Freshman QB throws for 299 yards while Tyrone Swoopes struggles
Posted April 16th, 2016
Now that spring practice is over, Texas coaches and players can turn their attention to Notre Dame and the season opener.
“That’s OK,” linebacker Malik Jefferson said. “I wasn’t scared of them last year. I won’t be scared of them this year.”
But who should be the Longhorns’ starting quarterback when the Fighting Irish arrive at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Sept. 4?
Anyone who saw the 110 plays during the annual Orange-White game on Saturday would probably have a clear answer — freshman Shane Buechele.
The statistics during one of 15 spring practices stretching from mid-March to mid-April were certainly in Buechele’s favor. He completed 22 of 41 passes for 299 yards. Buechele threw a touch pass to Armanti Foreman for a 27-yard touchdown just inside the northwest pylon and a laser beam to John Burt for a 65-yard score. No interceptions, either.
“Today, Shane did have a good day,” UT coach Charlie Strong said. “A really good day.”
Tyrone Swoopes, who will be a senior, completed 4 of 16 passes for 71 yards. He didn’t throw any touchdown passes and had two interceptions.
Burt had a potential touchdown pass from Swoopes bounce off his facemask and fall incomplete. Safety Antwuan Davis made a terrific steal from receiver DeAndre McNeal in the end zone for a touchback. Other receivers dropped some balls that would have made Swoopes’ final numbers look better.
Strong didn’t name Buechele the starter, though. In fact, the Longhorns wrap up their spring still with no answer at the position. Jerrod Heard hasn’t gotten his final say. Last year’s starter missed the last two weeks with a sprained shoulder injury.
No quarterback was made available to reporters afterward.
“To me, as much as I love to go fast, I want that thing to be right,” offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert said. “As long as it goes, it goes. We’ve just got to make sure we’ve got the right guy and it’s the right decision.”
Offensive tackle Kent Perkins said, “I’m comfortable with anybody playing quarterback. Who can protect the ball and get us moving and scoring? Putting the best guy back there that can help us produce, that’s the biggest thing.”
It does not appear redshirt freshman Kai Locksley will be in the discussion. Locksley was expecting to play during the second half. But Strong and UT officials called things off after halftime once the rain started.
“Honesty is a lost cause now a days..,” Locksley tweeted afterward. “Could’ve told my mother to save her money on the plane ticket.”
Aside from the quarterback derby, there weren’t many other surprises.
Running backs Chris Warren III and D’Onta Foreman ran through a thin defensive line like Mack trucks. Warren had a sizzling 51-yard touchdown run where he showed tremendous body lean while dodging tacklers. He finished with 101 yards on only seven carries.
Foreman bulldozed his way into the end zone on a 4-yard run capping his day. He had 73 yards on nine carries.
Their success highlighted a real concern with defensive coordinator Vance Bedford’s unit. There simply aren’t enough defensive tackles on the roster who can hold the point of attack and let the linebackers make enough plays.
Charles Omenihu had four tackles and was credited with two sacks. Quincy Vasser had five tackles, although his biggest moment came when he slung Swoopes down like a rag doll.
Asked about the defensive line, Strong said, “That’s a big concern.” Six freshmen linemen are projected to enroll this summer. Practically all of them will contribute immediately out of sheer necessity. “Just be coachable,” senior defensive tackle Paul Boyette said.
Michael Dickson is progressing as the punter, but the Horns put out an all-points bulletin in search for a kicker. Anyone who can “just be automatic from 35 in,” as the coach said, should report to Strong immediately. On Saturday, Mitchell Becker missed a 46-yarder wide left, the only field goal attempt of the day.
Now, Texas players will finish up the spring semester and begin a summer workout routine. The Irish are coming.
“People gotta step up,” Jefferson said. “From the coaches, to the players, to the fans, to the families, everybody has to buy in. I think some guys are going to have to sacrifice a lot of things they do for the betterment of the team. That’s the truth.”
[brightcove_video video_id=”4848831284001″ caption=”American-Statesman sports writer Brian Davis and columnist Kirk Bohls recap what they saw from the Longhorns during the 2016 Orange-White Game, including projections on who might be the Longhorns’ starting quarterback this season.”]