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Confident Tyrone Swoopes holds early lead in Texas QB race

AUSTIN, Texas -- It’s always best to make sweeping generalizations and predictions about a football season after watching two spring practices, so that’s what we’re going to do today.

After the first week of Texas' spring ball slate, we have a tiny bit more clarity on the Longhorns’ ever-confusing quarterback situation. Here’s some mildly useful speculation about the depth chart and where things stand after, again, just two open practices.

1. Tyrone Swoopes

Some Texas fans are alarmed by this development, perhaps because they’ve seen a lot of Swoopes over the past few years and his best days have come in his specialized power run package.

The name of the game this spring, though, is whatever offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert is looking for, and Swoopes does have the arm strength and quicker decision-making (gained from experience) that’s setting him apart early on in this race.

Texas coach Charlie Strong says Swoopes is playing with a confidence right now that he simply didn’t display last year.

“That confidence factor is there. It’s now more or less, ‘Hey, I know I can do this. It’s about me going to get it done,’” Strong said. “It doesn’t surprise me. I knew it would take a little time, but it doesn’t surprise me. You like how he’s going about it now and his overall attitude. He works really hard, and you want to see good things for him.”

We’ve yet to hear from Gilbert for his assessment of Swoopes or any other Texas quarterback, but based on the division of reps, there’s no doubt the senior is the frontrunner for now.

2. Shane Buechele

Yep, the true freshman looked like Texas’ second-best option by the end of his first week of practice.

That’s not necessarily a surprise, either. The guy who recruited him to Texas, ex-OC Shawn Watson, considered Buechele a guy with a ton of “it” factor whose size (6-foot-1, 191 pounds) and game inevitably evoke comparisons to Colt McCoy. And it’s not hard to see where those comps come from.

Buechele was especially sharp in 11-on-11 work during the Horns’ third spring practice. He looks like a guy who can make all the throws. Would a redshirt year benefit him from a strength, development and learning standpoint? Absolutely. But that might not be an option if Buechele keeps pushing.

“He’s still learning,” Strong said, “but the good thing about it is he knows where to put the ball. Now it’s all about placing it and making the good throws.”

3. Jerrod Heard

Remember, Heard did not win the starting job coming out of spring ball or fall practice last year. It took a disastrous loss against Notre Dame and a coaching shakeup to get him on the field.

This year, the sophomore will have to prove he can run the show in practice. To do so, he must make improvements as a passer -- primarily when it comes to reading defenses and making rapid decisions -- to operate this offense.

Still, that speed is a tantalizing factor, and it’ll be a boost for him when it comes time for scrimmages and live action.

“He’s had a couple breakaways where you could see him breaking it and going a long ways with it,” Strong said.

For Heard, it’s all about the X’s and O’s and how he adapts to what Gilbert needs out of his passers. By the way, even if Swoopes were to win the job, you do have to wonder if Texas can find a run package for Heard’s talents.

4. Kai Locksley or Matthew Merrick

After one week, it’s a little hard to tell who has an edge between these two redshirt freshmen. Both still have plenty to learn. Locksley is a talented young passer, but he’s just not getting many reps in 11-on-11 situations. If Texas coaches pick their No. 1 quarterback at the end of spring, perhaps Locksley could reevaluate whether he’s better off getting on the field at receiver. But he looks determined to catch up and keep growing as a quarterback for now.

Merrick has good size and might prove to be a good scheme fit based on his talents. He just needs time, and he was signed (initially as a grayshirt, then as a scholarship take) with the expectation that he’d be given a few years to mature and develop.