Stat guy: Heard gives Longhorns new dimension

Akshay Mirchandani

The Longhorns sit at 1-3 and face No. 4 TCU and No. 15 Oklahoma next. There’s clearly frustration among fans with the way things are going.

The bright side? Texas may have a plan for the future with redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard.

Heard has already become a good statistical quarterback despite having one fewer start than most of the other starting quarterbacks in the Big 12. His numbers are inflated by his record-breaking day against California. Heard isn’t going to play like that every time, but the way he plays is still evident by the numbers he puts up.

Heard brings the ability to scramble and run. He’s No. 9 in the Big 12 in rushing yards with 73.8 per game and is the only quarterback in the top 10.

It helps that he had 24 carries for 163 yards and three touchdowns against California. That won’t happen often, but Heard ran 10 times for 96 yards against Rice and 19 times for 48 yards against Oklahoma State. Making plays on the ground is what Heard is going to try to do, no matter the yardage.

Teams will start keying in on Heard’s rushing ability, but his athleticism makes him hard to stop. Heard as a ground threat makes Texas’ ability to run the spread offense easier, and allows Heard to make plays out of nothing.

When teams key in on Heard’s rushing ability, it’s on Heard to make plays through the air like a typical quarterback. Heard is No. 7 in the Big 12 in pass efficiency with a rating of 157.3. He’s thrown only 613 yards and two touchdown passes, but that’s a number that should go up as Heard keeps playing. As he learns how to navigate defenses, he’ll make more of the throws it takes for a quarterback to be successful, and teams will eventually have to make a choice on what they try to stop when it comes to Heard — key in on his rushing ability, and it opens up the air and vice versa.

Heard stands out among starting quarterbacks in the Big 12, with most of the upper-tier signal callers usually not wanting to run. TCU senior quarterback Trevone Boykin is No. 1 in the Big 12 with 367.5 passing yards per game. Texas Tech sophomore quarterback Patrick Mahomes is No. 2 at 355.2, while Oklahoma junior Baker Mayfield is No. 3 at 354.0. Baylor junior Seth Russell is No. 4 at 331.7.

These are the kinds of quarterbacks Big 12 defenses are primarily going to be preparing for. They run high-powered offenses, but they are primarily doing it with their arms.

That makes it tougher for defenses to prepare for a quarterback like Heard. He’s dynamic, which bodes well now and for the future.