Texas offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert, quarterback Tyrone Swoopes and quarterback Shane Buechele at practice at Royal-Memorial Stadium Sunday August 7, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: What can go wrong (and right) with Texas’ starting quarterback decision

Posted August 29th, 2016

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Story highlights
  • Strong says the starter he used Sunday will be the starter all season unless "something happens."
  • Buechele seems to be the no-brainer choice because he's younger, he's looked great in practice and the spring game and he doesn't get intimidated.
  • Swoopes has experience but is 6-8 with only three wins over winning teams.

Six more days until the world learns who Texas’ starting quarterback is. Unless TMZ reports it first.

On Monday, Charlie Strong did what coaches do.

Shroud decisions in secrecy, keep the media and fans guessing, tell a little fib here and there, and guard the identity of the most important position on his football team. He didn’t say who will take the first snap. Not that it matters all that much.

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Who takes the majority of the snaps. That’s the key.

And that needs to be freshman Shane Buechele, baby-faced, new-to-campus and all. He has the most upside. If he runs out for the first snap on Sunday night, DKR goes electric and the entire place is energized. If he falters, hey, he’s a freshman.

Tyrone Swoopes won’t get the same benefit of the doubt. He’s 6-8 as a starter, with only three wins over winning teams (a 10-win Baylor team and a pair of 7-6 teams in West Virginia and Oklahoma State) and he has accuracy issues. But maybe a light’s turned on under new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert.

Texas quarterback Shane Buechele (16) prepares for a spring NCAA college football game, Saturday, April 16, 2016, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas quarterback Shane Buechele (16) prepares for a spring NCAA college football game, Saturday, April 16, 2016, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Strong has said all along that both quarterbacks would play against Notre Dame, but on Monday he threw a wrench in the works when he said the quarterback who goes out for the first snap is his starting quarterback. For Notre Dame. For UTEP next week. For the season. For better or — gulp — worse.

No short leash, no long leash, no leash at all. Unless, he added, poor performances dog both of them.

“When we name the quarterback, he is the starter,” Strong said, “and he will be the starter unless he gets beat out or something happens to him.”

There’s the hedge.

Something, of course, has been happening to Texas quarterbacks ever since Colt McCoy left the premises. Garrett Gilbert didn’t pan out and sadly left to a chorus of ugly boos. Concussions ended David Ash’s career. Case McCoy wasn’t a star, but a gamer who beat OU and Texas A&M.

In 2015, Swoopes won the job, lost it after one game and then ended up starting the finale. Buechele impressed in the spring and played like a mini-McCoy. Something happened to Jerrod Heard and Kai Locksley as well. They’re wide receivers now.

So when Strong says the starter will be the starter unless he gets beat out or something happens, the safe bet is something happens. But maybe that something will be good.

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The scenarios are countless.

  • Swoopes starts, goes 3-and-out and is never heard from again.
  • Buechele starts, throws a touchdown pass on his first play and posts a 59-0 record with four national championships. OK, we know that can’t happen. If he wins his first 44 games, including two Big 12 title games and three national titles, he’ll become the next Tony Romo and leave school early.
  • Swoopes starts, plays OK and the Longhorns lose to Notre Dame in a tight one. Buechele gets a couple of meaningless series. Texas sells pitchforks at the concession stand.
  • Swoopes starts and beats Notre Dame. Muted excitement. Trust issues.
  • Buechele starts, plays decently and the Longhorns lose to the Irish in a blowout. Fans are patient.
  • Buechele starts, plays well and wins. A star is born. The Tower shoots off fireworks. Strong gets knighted by the queen.

Heck, maybe Charlie goes all Four Horsemen on Notre Dame and trots out Swoopes, Buechele, Heard and Matthew Merrick out at the same time. Think about this one, Charlie. Out-Notre Dame Notre Dame.

Year Three, and Charlie’s starring in his own quarterback reality show. Heck, invite the Kardashians to be honorary game captains for UTEP.

I have to believe Strong starts Buechele because the freshman earned it, offers a bright future (Swoopes is a senior) and seems to have a presence about him. Seems like a no-brainer. If he’s really bad, replace him with Swoopes.

Maybe Strong doesn’t want to name Buechele to save him from pre-game angst. Maybe he doesn’t want to name Swoopes so the entire city doesn’t melt down. Maybe he just can’t decide.

What’s interesting is that Strong has said he was delaying the announcement to confuse the Irish. But on Monday he said the fact that Notre Dame hasn’t named a starting quarterback has not affected the Longhorns’ preparations at all. So which is it?

But he also said both his quarterbacks deserve to play because of the work they’ve put in. Come again? That makes no sense at all. Play the best guy, Charlie. Or play Trey Holtz. Sources say he’s worked hard, too.

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