Junior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes remains the number one option according to head coach Charlie Strong. At Saturday’s Orange-White scrimmage, Swoopes went 17-for-31 for 159 yards and one rushing touchdown.
Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Coca-Cola versus Pepsi. Chocolate versus vanilla. And now: Swoopes versus Heard. 

Whether junior Tyrone Swoopes or redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard should start at quarterback for Texas is a polarizing question. 

Both quarterbacks finished Saturday’s Orange-White scrimmage with similar stats — leaving unsettled the all-important question of who should start come fall. By the end of the game, it appeared both Swoopes and Heard were in the same positions they had when spring practice started.

“Ty is still our No. 1 guy,” head coach Charlie Strong said.

The Texas team (Orange) beat the Horns team (White), 27–16, Saturday to conclude Texas’ spring practice. During the first half of play, Swoopes quarterbacked the Orange team, which consisted of the first-team offense and second-team defense, and Heard quarterbacked the White team, which consisted of the second-team offense and first-team defense.

“I feel good about [the quarterback competition],” said Swoopes, who finished 17-for-31 with 159 yards and one rushing touchdown.

Heard put up similar numbers, going 20-for-29 with 177 yards, one interception and a rushing touchdown.

“I really tried to distribute the ball to the good playmakers,” Heard said. “This offense is really built for that, so I really try to put the ball in those guys’ hands.”

Heading into Saturday’s scrimmage, Texas aimed to display its new fast-paced offense, where players would sprint to the line of scrimmage after a play was over to get another play started as soon as possible. But the offensive pace was not as consistent as Strong hoped.

“You want to see the pace be a little quicker,” Strong said. “Just looking to the sideline trying to get [the signals], it’ll be quicker because that’s what you like to see — just a quicker pace, more up tempo.” 

While the offense is new for the Longhorns, both quarterbacks are familiar with the tempo. Toward the end of Heard’s high school career, Guyer High School quickened its offensive pace. Swoopes ran the same type of offense at Whitewright High School. 

“I’m really excited about [the new offense],” Swoopes said. “It’s pretty much what we’ve all done in high school. We’re all used to the up-tempo, no-huddle kind of the thing, so it’s just kind of getting us back to our ways.”

Other aspects of the Texas offense shined. Sophomore running back D’Onta Foreman showed particular strength, scoring one touchdown and racking up 84 yards on 12 rushes.

“It’s always fun when you watch big D’Onta run behind his pads. … He’s a guy that can run behind his pads and move people out of the way,” Strong said.

With the end of spring football, the next time the Longhorns take the field will be Sept. 5 against Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. Strong will hope to have his team and, most importantly, a starting quarterback ready in time.

Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

Texas is just halfway through spring practices, but things appear to be coming together in an off-season filled with change.

Head coach Charlie Strong’s staff is still implementing a new spread offense, but the unit looked fluid during Monday's practice with several successful drives in 11-on-11 drills. Strong said after practice that the offense looked particularly good during Saturday’s scrimmage, and it appears that the unit is starting to gel operating without a huddle.

Though Texas’ offense has shown improvement through spring play, the Longhorns will only go as far as their quarterback come fall. Currently, rising junior Tyrone Swoopes is taking the majority of the first team reps, but the quarterback battle seems to be tightening.

Redshirted freshman Jerrod Heard has made some serious strides since the first practice. He completed several downfield passes through tight windows, which is something he failed to do in the opening part of the spring and through much of the 2014 season. He also showed off his speed with a long scramble up the middle and some lengthy runs on options and other designed quarterback runs.

Swoopes looked sharp at times, but he also made some poor throws and was clearly not on the same page with his receivers on a few occasions. After practice, Strong said that Heard played better, but that Swoopes has been more consistent overall through spring. He also said that he hopes both quarterbacks will be ready in the fall.

While Heard impressed, Monday's biggest takeaway may be the improvement in the receiving corps, which struggled often struggled gaining separation last season leaving Swoopes and the offensive line vulnerable to opponents’ pass rush. Specifically, rising junior Jacorey Warrick and rising sophomore Dorian Leonard stood out as potential difference makers on the outside for next season.

