Players try to fill void left by veteran injuries

Stefan Scrafield

Mere hours after learning their starting quarterback won’t play against BYU this weekend, head coach Charlie Strong and his players faced the media, and one thing was clear: Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes will not be the only person relied upon to fill the void left by junior quarterbacks David Ash’s absence.

Swoopes will take the reins at quarterback for Texas on Saturday, but the entire team has stressed the importance of each player stepping up to make up for the loss.

“Tyrone [Swoopes] is the starter, but you have to look at it as it’s not all about just one position,” Strong said. “You get the defense to play well and play like we played the other night, and you have two good running backs, the offensive line protects well and then cover it up — you can function. It’s not like it’s the end of the world.”

While teams would often focus on hyping up the backup quarterback and preparing him for the added pressure that comes with starting, the Longhorns appear to be diverting attention away from Swoopes and stressing the importance of each position group adding a little bit more to the plays.

“I think that we have a lot of leaders on every position,” senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson said. “I feel like, at the University of Texas, you have to practice like you’re a starter because you never know when your number is going to get called at any given time.”

Despite limited playing time last season, the Longhorns are confident in Swoopes’ ability to execute on the field. But it is Ash’s leadership that will be most difficult to replicate.

With Ash and senior center Dominic Espinosa out, it will be up to Texas’ other veteran players to lead the offense.

“When you have two great leaders go down, some of the guys have to step up even a little bit more,” senior running back Malcolm Brown said. “It’s nothing completely different that we are going to do, but [we] just got to be a little bit more vocal. Those guys that are stepping in for them — as a team — we have to keep those guys up.”

Texas will need to continue to support Swoopes and avoid putting him, or freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard, in a situation where they are forced to play beyond their means against the Cougars.

“[Swoopes and Heard] — they have got a long week to get ready,” senior cornerback Quandre Diggs said. “I know they are going to give their all, and we just have to rally around those guys and be ready to go.”