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Monday, April 8, 2013
Heard still learning after Elite 11 showing

By Max Olson

IRVING, Texas – Before he hit the field Saturday for the Dallas Elite 11 camp, Jerrod Heard faced two common questions from his fellow quarterbacks.

How’s that state title ring? And where is it?

“It’s at home,” Heard said. “Can’t bring it out here.”

Jerrod Heard
Not saying he will, but QB Jerrod Heard has the skills to make some noise for Texas this fall.
Being both a future Longhorns quarterback and a defending Class 4A state champion meant the Denton (Texas) Guyer star had a target on his back going into this year’s regional at the Dallas Cowboys practice facility.

When it was all over, Heard was the one asking a big question: Am I going to the finals? The answer all 80-plus quarterbacks got on Saturday was a “not yet” from Elite 11 coach Trent Dilfer.

No passer earned MVP honors and a trip to Oregon after the regional. Heard had a good day, even making the final-six group that performed Dilfer’s two-minute “pressure cooker” drill. But the Texas commit was by no means satisfied.

“I’m definitely disappointed,” Heard said. “I know I’m going to get better. I felt like I could’ve done better. I heard other people tell me I did good, but there’s always room for improvement. I still had a great time.”

He’d been through this routine twice before -- Heard attended the Dallas Elite 11 region after his freshman and sophomore seasons -- but those were different. The young guys get relegated to groups with peers their own age. They never get a shot to win the whole thing.

So you can understand why Heard wanted this one. After two years of competing on the camp’s fringe, he had to live up to some considerable hype this time around.

“I feel like I accomplished what I needed to do and at least let them know who I am,” Heard said.

Dilfer already knows plenty about Heard. He has been on the Elite 11 staff’s radar for quite a while and will continue to be going forward. Dilfer doesn’t hesitate to say he loves all the traits the dual-threat quarterback brings to the table. But where he needs to improve is clear.

“I love him. With Jerrod, when he can plan his attack, he’s a top-five guy in the country,” Dilfer said after the Dallas NFTC on Sunday. “The problem, when he gets attacked and the plan changes -- when the plan attacks him -- he’s got work to do.”

It’s not an issue of arm strength or size. It’s more that when Heard is forced to make sudden throws, Dilfer said, he lacked the base mechanics and power to come through with his arm.

Heard made an impression on the Elite 11 staff with his junior film, and Dilfer is confident he’s a “big-moment guy” capable of leading and performing when the pressure rises. His performance Saturday simply came down to a few mistakes.

"Yesterday I told him, 'You were four throws away from getting an invite,' ” Dilfer said. “But those four throws tell me a lot. Those four throws tell me you’ve got to clean some things up before you can really perform when it matters the most from an arm standpoint."

Heard didn’t come back on Sunday for the NFTC. He’s saving himself for a track meet this week, and the ESPN NFL analyst told Heard he didn’t need to attend. David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./Norman North) received the first finals invite on Sunday, but Dilfer said Heard is still high on the Elite 11 board. The quarterback guru plans to see him throw again later this spring.

After working with Tyrone Swoopes at last year’s Elite 11 finals and reviewing Heard on both his junior film and Elite 11 showing, Dilfer doesn’t doubt that the Longhorns are heading in the right direction offensively by landing the two mobile passers.

That’s because, in his opinion, the zone read is the best way to win in football today. Dilfer prefers it be run out of the pistol, but he’s glad Texas is embracing change in its offensive schemes this spring.

To Dilfer, that scheme will have to include a heavy dose of the zone read if UT wants to maximize the duo's potential, no matter which one takes over the offense in the future.

“If I had Tyrone Swoopes -- who I know intimately -- and I had Jerrod Heard -- who I’m going to know intimately -- and their skill set, I don’t know why you wouldn’t run the full, expansive, complementary system,” Dilfer said.

“You have to make a decision philosophically. And with Tyrone and Jerrod now, you’ve made your decision. You'd better understand what that decision means comprehensively.”

Still, the run component is not a factor in Elite 11 camps. Heard doesn’t mind that. He’s embracing the challenge of focusing on his flaws.

“I want to go to more camps and compete. I like competing,” Heard said. “This is what I do, and I have fun with it. I’ve been putting in a lot of work. I’ve been preparing for this day and, really, for this season. No rest.”