Warrick ran crisp routes, made impressive catches and showed explosiveness taking a number of screens and flat routes for touchdowns. Leonard used his six-foot-three frame to box-out defensive backs and make tough grabs in traffic. Both players took almost all of their reps with the first team offense and should compete for starting spots come August.

Though the offense often shined with electrifying plays, the defense, which has been decimated with injuries this spring, also showed improvement. The unit mostly lined up in the nickel with four down linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs.

Both redshirted freshman linebacker Edwin Freeman and rising junior linebacker Timothy Cole showed off their instincts and athleticism in pass coverage while filling in for injured senior linebacker Dalton Santos. Freshman Malik Jefferson also impressed in his quick transition to inside linebacker after playing mostly outside before Santos’ injury.

In the secondary, rising sophomore safety Jason Hall made some big hits, while rising sophomore cornerback Antwaun Davis showed his ball skills breaking up several passes on the outside.

Overall, Strong says that he believes that the team is accomplishing its goal of improving each day, and that’s the most important part of spring practice. The Longhorns still have a few weeks to keep improving before they’re put to the test at the Orange-White game on April 18. 

Head coach Charlie Strong is looking to senior linebacker Dalton Santos to be a leader on defense in 2015. The Longhorns defense has big shoes to fill after losing key players last season.
Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

It’s that time of year when the flowers begin to blossom, the temperature outside  warms up, and spring practice commences for the Longhorns.

Head coach Charlie Strong’s first season didn’t have the traction that was expected, and it ended with a 31–7 defeat at the hands of Arkansas.

Texas enters spring practice with a sense of urgency to get back to national relevance. Here are a few things to keep an eye on during the start of spring practice.

The quarterback situation

“Who will be the starting quarterback?” 

It’s the question everyone wants to know the answer to. Last season, sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes lacked consistency in his play, and by the season’s end, fans were ready to move on from the Swoopes era.

Strong made it clear both Swoopes and redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard, who hasn’t seen any action yet, will compete for the starting job.

“Going into the spring practice, we’re going to give them equal reps; give them a chance to compete against each other,” Strong said.

Players are often judged by their stats and how they perform on the field; it’s no different for quarterbacks, who are often in the eye of the storm. Swoopes and Heard will not be solely judged on their skill set and ability to execute but also on their ability to lead and unify the team.

“At that position you got to have leadership,” Strong said. “With these two quarterbacks, can we get the team to follow them?”


It’s an old saying: “Offense wins games, but defense wins championships.” 

The Longhorns go into this spring season losing key players on the defensive end, including linebacker Jordan Hicks, cornerback Quandre Diggs and defensive tackle Malcom Brown.

Texas has the right personnel for a successful defense, but time will tell whether it will become elite. 

Texas is looking for leaders, especially in the middle linebacker position, which is regarded as the “quarterback” of the defense.

According to Strong, rising senior linebacker Dalton Santos is in place to start as middle linebacker. As the backup to senior linebacker Steve Edmond last season, he saw the field a fair amount, helping him gain the experience to take over. But spring practice will provide important reps for him with the first team.

Fans will also get their first glance at freshman outside linebacker Malik Jefferson, who is considered to be the star member of Strong’s recruiting class.

Team chemistry, leadership and intangibles

The Longhorns’ team chemistry, pride and leadership are all important for success, going hand-in-hand with each other.

“One thing [the coaches and I] talked about — the number one — and it’s very key is to go build us a football team,” Strong said. “A team with team chemistry.”

While pride of being on the team can create leaders that galvanize others on the team, Texas will look for its team chemistry to show.

Beyond the ‘X’s and ‘O’s, Strong and the Longhorns strive for the intangibles that make successful teams. Spring practice begins Wednesday, and fans will see whether Texas can begin to blossom like flowers are doing now.

Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes struggled with consistency during the 2014 season. One of Texas’ biggest needs for next season is better quarterback play.
Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Head coach Charlie Strong has his work cut out for him. The Longhorns offense needs fixing, and it needs it badly.

