Column: Buechele ready to be Longhorns’ starter

Michael Shapiro

Everyone seems to have the same story about Shane Buechele.

“Nothing has changed from [Buechele] from the day he stepped on campus,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “Every time I walk in the game room and see him and [senior tight-end Caleb] Bluiett they’re there shooting pool and Bluiett is like, ‘There’s nothing he can’t do.’ Then he goes and plays ping-pong and then he goes and plays basketball and then he goes and plays golf.”

Numerous Longhorns repeated the tales of Buechele’s dominance away from the gridiron during Big 12 Media Days on July 19, all illustrating a common theme: Buechele is a proven winner, ready to lead the burnt orange in 2016.

The freshman from Arlington has made his presence felt throughout the offseason, both in practice and in the locker room. Strong and Texas seniors have gone to great lengths when praising Buechele’s work ethic and attitude, noting his competitive streak. 

“[Buechele] is very smart and he makes very smart decisions,” senior safety Dylan Haines said. “He obviously studies the game a lot … and he’s a great competitor.”

The Longhorns have been tight-lipped about who has the upper-hand in the quarterback battle. But as opening night approaches, the likelihood of Buechele in the starting role increases. 

And for good reason. Neither of Texas’ starting quarterbacks from 2015 showed enough promise to warrant another shot at the starting gig, proving inconsistent and underwhelming throughout the year. 

Senior Tyrone Swoopes began 2015 as Texas starter, but was removed from the role after a 38-3 shellacking against Notre Dame to open the year. Swoopes has shown progress during the offseason, but all indications lead to him seeing the field only in situational packages.

As for sophomore Jerrod Heard, his time as a starter looks to be in jeopardy. After shining early in the year against California — in which he put up 527 yards of total offense — Heard struggled in Big 12 play and missed much of the spring with a shoulder injury. 

The incumbents’ deficiencies opened the door for Buechele, who seized the opportunity. His offseason success earned the respect of not just Strong, but the veterans on the Texas roster.

“You can’t get [Buechele] out of the facility,” senior tackle Kent Perkins said. “He came in and handled his business. He does the little things right, and he’s willing to learn and listen to the older guys.”

Much of the praise surrounding Buechele stems from his knowledge of the quarterback position. While Heard and Swoopes are often described as athletes masquerading as quarterbacks, Buechele came into the spring with a strong grasp of the position as well as offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert’s system.

“When he came into the system, it sunk in that he’d been accustomed to it,” Strong said. “It wasn’t hard for him to come in right away and make those throws and put the ball where it’s supposed to be put.”

Strong and the Longhorn staff won’t officially announce the starter for another couple of weeks. But make no mistake: When the season kicks off against Notre Dame on Sept. 4, Shane Buechele will be Texas’ starting quarterback.