Strong quiet on quarterback competition

Michael Shapiro

Head coach Charlie Strong and several players met with the media Monday before the team’s matchup against Notre Dame on Sept. 4. 

The Longhorns hope to avenge last year’s 3-38 loss to the Fighting Irish and expressed confidence heading into week one. But despite the optimism, there are still plenty of unanswered questions in Austin.

Strong not ready to name starting quarterback

There was plenty of quarterback talk Monday, but none of it answered who will get the starting nod against Notre Dame. Strong refused to name a starter despite persistent questioning, opting to keep it a secret until Texas takes the field Sunday.

“I know who is going to start,” Strong said. “But we’ll see who runs out there on Sunday.”  

However, Strong has a clear vision for the position this season. He said the Longhorns will stick with their choice even if there are early struggles, allowing the starter to establish a rhythm with the starting unit.

Freshmen thrown into the spotlight early

The Longhorns looked unprepared on national television against Notre Dame last year, going three-and-out on four of their first five drives. The team fell behind 17-0 in the first half, and failed to make ground in the second.

Strong said there’s no doubt the freshmen will be overwhelmed when the lights come on at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Sunday. But Texas is confident its upperclassmen can pick up the slack and help the freshmen adjust to the pressure of a primetime matchup. 

“[The freshmen] have to go out and play, just like any other game,” sophomore linebacker Malik Jefferson said. “It’s just a game. There’s no crowd, nobody else. When you’re focused out there on the field, you don’t see or hear anything else.”

New offense ready for first challenge

Offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert is looking to re-energize a Longhorn offense that ranked No. 83 in points per game in 2015. Players and coaches have praised Gilbert’s up-tempo attack, namely for its simplicity and speed.

Strong said both freshman quarterback Shane Buechele and senior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes have fared well in the new offensive scheme throughout spring and fall camps. Texas hopes its bevy of offensive weapons will shine in the new system.

“We have more opportunities to give our playmakers the ball when we need to,” sophomore wide receiver John Burt said. “The passing seems easier and more fluid than it did last year.”

But Gilbert’s offense has yet to face an opposing defense, let alone one as impressive as Notre Dame’s. The Fighting Irish finished in the top 40 scoring defenses in 2015.  Strong complimented Notre Dame’s defensive line, calling it “the most physical front four that we’ll face all season long.” 

Texas is confident its offense can score points despite finishing No. 8 in the Big 12 in points per game. But the unit will have a chance to prove it on Sunday night.