When the Longhorns weren’t turning the ball over, they were simply unable to sustain drives — ranking 89th in plays-per-game and 110th in third-down conversion percentage last season. While injuries and dismissals played a role in their offensive woes, predictable play calling and a vanilla offensive scheme didn’t do sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes and company any favors.

“We have to tweak [the offense],” Strong said after National Signing Day. “We know this. I look at five games last season where we scored 20 points or less. We know we have to get better.”

The games that Strong mentioned were cringe-worthy. Among them were losses to Kansas State, TCU and Arkansas, in which describing the offense as looking lost is an understatement. It was clear the personnel and the scheme did not add up to a successful offense.

Strong knows that Texas’ offensive struggles last season were unacceptable, and he’s emphasized adjusting the scheme to fit his players and new recruits. In this case, Texas’ recruits mostly come from Texas, which is notorious for a high-tempo, high-scoring spread offenses at the high-school level.

“I look at this state ship, and I would say probably 98 percent of this state is a spread offense,” Strong said Monday at the first spring press conference. “So, when we bring players into our program, let’s not change them.”

Perhaps the best indication of the coming system tweaks is the hiring of Jay Norvell, former Oklahoma wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator, as Texas’ new wide receivers coach.

Norvell was partly hired for his experience in coaching spread offenses, and his impressive track record at Oklahoma is encouraging. In five of his seven years with the Sooners, Oklahoma’s offense ranked in the top 30 in scoring and plays-per-game. 

In simpler terms, Norvell’s spread stayed on the field, gained first downs and scored points. Texas needs all of the above.

The new offense’s biggest beneficiaries may be the quarterbacks. Both Swoopes and redshirted freshman Jerrod Heard were top dual-threat quarterbacks coming out of high school, and spreading the offense will give them a chance to prove themselves as runners and throwers in spring play. 

Even incoming freshman quarterback Kai Locksley — who won’t be in practices until the summer but is still a candidate for the starting job, according to Strong — excelled in a spread offense in high school.

“They are good enough where they can throw the ball, good enough where, if you had to pull it down, they could run the football,” Strong said. “But, you have to take advantage of what you have.”

If Strong and his staff can get consistent play from their quarterbacks through a scheme change, it would be an enormous step toward fixing the offense.

Regardless of who is under center, Texas has no more excuses for poor offense. Strong and his staff need to find a way to get the most out of their players, and, whether it’s a complete offensive overhaul or some slight scheme changes, Texas’ offense will look different next year. 

If Strong and his staff can deliver on their promise to improve the offense, it will be a big step in bringing the Longhorns back into national relevance.

Running back Chris Warren from Rockwall High School smiles with his family after signing with Texas. Warren is one of 28 recruits in Charlie Strong’s first recruiting class.

Biggest signees for Texas: 

Malik Jefferson was Texas’ most highlighted recruit as the nation’s top linebacker. But Jefferson wasn’t the only monumental recruit for head coach Charlie Strong’s first official recruiting class.

The Longhorns signed two tall receivers who can provide playmaking abilities in 6-foot-2 John Burt and 6-foot-4 Gilbert Johnson. Texas’ starting quarterback next season — whether it be sophomore Tyrone Swoopes or redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard — can have the confidence to throw the deep ball when either receiver has a height advantage on a cornerback.

Texas also signed Chris Warren, a 6-foot-2, 239-pound running back who is ranked the No. 8 running back in the nation, according to 247Sports. Warren has the ability to run strong up the middle and to gain a significant amount of yards after contact because of his solid frame.

In addition, the Longhorns found success at the tight end position, signing of Devonaire Clarington, the No. 7 tight end in the nation, according to 247Sports. Clarington’s athleticism, combined with his height and strength, will stretch the field for the Longhorns because of his ability to run down the seams and be a mismatch for most linebackers.

Biggest disappointment for Texas:

The question the Longhorns face — a question as big as Texas — is who the quarterback will be next season. Swoopes wasn’t consistent enough when it came to getting the ball to his receivers, and Heard has not yet been tested. Although Texas signed Kai Locksley, who, according to Strong, will play quarterback, he isn’t a marquee name in the quarterback position.

