If a concussion sidelines Sam Ehlinger this week, Texas has a backup plan.
Sophomore Shane Buechele, after all, was the starter before he was felled by shoulder and ankle injuries. What, though, exists behind Buechele on the depth chart?
Ehlinger and Buechele are UT’s only scholarship quarterbacks. On paper, walk-on Josh Covey is the third-string quarterback. Junior receiver Jerrod Heard, though, would back up Buechele if Ehlinger is unable to play.
A possible position change for Heard would be nothing new. He was the starting quarterback throughout much of the 2015 season. He backed up Ehlinger when Buechele was limited against San Jose State and USC, and Texas has used a run-first package with him as the featured player.
At the moment, Heard’s role is undefined. Texas coach Tom Herman said Ehlinger could return to practice in a few days, though any setbacks would prolong his absence. Heard met with offensive coordinator Tim Beck and the quarterbacks on Sunday.
“If we don’t think Sam is going to be back, (Heard is) going to need to be in that room full-time,” Herman said.
Using Heard as a backup could add an interesting wrinkle for Texas. He’s been battling Reggie Hemphill-Mapps for snaps as a slot receiver, and Hemphill-Mapps left Saturday’s game with a sprained knee. Texas is optimistic that Hemphill-Mapps can return by the middle of the week. (Center Zach Shackelford also is in concussion protocol while running back Kyle Porter has returned from a chest injury).
Heard has recorded 12 catches, 116 receiving yards and an overtime catch against Kansas State. Two weeks ago against Oklahoma, Heard was the only receiver whose play was graded at a “championship” level by Longhorns coaches. Heard was also Ehlinger’s intended target on Saturday on a game-deciding interception in overtime.
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