- Max Olson, Big 12 reporter
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AUSTIN, Texas -- All eyes were on the quarterbacks Saturday at Texas' Orange-White spring scrimmage at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. The latest on their battle and a few more lessons learned:
1. Quarterback battle gets some clarity: Charlie Strong didn't definitively name his starting quarterback after the scrimmage, but he did give a rather honest assessment of where Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard stand. Simply put: “Ty is still the No. 1 guy at this point,” Strong said. Swoopes threw for 159 yards on 17-of-31 passing and Heard hit 20-of-29 for 177 yards. Both QBs rushed for one touchdown and threw one interception, though Swoopes' was called back on a penalty. “Tyrone came into the spring as the starter. I don't know that Heard has done anything yet to unseat him as the starter,” Strong said. But the redshirt freshman passer has closed the gap in recent weeks in a competition that'll continue throughout the summer and into fall camp.
2. The QBs finally speak: For the first time all spring, Swoopes and Heard were both permitted to speak to reporters. In his first interview since Texas' 31-7 loss to Arkansas in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl, Swoopes said he's excited and confident about the Longhorns' new up-tempo direction on offense. “I feel like last year I was thinking too much,” he said. “Just going out there and going fast and reacting to everything I see has helped me out a lot.” As for whether he believes this is his team, Swoopes said that's up to the coaching staff. Heard faced lots of questions about taking on Swoopes but insists he's focused only on staying patient and making progress after sitting out last season. “Right now, I'm still learning,” Heard said.
3. Youth on D stepped up: The hype surrounding Malik Jefferson won't die down this summer, that's for sure. The true freshman racked up five tackles (one for loss), broke up a pass and forced a Daje Johnson fumble that Edwin Freeman scooped up for a 33-yard touchdown. Jefferson and Freeman teamed up on the No. 2 defense and looked like the Longhorns' best options at linebacker. Redshirt freshman John Bonney made a big impression in his debut, delivering big hits and six stops from the nickel corner spot, and sophomore Poona Ford continues to earn major praise from coaches after moving into a starting role at defensive tackle.
4. D-line will be strength: Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said so this week, and he wasn't lying. The rise of Ford and the continued strong play of Hassan Ridgeway gives Texas one of the better defensive tackle situations in the Big 12, especially when injured senior Desmond Jackson gets back in action. Strong called defensive end Bryce Cottrell the surprise of the spring after he looked unblockable at times Saturday. He'll team up and split snaps with Shiro Davis at strongside end, while Naashon Hughes continues to show progress at Fox end. Strong is also counting on juco transfer Quincy Vasser to help immediately at end. This group is going to be tough up front.
5. Depth still needed: Texas' lack of experienced depth at receiver and defensive back was hard to miss on Saturday. Dorian Leonard and Armanti Foreman showed flashes of big-play potential and Ty Templin did a solid job as well, but that group was generally inconsistent. Texas' No. 1 secondary had a nice day, but the No. 2 defense had a pair of walk-ons at cornerback after three corners sat out with injuries. The good news is, help is on the way. Texas inked five defensive backs and four receivers in their 2015 class. All of them will be given an opportunity to contribute immediately and should show up ready to play.
All eyes were on Texas quarterbacks Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard on Saturday at the Longhorns' Orange-White spring scrimmage