After four-star quarterback prospect Zach Gentry flipped his commitment to Michigan, five-star quarterback Kyler Murray was the Longhorns’ last hope to get a top-ranked quarterback recruit. However, Murray ended up sticking with his original commitment at Texas A&M.

The last time the Longhorns found consistency at the quarterback position was with Colt McCoy. Texas now has to work on developing Locksley, Swoopes or Heard in order to improve on last season’s quarterback play.

Texas wins the Big 12 in recruiting:

Texas has the No. 11 recruiting class in the nation, according to 247Sports. Oklahoma’s No. 15-ranked recruiting class was second among Big 12 schools, followed by Texas Tech at No. 33. That leaves the Longhorns with the No. 1 recruiting class in the Big 12.

Texas signed 14 recruits ranked in ESPN 300, and the rest of the Big 12 combined for 20 such recruits. Strong alluded last year he wanted to put the “T” back in Texas, and the results of his first recruiting period at Texas is a big first step toward that statement.

In mid-December, Texas’ recruiting class didn’t look promising. It had solid players, but nobody stood out. 

That was the case until five-star outside linebacker Malik Jefferson and his high school teammate, four-star wide receiver DeAndre McNeal, verbally committed to the Longhorns on Dec. 19.

“Anytime you’re in a recruiting process, there has to be a marquee player,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “And that is Malik Jefferson.”

Since then, Texas has had momentum on its side. Over the past few weeks, the Longhorns saw a slew of big names visiting campus: defensive tackle Daylon Mack, quarterback Kyler Murray, running back Soso Jamabo and wide receiver Damarkus Lodge. Although Texas didn’t land these four guys, their presence on campus created a positive buzz around a program that concluded its most recent campaign with a losing record.

Although signing day has come and gone, the positive buzz still remains. 

While the recruiting class is highly ranked, Strong and the coaching staff will look to use this class as its cornerstone squad.

The coaching staff will expect a lot from this class. A good portion of the recruited players will see early action. Jefferson, Texas’ highest-ranked recruit, will play at the weakside linebacker position next year and might even start, if he has a productive spring. 

Additionally, Texas may turn to its new linebackers — Anthony Wheeler, Cameron Townsend and Cecil Cherry — for help next season.

The Longhorns also added depth to the defensive backs. Texas signed five defensive backs — three corners and two safeties. All five of the signees will have an opportunity to fight for playing time from the very beginning.

Texas will also get help on its offensive and defensive lines. Four-star JUCO offensive lineman Brandon Hodges, four-star lineman Patrick Vahe and three-star lineman Connor Williams are expected to make immediate impacts on the offensive line, and three-star JUCO defensive end Quincy Vasser will see time on the field next season.

The biggest concern for Texas is the quarterback position, and the Longhorns managed to get at least one prospect by flipping four-star quarterback Kai Locksley from Florida State.

Finally, each skill position player could see playing time in 2015. As Texas attempts to open up the offense, expect wide receivers McNeal, John Burt, Ryan Newsome and Gilbert Johnson to showcase their skills. Running back Chris Warren will be the most likely freshman to get plays in 2015, but don’t underestimate the other running backs as change-of-pace backs.

Despite Texas’ awful finish to the 2014 season, the 2015 recruiting class is just the boost Texas needed. The foundation has already been lain, the cornerstone was added Wednesday, and now the Longhorns need to finish building the house in 2015.

Texas was able to land three big recruits as National Signing Day approaches. The Longhorns gained commitments from Kris Boyd, Holton Hill and Kai Locksley.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

In a winter filled with recruiting victories, head coach Charlie Strong had another reason to celebrate after receiving commitments from three four-star athletes in the past three days.  

Defensive backs Holton Hill and Kris Boyd announced their pledges to Texas on Friday, and four-star quarterback Kai Locksley flipped his commitment to Texas Monday night. 

