Usually, during winter conditioning, he has his quarterbacks work with linebackers in the “Big Skills” group. Receivers, running backs and defensive backs are in the “Skills” group and then there is also a “Linemen” group for the big fellas.
Well, he had come to a point where he was tired of seeing Tyrone Swoopes work with the linebackers and not a group that would test him more athletically.
“I said ‘I’m tired of you working with the big skills,’” Strong said. “’I’m going to place you with the skilled guys.’”
But Swoopes is listed on the spring roster as being 6-foot-4 and 243 pounds. He’s not exactly known for being fleet-of-foot. Could that move do more damage than good?
“He didn’t back away at all,” Strong said. “He’s winning most of the races. He’s beating our skilled guys.”
Whoever those skilled guys are that Swoopes beat might have some explaining to do. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that the junior, who struggled mightily in his first season as a full-time starter, is working extra hard to ensure he gets another opportunity to right his wrongs.
That move Swoopes made also forced Jerrod Heard’s hand. He immediately jumped over to the “Skills” group without even being asked or told to when Swoopes moved.
"I turned around and looked and he says, ‘I'm going with the skill guys,'” Strong said.
It was exactly what Strong wanted to see from the redshirt freshman, and former five-star recruit, who so many are hoping will take over as UT’s starter.
Now Strong is hoping that one of them will separate his self from the other by the time the Orange-White Game is over on April 18.
“You’d like to have a good feel by end of spring,” Strong said. “Don’t be afraid to separate yourself from other players. Don’t be afraid to make a move. There’s nothing wrong with it. You can’t always bring your friends with you. There needs to be separation. Don’t worry about it if you have to separate. Too many times we act like we are going to hurt somebody’s feelings.”
Maybe a few hurt feelings wouldn’t be such a bad thing. After all, the ultimate goal of the team is to win games, which they only did 5 out of 12 times in Strong’s first season.
“Being mediocre is not acceptable,” he said. “At some point we have to get to them.”
The message seems to have stuck with Swoopes, who has been reportedly doing whatever it takes to keep his starting job.
Heard, we’ve heard, is working hard as well but sources tell us the coaching staff would still like to see more of a sense of urgency from him. They want him to take ownership of his situation, of the position he’s in.
That’s a theme Strong and his staff would like to erase from the program. He’s yet to put the “T” back in “Texas” but will continue to push for that toughness/togetherness this spring.
“We talked about pride within this program, representing this program,” Strong said. “It’s an investment. There’s not enough pride. The energy isn’t there. We have to build it this spring.”
Strong did say that he would play two quarterbacks if the two were too close by the time they have to board a plane for South Bend for the team’s season opener against Notre Dame on Sept. 5. It’s not ideal but it could happen.
Although Swoopes was the starter last season both he and Heard will get starter’s reps this spring.
“Going into spring practice we will give them equal reps and give them a chance to compete against each other,” Strong said. “In fairness to Tyrone we struggled on offense, trying to put together an offensive line. We weren’t able to run the football. This spring it will be opened up and they will be able to compete against each other.”
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