Texas' recruiting in 2016.

Matthew Merrick, a Colt McCoy starter kit, remains a gray-shirt candidate for 2016.

Shane Buechele remains a top target.

But the focus is likely to intensify on dual-threat QBs such as Xavier Gaines (6-2, 206) of Frostproof, Fla., a cousin of incoming Texas LB Cecil Cherry, and Jalen Hurts (6-2, 188) of Channelview.

The pressure is on Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline as Texas tries to reshape its identity on offense and find its QB of the future.

In the opinion of the Kiss of the Death, 2015 has to be about finding the quarterback of the future in an offense that can ultimately put Texas in position to compete for a championship in 2016.

Many will look at what TCU coach Gary Patterson did in turning away from a pro-style mindset that averaged 25.1 ppg in 2013 to a spread attack that finished second nationally in scoring (46.5 ppg) in 2014 in a 12-1 season.

The biggest difference between TCU’s makeover and any transformation Texas makes offensively is the level of experience at quarterback. Trevone Boykin was entering his third season of game experience. Tyrone Swoopes has started 12 games with a 5-7 record.

Heard and Locksley obviously have zero college game experience.

And, as of right now, the Kiss of Death feels Heard has to be the frontrunner to start at quarterback when Texas plays at Notre Dame on Sept. 5.

Why?

Because Heard is a more dynamic runner than Swoopes and is more polished as a passer than Locksley. Heard and Locksley also have more demonstrative personalities, making them more natural leaders than the introverted Swoopes. 

 

THE KNOCK ON JERROD HEARD

 

The knock on Heard was that he didn’t make enough progress in his redshirt season, because he didn’t absorb what was being taught to him and didn’t show the kind of work ethic on his own time (extra film room work, attention to detail, progress as a passer, etc).

If Heard is going to be the starting quarterback at Texas, his sense of urgency, work ethic and attention to detail is going to have to ramp way up – even with the offense being retooled to feature his strengths. That’s not a reason to relax. That’s a reason to work even harder.

For some competitors, a redshirt season can take away a player’s fire – rather than enhance it. They don’t see immediate opportunity, so they relax.

The hope is with playing time and a starting job on the line, Heard’s competitive fire will ignite in a big way.

And with a running QB, it’s hard to know exactly what you have in practice, because the defense isn’t allowed to hit him.

 

WHERE DOES SWOOPES FIT IN?

 

I think the backup – at least early on – is likely to be Swoopes, simply because of his experience in starting 12 games. And while Swoopes has a big, strong arm, he proved to be an incredibly inconsistent runner.

At times, he attacked the line of scrimmage, such as the Iowa State game in which Swoopes took over the fourth quarter with his legs, rushing for 55 of his game-leading 95 yards.

At other times, he looked like he dreaded contact, giving on zone reads when the read was clearly for him to keep the ball. Coaches have indicated Swoopes wasn’t told pre-snap whether to keep or give.

At 6-5, 245 pounds, Swoopes has to be willing to use his size and strength to lower his shoulder and try to run through a defender when 2 or 3 yards are needed on third down to move the chains.

In the TCU game, Swoopes didn’t do that. Instead, he tried to cut back and get around a defender when he needed 2 more yards on third down. Swoopes lacks get-the-corner speed and came up well short of the first down. Punt.

Obviously, the offense is going to change to feature more of the QB run game. But that seems to favor Heard and Locksley more than Swoopes, because they are more sudden as runners than Swoopes. And can Swoopes instill confidence in his teammates, when he just seemed to lack a winner’s mentality.

Sure, a chunk of Swoopes’ inconsistency or confidence loss is going to be attributed to a new coaching staff trying to find an identity with an offense initially designed for Ash and Wittek that lacked talent and depth up front.

Let’s see how competition causes Swoopes to approach the job – competition that was lacking last season. Let’s see how competition affects everyone in the most important position battle on the team. 

Right now, the Kiss of Death’s eyes are on Jerrod Heard and just how seriously he decides to approach the possibility of being the starting QB at Texas.

 

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