Hill, who played at Lamar High School in Houston, ranks as the nation’s No. 7 cornerback after totaling 11 interceptions and two special teams touchdowns in his senior year. At 6 feet 2 inches, he possesses the size to cover taller wide receivers and is a likely candidate to be an immediate contributor on defense and special teams.

Boyd, who played in Gilmer, Texas, ranks closely behind Hill as a prospect as the nation’s No. 11 cornerback. At almost six feet, Boyd also has good size for his position and proved himself as a playmaker with two interceptions and four passes broken up his senior year. His younger brother Demarco Boyd is committed to join the Longhorns in 2016.

The duo adds to an already strong defensive back class that features four-star defensive backs Davante Davis and DeShon Elliot. With the Big 12 producing five top-20 passing offenses in 2014, the Longhorns will need to develop a strong secondary, especially with cornerback Quandre Diggs departing this offseason. The Longhorns now have two of the top-three ranked cornerbacks in the state, according to 247Sports. They are looking to maintain their stout pass defense, which ranked in the top 15 in passing yards allowed in 2014.

Locksley, who was previously committed to Florida State, will give Texas a much needed boost at quarterback. Locksley, a ESPN 300 quarterback out of Gilman High School in Baltimore, is the No. 25 ranked quarterback in the nation. At 6 feet 4 inches and 190 pounds, he adds another option in Texas’ quarterback battle next season, as Texas works to improve upon a weak point this past year. 

This weekend, Texas also made the radars of other top prospects who have yet to make their final commitment. Damarkus Lodge, Cedar Hill’s four-star wide receiver, included the Longhorns in his top-three choices Friday. Daylon Mack, Gladewater’s five-star defensive tackle, said Saturday he made his decision after receiving in-home visits from Strong and competing coaching staffs this past week. Both Lodge and Mack will announce their final decisions on National Signing Day on Wednesday.

However, Texas also received some bad news.  

Five-star quarterback Kyler Murray announced Thursday he is staying with Texas A&M after taking an unofficial visit to Texas the previous weekend. The Longhorns tried to flip Murray’s commitment from the Aggies, which would have been a huge boost to Texas’ recruiting class.

The Longhorns took another potential hit Sunday when three-star safety commit Jamile Johnson re-opened his recruitment for the third time after decommitting from Texas.

247Sports currently ranks Texas’ 2015 class at No. 9, and Texas still has several top prospects considering coming to Austin. The recruiting class has the potential to be ranked as a top-five class come National Signing Day, and if momentum keeps trending in Texas’ favor, the Longhorns will have a lot to be excited about next fall.

Four-star QB Kai Locksley flips commitment to Texas

Four-star athlete and dual-threat quarterback Kai Locksley officially chose the Longhorns Monday night after previously committing to Florida State in July.

“OFFICIALLY COMMITTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS!! #HookEm,” Locksley tweeted, including a picture of himself photo-shopped into a Texas uniform and a note thanking his recruiters.

Locksley is the 23rd ranked athlete prospect, according to 247sports. Though, he is expected to compete at quarterback when he arrives in Austin, the 6-foot-3 prospect from Maryland can also play wide receiver as he did at the Under Armour All-America Game.

With four-star quarterback Zach Gentry’s latest de-commitment from the Longhorns, Locksley joins three-star quarterback Matthew Merrick as the only quarterbacks in Texas’ 2015 class, however Merrick will not join the team this summer. Locksley fills a big need with Texas’ quarterback situation in question, and his commitment will be key in producing the best possible quarterback competition this fall.

Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes had a very inconsistent season. With redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard waiting for his chance to start and quarterback recruits fixing to join the program, Texas fans are looking forward to a quarterback competition during spring practice.
Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Texas’ 59-yard offensive performance in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl was an embarrassing low.

The 31–7 loss in the Texas Bowl capped off the Longhorns’ second losing season in five years, a result that irritated head coach Charlie Strong.

“You don’t ever expect to go out and get hammered in a bowl game 31–7 when you had a month to go prepare,” Strong said. “Texas has got to mean something. Right now, it doesn’t mean much.”

And now with an offseason to prepare, Texas will look to fix its broken offense. 

