Ten years ago, a freshman dual-threat quarterback with game-changing ability and little experience battled a senior with little game-changing experience and a ton of experience.
Texas head coach Mack Brown wrestled with who to start for the first few weeks but, after a 65-13 shellacking at the hands of Oklahoma, he had no choice – he went with Vince Young. 30 wins and a national title later, it’s evident Brown made the right decision.
The Longhorns find themselves in a similar situation now.
David Ash is the best quarterback on the team. But he’s suffered two head injuries in Texas’ first four games this year and is out this week. Concern for his long-term health and wellbeing, extremely justified, could keep him off the field for a while.
That leaves senior Case McCoy, 3-4 in his career as a starting quarterback, and freshman Tyrone Swoopes, whose redshirt is still firmly on his 6-foot-4, 245-pound frame.
The only glimpse we’ve gotten of Swoopes in a Longhorns uniform was during this year’s spring game. Swoopes made a memorable first impression, running circles around first-team defenders for 26 yards on four carries. He didn’t throw a pass but he did lead a drive that produced a field goal, the first scoring drive of the game against the Texas first-team defense.
“The kid is extremely athletic,” senior guard Mason Walters said. “He’s an accurate passer. He’s getting better every week as we see in practice. Just give him an opportunity on a big stage – Thursday night, national game. It’s good playing time. It’s a great stage to have an opportunity.”
Brown has given Swoopes second-team reps in practice for the last three weeks but it’s time for him to get first-team reps on the field against real competition. He doesn’t have to start but if he doesn’t get around the same number of snaps as McCoy does, Texas can kiss this season goodbye.
While we’re here, the guy getting third-team quarterback reps – redshirt freshman Jalen Overstreet – better get more playing time, too. Though he makes things happen from a different spot in the backfield. He ran for 92 yards and two touchdowns in the season-opening win over New Mexico State and hasn’t been seen or heard from since.
Back to Swoopes, who has been compared to Young many times, and for good reason. But where Brown can make a distinct difference between the two immensely talented signal-callers is by letting Swoopes take over at quarterback before Texas faces Oklahoma, not afterward, when it’ll be too late.
The Longhorns could put a soda can behind center and beat a Cyclones team that didn’t pick up their first win until last week’s 38-21 triumph over Tulsa and fell to FCS Northern Iowa in their season opener.
But the Sooners beat that same Tulsa team by 31 points and just took down Notre Dame by 14. If Texas is going to have any chance at beating the team in crimson and cream, it has to take the redshirt off Swoopes.