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Heard's accuracy and decision-making must improve for him to remain the starter in 2016.
With a new offensive coordinator and up to five candidates for the quarterback job, pinning down the starter will be both the toughest and most important task of the summer. For now, expect the Horns to roll with Jerrod Heard.
Heard never lived up to the hype from his record-setting performance against Cal back on Sept. 19. His struggles with accuracy, decision-making and overreliance on his legs became obvious over the course of the season, and defenses responded accordingly.
Still, Heard has obvious upside as a college quarterback. He's a deadly runner when he can find space, and his 7.65 yards per attempt would have ranked in the national top 50, per CFBStats.com.
Given the way the team as a whole responded to his taking over the job in 2015, it's worth seeing what he can do in offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert's offense.
No longer forced to try to learn former assistant coach Shawn Watson's pro-style scheme, Heard can benefit from Gilbert's spread attack, an offense similar to that in which he won two state titles at Guyer High School in Denton, Texas. With his speed and ability to hit the deep ball, Heard has a great chance to find success in this offense.
But to do so, as Inside Texas' Ian Boyd notes, Heard's accuracy on intermediate routes must improve:
[The quarterback] needs to understand the system and the defenses he will face so that he can choose from his options correctly and make the right decisions with the ball. Also importantly, he needs to be able to lead a receiver on a deep ball and to make quick throws outside of the hash marks with accuracy and velocity. ... A noodle-armed QB, however accurate, will get picked off or set his receivers up for nasty hits trying to lob the ball outside in this offense. An inaccurate passer will get his team behind the chains by missing throws that the defense can force an offense to hit in order to function.
Heard's efficiency is the main concern, as evidenced by his 57.9 completion percentage. If he can't work out those issues with Gilbert, then this position becomes a mess.
Senior Tyrone Swoopes has never been able to consistently do anything this offense requires. Redshirt freshmen Kai Locksley and Matthew Merrick are blank canvases at this point, albeit with more talent than most recognize. And then there's early enrollee Shane Buechele, who could easily factor into the race as a true freshman.
That said, Heard remains the favorite until we see something different bear out in spring ball. The good news is that the Longhorns have the entire offseason to evaluate all of their options.
Quarterback: Jerrod Heard