For new Texas coach Charlie Strong, holding on to 4-star, dual-threat quarterback Jerrod Heard has to be one of his top recruiting priorities.
Heard, a 6'2.5", 190-pound prospect from Denton Guyer High School, still has to sign his national letter of intent with the Horns. National signing day is less than three weeks away (Feb. 5.)
Assuming that Heard signs with Texas and makes it to campus without any hangups, what are the chances he makes an impact in Year 1?
It's presumed that junior David Ash, returning from the concussion he suffered in Week 2 against BYU, would be the favorite to start for Texas.
Ash has had problems with consistency during his collegiate career. Most notably, he was benched against Kansas in 2012 in favor of Case McCoy after failing to move the ball most of the game. Still, there's no questioning his physical tools, including his mobility and arm strength.
Having both Heard and Ash, along with sophomore-to-be Tyrone Swoopes, would give new 'Horns quarterback coach Shawn Watson a lot to work with. Watson did a great job developing Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater into one of the best—if not the best—signal-callers in the upcoming NFL draft class.
As long as Ash stays healthy, his experience should give him a leg up in the event of a quarterback competition.
Where Heard would likely make an impact is at the No. 2 spot alongside Swoopes, who had his redshirt burned midway when he came in during garbage time against TCU midway through the '13 season. The decision actually made sense given Ash's concussion, which left Texas shorthanded at quarterback. If McCoy went down with an injury, at least Swoopes would have had some game reps.
But Texas coaches didn't incorporate Swoopes into the game plan from that point forward, nor did Swoopes jump McCoy on the depth chart, despite McCoy throwing seven interceptions in his final four games.
Against Oregon in December's Alamo Bowl, Swoopes was brought in to give the offense a spark. Instead, he went 1-of-6 passing and was quickly benched.
It was a disappointing showing for a player who figured to be the future face of the offense.
Like Ash, Swoopes should benefit from Watson as a position coach. So should Heard when he arrives on campus, though he won't have the extra spring practice reps that come with enrolling early. Those extra reps are vital at the quarterback spot.
Swoopes, who was an early enrollee, was a reminder that even talented freshman are still new to the college game. Not all of them can come in and play well right away. Like Swoopes last offseason, no one at Texas really knows what they have yet in Heard. Expectations, then, may need to be tempered until Heard shows otherwise.
It's not unreasonable to think that Heard will be in the mix of the quarterback competition come fall camp. However, his impact on the field may not be felt right away—at least not without something happening to Ash first.
All recruit rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football.