Spring football concluded at Texas without a single TD pass being thrown in the Orange-White Game. So are the Texas Longhorns, who went 6-7 in an offensively challenged 2014 season, any better on offense ... or at QB?

Minutes after Texas' 15 spring practices concluded with Tyrone Swoopes going 17 of 31 passing for 159 yards (6 carries for 16 yards, 1 TD) primarily against a battered second-team defense and after Jerrod Heard went 20 of 29 passing for 177 yards (12 carries for 15 yards, 1 TD), Charlie Strong said Swoopes was still the team's No. 1 QB.

"Tyrone came into the spring as the starter, and I don't know if Jerrod has done enough to just unseat him," Strong said. "I said he (Heard) closed the gap, and he has."

When Strong was asked if he had ruled out a graduate transfer quarterback, Strong didn't say he had. He simply said no such quarterbacks had contacted Texas.

When asked if he'd be afraid to start a redshirt freshman at Notre Dame, Strong said, "I wouldn't be afraid of that. I hope I don't have to go into that game and start a redshirt freshman at quarterback."

Swoopes took it all as a vote of confidence.

"Yeah, that helps your confidence," said Swoopes, who somehow outran Malik Jefferson to the corner on his 14-yard TD run in the first quarter.

But Heard said the success he's had in the spring, including Shawn Watson saying Heard's development was the biggest thing to happen to the entire team, will only drive him more.

"I just want to keep pressing forward," Heard said. "There's a lot of work to do."

There's a very good chance Texas will play both QBs in the Notre Dame game. Strong has alluded to that this spring, saying they've both worked and improved enough to earn that. Swoopes sounded surprised at the idea.

"That's the first I've heard of that, so I don't know," Swoopes said.

"That's up to the coaches," Heard said. "But I'll be ready when my number is called."

When I asked Swoopes how Heard had improved, he said Heard has settled down after becoming more knowledgeable about the offense.

"There were times in the past, when he'd just be too excited and his timing was off," Swoopes said. "Now, he knows where to go with the ball."

Heard said the biggest improvement in the team this spring came in "overall chemistry."

"When you go in that locker room, it's a tight group of players," Heard said.

Heard stared down receivers on Saturday and suffered one INT by Bryson Echols and could have suffered a couple more that were dropped.

"I've got to keep getting better in all areas of the offense. The game's still pretty fast for me," Heard said, acknowledging his mistakes.

Swoopes said he'd like to have some throws back from Saturday's spring game as well. Swoopes was intercepted by S Dylan Haines, but there was an illegal hands to the face call on the defense that negated the INT.

"I got lucky on that one because of the flag," Swoopes said.

Heard is far and away the more sudden runner of the two QBs. Heard was asked if he's faster than Swoopes, and Heard smiled and said, "We've never raced."

The question has always been about Heard's ability to make good decisions in the passing game.

Heard started off Saturday 9-of-9 passing:

1) 10 yards to WR Ty Templin

2) 7 yards to TE Andrew Beck

3) 5 yards to Templin

4) 15 yards to Templin

5) 2 yards to Beck

6) 21 yards to Daje Johnson

7) 1 yard to Gaston Davis

8) Minus-4 yard pass to Gaston Davis

9) 9 yards to Trenton Hafley

... Heard also had 4 carries for 25 yards before throwing his first incomplete pass, including a 12-yard TD run on his first carry of the spring game. As the first-team defense adjusted, it got harder for Heard to make yards on the ground.

Swoopes' first two passes of the game were dropped by Dorian Leonard, who also dropped maybe Swoopes' best pass of the game, a perfect, 49-yarder into the end zone that Leonard caught but failed to control when he hit the ground.

"I wish he would have hung onto that one," Swoopes said.

Strong joked that he was just happy to have two scholarship quarterbacks to play in this year's spring game.

Last year, with David Ash out with a foot injury, the spring game QBs were Swoopes and former WR Myles Onyegbule.

"After watching last year's spring game, I thought, 'Man, it's going to be a long year,'" Strong said.

So what gives Strong confidence that this year's offense will be better with Swoopes and/or Heard?

"I see improvement in the offensive line," Strong said. "I see improvement at the receiver position. I see an offense now that really showcases his (Swoopes) skills where the coaches are making the checks for him. 

"Whether it's Tyrone or Jerrod, a lot of the checks are going to be made from the sideline. So they don't have to make a lot of reads - just go get the ball out of their hands and into the hands of the play-makers and let the tempo take its toll on the defense."

All in all, Texas got what it needed from its QBs in the spring game.

It needed both quarterbacks to look comfortable in UT's new, up-tempo, spread offense against depleted defenses missing eight players - DE Caleb Bluiett (knee), CB Sheroid Evans (knee), DT Desmond Jackson (foot), DT Chris Nelson (shoulder), DE Derick Roberson (shoulder), CB Jermaine Roberts (knee), LB Dalton Santos (ankle) and CB Duke Thomas (ankle).

They needed hope to emerge from the new offense and from the QB position on Saturday.

Even without a single TD pass in the spring game, it felt like there were enough plays made (and even some that should have been made - yes, you Dorian Leonard) to give the rest of the locker room hope that things will be better offensively in 2015. 

After the TCU and Arkansas games to end last season, things certainly couldn't be worse. Right?

Strong was asked Saturday, after watching the spring, how confident he was that Texas wouldn't go 6-7 again? 

"We just got to go play the game, make sure our kids go out and compete each and every game and we've got to coach a lot better than what we coached last year," Strong said. "We're getting better. I can say this right now, we're a better football team right now than we were in the last game we played last year." 

Baby steps.



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