Texas quarterback David Ash's return from a concussion and shoulder injury lasted only one half in the victory over Kansas State. If he is out for a significant period of time, the Longhorns need to give freshman Tyrone Swoopes some or most of the reps.
The Longhorns got off to a nice start to Big 12 play by defeating Kansas State 31-21, but the victory came at a major cost. Junior linebacker Jordan Hicks is out for the year after tearing his Achilles tendon, and Ash suffered another concussion in the first half.
Concussions are tricky, with recovery time ranging from a quick week up to several months depending on the athlete. Since this is Ash's second concussion in as many weeks, the latter scenario could well play out for Mack Brown's squad.
That leaves Brown and the rest of the staff with a decision. Roll with senior Case McCoy, or take a chance on freshman Tyrone Swoopes.
McCoy is second on the depth chart, but he is only 2-5 for his career as a starter and has lost his last three starts by a combined 63 points. In four appearances this season, he is averaging only six yards an attempt and has netted only seven yards on eight rushing attempts.
Swoopes, on the other hand, is a relative unknown. Though he has been prepped to play the last two weeks, the freshman has yet to see the field in an effort to maintain his status as a redshirt.
What is known about Swoopes is that he is a 6'4", 245-pound physical specimen with 4.5 speed and solid arm strength. In his one series in the spring game, the freshman was dazzling in the open field while picking up 26 yards on four carries. He did not throw a pass, but his potential was immediately obvious.
Whether Swoopes can get by on his raw athleticism alone is the question. His accuracy remains a concern, and Mack Brown has had limited success starting true freshmen under center. Throwing him into the fire could be a major setback moving forward.
However, there are indications that Swoopes can handle a feature role. He was an early enrollee last January, so he has spent more time developing in this offense than a typical true freshman. It has paid off, allowing him to quickly become the team's third-string quarterback.
Now it is time to get him ready for first-string reps, as Swoopes can create the explosive plays this team will miss if Ash misses significant time. His size gives him the ability to run both the traditional and inverted option as Cam Newton did at Auburn, which would also help the running backs get an extra step on the defense.
Swoopes' rushing ability would also draw more defenders into the box, affording his receivers more one-on-one matchups. With his arm strength, he has the ability to make the opposition pay down the field.
McCoy did a good job preserving the win over Kansas State, but he is little more than a game-manager. He does not have the ability to go blow for blow with the better Big 12 offenses, proven by the fact that he has never won a game that got into the 30s or 40s.
Just with his athleticism alone, Swoopes creates a mismatch as soon as he steps on the field and can create the big plays Texas will need to stay relevant this season. Especially with the obvious flaws on the defensive side of the ball.
This is all contingent on how much time Ash misses. But with Oklahoma less than three weeks away, getting Swoopes ready to go needs to become a priority.