First, Texas will need to address quarterback issues. The bowl game presented an opportunity for sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes to prove himself, but his poor performance didn’t put him in a promising position. Swoopes finished the game with 57 passing yards, -32 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown and one interception. With four-star quarterback recruit Zach Gentry recently decommitting from the Longhorns, redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard will be expected to produce. 

Additionally, the Longhorns face an identity crisis. Strong and his staff wanted the team to have a run-based offense in 2014, but the loss of three lineman and their starting quarterback made that difficult.

But this spring, Texas will try and establish its run-based offense, or it will look to change its game plan with the help of new recruits. 

As it stands, Texas has the No. 12 ranked recruiting class in the nation, according to Scout.com. The 2015 class currently has 23 players committed — 12 offensive and 11 defensive commits. Malik Jefferson, a five-star outside linebacker, headlines this recruiting roster.

With little time remaining before National Signing Day, the Longhorns have room for eight more players. Texas is in the mix for four-star cornerbacks Kris Boyd and Holton Hill. Five-star running back Soso Jamabo and four-star running backs Nick Brossette and Chris Warren also have their eyes on Austin.

Though the Longhorns have promising incoming talent and experienced players on the defensive side of the ball, they are still looking for answers.

“We see there’s a lot of work to be done, which is a great challenge, and I don’t mind that — I accept that,” Strong said. “You look at the TCU game and [the bowl] game, and it’s not an indication of what Texas is all about. We have work to do, and we got to get it done.”

Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes looks to recover from an inconsistent season and fight to remain the starter.
Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones kick-started his college career by lighting up the scoreboard against some of the best competition in the nation and winning a national championship in his first three games. The offensive outburst by the redshirt sophomore prompted an outpouring of praise for Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and his ability to recruit and coach a roster with three All-American caliber quarterbacks.

Back on the 40 Acres, the mood was a little more gloomy. Jones’ downfield rockets and Meyer’s bold and creative play calling stood in stark contrast to the Longhorns’ dismal performance at the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl, where the burnt orange and white accumulated only 59 yards of total offense.

If the Longhorns want to rejoin Ohio State as college football royalty, they will need to find a quarterback and coaching duo to lead the way. The options at quarterback look promising, as Texas will likely burn freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard’s redshirt next season, and sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes will have the off season to develop. Kyler Murray, five-star quarterback recruit and Texas A&M commit, even stopped by the University of Texas campus for a visit Wednesday.

The tutelage of Shawn Watson, Texas’ assistant head coach for offense and quarterbacks, who coached current Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville, is set to launch one of the Longhorn quarterbacks into All-American consideration. At this point, however, it is hard to tell if Watson is the right man to coach Heard, Swoopes or any other quarterback on the roster.

Watson was a member of head coach Charlie Strong’s staff at Louisville when the Vikings drafted Bridgewater, but it is still unclear at the moment whether it was Watson who bolstered Bridgewater to prominence or the other way around.

When at Louisville, Bridgewater was a mobile quarterback who could still thrive when sitting back and embracing his role as a pocket passer. Watson tried to run a similar offense in his first year of play-calling duties at Texas, but to no avail.

Swoopes showed he is not Bridgewater, as he often looked uncomfortable dropping back and scanning the defense — a requirement for a pocket passer. When the offense went downhill in the Kansas State game, Watson and the rest of the staff seemed to make little effort to change the game plan in order to attempt to use Swoopes’ powerful legs to their advantage.

Heard is the clear next-in-line if the “Tyrone Swoopes experiment” does not work out, but his blazing speed appears to be better suited for an offense that avoids under-center sets and embraces the option. It has yet been determined whether Heard can achieve success when sitting back and reading a defense. If he cannot do so, the Longhorns will have to spend springtime courting pocket passers or start making serious changes to the offense.

Watson showed moments of brilliance as a play caller, even with a patchwork offensive line. But if Watson’s young quarterbacks prove incapable of being pocket passers during spring practice, he will have to put Louisville’s formula for success behind him and tweak the offense in a way that better incorporates his quarterbacks’ skill sets.