Texas Football: Comparing and Contrasting Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard
Texas has a quarterback controversy on its hands, and it doesn't include David Ash or possible USC transfer Max Wittek.
This particular battle will be between rising sophomore Tyrone Swoopes and 2014 recruit Jerrod Heard, two athletic passers that have each been hailed as the heir apparent. Beginning in June, their battle for the future of the program will have Longhorn fans riveted.
After his hotly debated freshman season, Swoopes enters spring practice as the favorite to be Texas' starter in 2014. That title could be short-lived, as the nation's No. 1 dual-threat quarterback Jerrod Heard comes on to begin his journey to the top of the depth chart.
Two highly-touted recruits, one shared goal. Who will eventually win out? After comparing and contrasting each player based on size, athletic ability, passing ability and intangible qualities, the results indicate that this season belongs to Swoopes.
From there, it's all about Jerrod Heard.
All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.
While size is more crucial to success at the NFL level, it can be of great benefit to college quarterbacks. Especially for runners like Heard and Swoopes.
Unlike the pros, most college systems operate out of the shotgun, lessening the need for quarterbacks to be tall enough to see over the line. Those programs do, however, like to run their signal-callers, making it difficult for guys under 200 pounds to stay healthy.
In the case of Swoopes, neither height nor weight are any kind of issue. The small town kid weighs in at 245 pounds and measures out at 6'4." For reference, former Longhorn defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat is just an inch taller and five pounds heavier than the rising sophomore.
Coming out of high school, Heard still has some growing to do. The top-rated recruit stands 6'2.5", which is tall enough to play the position at any level. But at 190 pounds, he lacks the punch to take hits in the open field and could run into trouble if the Longhorns have trouble protecting him.
Heard has both the frame and time to add necessary weight. Even when he does, few players in the country boast a more ideal frame than Swoopes.
From an athletic standpoint, Texas could not be in better hands with Swoopes and Heard.
As a runner, it's impossible to miss why Swoopes gets so many comparisons to Vince Young. He glides more so than anything, using long strides to blow up whatever angles opposing defenders take. And at his size, he can run through anybody that gets a hand on him.
Heard is less of a physical specimen but every bit as exciting with the ball in his hands. He is faster and quicker than Swoopes, flashing nifty footwork to escape defenders at the high school level. Once he adds weight, defenders will find him tougher to get on the ground than they think.
The tie-breaker here would be which one has the most ability to play another position, but even that is difficult to determine. Both would fit in at receiver and Charlie Strong could groom either to play myriad positions on the defensive side of the ball.
Arm Strength and Accuracy
Given Swoopes' limited college playing time and Heard's lack of any such experience, it's difficult to assess their maturity as passers. In terms of raw ability, both have obvious potential.
For Swoopes, it all begins with his rocket of a right arm. He has a nice over-the-top delivery, and can absolutely hum it down the field thanks to the weight he can put behind his throws. Accuracy, however, has been an issue that plagued him throughout his recruitment, contributing to his completing just five of 13 career passes.
On the other hand, Heard was able to hold on to his high rating thanks to polished passing skills. He completed more than 60 percent of his throws as a high schooler and has shown the ability to drive the ball downfield. With coaching, he has a straight path to being a successful passer in college.
That said, Swoopes has thrown some great balls that were dropped. Now he is entering his second spring with the team, giving him the opportunity to further iron out his accuracy issues. Heard gets the edge because he arrives as less of a project, but it's close.
For a quarterback, physical attributes are merely the tip of the iceberg. To play the most technical position in sport, he must have mental fortitude and leadership qualities to turn skill into success on the field.
Over the past two years, Heard has displayed those traits more so than anyone in the state. He will arrive on campus fresh off his second-straight state title, combining for 10 touchdowns in the victories. The first ring came after Heard sparked a 16-point comeback, while the second was a convincing 34-14 win over a defense that had allowed just two touchdowns all season.
Even off the field, Heard shows a proclivity for being a leader of men. Despite being committed since August 2012, the highly-regarded Heard used additional visits to help recruit fellow classmates, including the final weekend before national signing day. He is as responsible for holding the 2014 class together as any member of the new coaching staff.
That's not to say Swoopes is a wet blanket. The upcoming sophomore enrolled early at Texas, quickly jumping Connor Brewer and Jalen Overstreet on the depth chart. As an individual, he has been described as nothing but humble.
Still, it's hard to compare humble to a two-time state champion that worked overtime to recruit his future teammates.
Ability to Play in 2014
Entering his second year as a Longhorn, Swoopes is the favorite to be Texas' No. 1 quarterback in 2014. Even if he doesn't work out, the 'Horns should do everything in their power to keep Heard on the sideline.
Even though he was not afforded a redshirt season, Swoopes is quite experienced for a true sophomore. After enrolling early as a freshman, he was able to fully participate in spring practice and make his way up the depth chart.
That means this will be Swoopes' second full offseason as a collegiate player. He has plenty of time to learn Joe Wickline's offense and a great opportunity to learn from Teddy Bridgewater's mentor, Shawn Watson. It would be a major surprise if he could not beat out David Ash for the starting gig this season.
With Heard unable to participate in team activities until June, expecting him to start as a true freshman is an unreasonable proposition. Texas' first game is on August 30, which would give him just more than 90 days to add weight and learn his first college offense. Rushing him through that process does nobody any favors.
Redshirting Heard while Swoopes battles it out with Ash is the best course of action. And given the team's interest in USC transfer Max Wittek, that seems to be the plan.
Outlook for 2015 and Beyond
The story does not get compelling for these two quarterbacks until 2015, when Heard will officially begin battling Swoopes for the keys to the program's future. Unfortunately, both of them can't win.
The high-upside option is Swoopes. His blend of size, athleticism and arm strength makes his ceiling as high as any quarterback in the country. At the same time, his accuracy issues have the potential to put all of that to waste.
Heard is the safer bet and is more likely to be a multiyear starter with the program. That's the goal he has been pushing toward for the past 18 months and that extra year of development will turn him into a fine passer. Add in his athletic ability and intangible qualities, then you get what Texas has been looking for since Colt McCoy graduated.
While that should be music to the ears of the suffering Longhorn faithful, Heard's eventual emergence spells a sad narrative for Swoopes. In 2015, he will have just one year of eligibility remaining, leaving him little time to explore another position. Had he been redshirted, he at least would have had an extra year to adjust.
Could Swoopes keep Heard on the bench in 2015? He certainly has the potential. But Heard is on a mission, and it's hard to imagine him being anything other than a starting quarterback at Texas.