AUSTIN, Texas -- Thirteen months ago, David Ash had a vision for how this would someday play out.

At Big 12 media days in July 2013, Ash was asked about his relationship with Tyrone Swoopes, the freshman who'd enrolled early and was battling to become his backup. He talked about Texas' proud history at the quarterback position -- Vince Young, Colt McCoy, even mentioned Major Applewhite. Then he reflected on what he wanted to leave behind when his playing days at Texas were over.

"Coming in, Texas kind of took a nosedive for a year, and we've been trying to get back up," he said. "With Tyrone, my goal is that whenever he steps in, I've got the program where he can just keep it rolling and Texas can be good for a long time."

[+] EnlargeTyrone Swoopes
Matthew Visinsky/Icon SMIWhile Tyrone Swoopes' ability to run gives the Longhorns another dimension, their success will depend on his ability to make key throws and good decisions.
The passing of the torch wasn't supposed to go down like this. Ash has played in just four games since then. Concussion-related symptoms have once again benched him and put his football future in doubt.

The time for Swoopes to step in is right now and when he least expected it. The sophomore played two snaps against North Texas -- the final two kneel-downs of the ballgame -- but must start his first career game Saturday against BYU.

Swoopes' resume is fairly blank to this point. He's completed nearly four times more passes in spring games (19) than in real ones (five). But he showed enough in fall camp to make this a clear-cut decision for Charlie Strong and quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson once Ash was ruled out.

"I'm very confident in Tyrone. I am," Strong said. "I'm confident with any player on this football team."

The 6-foot-4 sophomore isn't easy to bring down at 245 pounds, and Watson will surely implement more run options into the game plan this week to accentuate what Swoopes does best. Strong went so far as to compare Swoopes's ability on the perimeter to BYU's prolific quarterback, Taysom Hill.

He is not the fleet-footed Vince Young clone that fans expected during Swoopes' recruitment out of Whitewright (Texas) High School, but his legs do give the Texas offense an asset and a chance for some new wrinkles.

What Texas needs from Swoopes, above all else, is a competent passer capable of making key throws and sound decisions. He throws a nice deep ball, but how will he handle the intermediate throws? What about third downs and passing downs? Watson has seen improvements both in his knowledge and fundamentals during their time together. A long offseason of training will soon be put to the test.

"Once Tyrone gets a couple completions in, he'll start getting a little rhythm and he'll be fine," running back Malcolm Brown said. "He's a guy that I've seen work since he's been here. I know as a backup, you always feel like you have to go above and beyond, but that's not the case at all. Just have to be consistent."

The presence of Brown and Johnathan Gray, two of the Big 12's best backs, certainly helps. Strong insists he does not demand greatness of Texas' quarterbacks. He just needs a game manager.

"What you have to look at, it's not all about one position," Strong said. "If you have the defense play well like we played the other night, you have two good running backs, your offense line protects well, you can function."

Strong said Swoopes executed the Texas offense effectively during practice Sunday, but he must also prepare a contingency plan. Swoopes' backup will be freshman Jerrod Heard, the former ESPN 150 recruit and two-time state champion from Denton (Texas) Guyer. Walk-on Trey Holtz figures to be the No. 3 option, and there are no other scholarship quarterbacks available.

Had Heard been able to enroll early at Texas this spring, he might've had a better chance to beat out Swoopes. After Watson told reporters this month that Heard was "in China" when it came to his understanding of the offense, a redshirt seemed likely. That might not be possible now.

"It's got to move very quickly for him," Strong said. "You're always a play away."

The opponent for Swoopes' first start, while familiar, is no less scary. BYU still forced an Ash-led Texas offense to punt eight times in the 40-21 beatdown in Provo. He might struggle early, Strong admitted, but he needs to maintain his composure. He needs to find confidence.

And Texas will need everybody else to chip in if they're going to pull this off and, as Ash hoped, keep rolling.

"Other players have to step up, other players have to go play," Strong said. "You look across the country and it can happen to any team at any second. Now it's happened to us."

Big 12 Weekend Rewind: Week 1

September, 1, 2014
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Taking stock of Week 1 in the Big 12:

Teams of the week: Yes, West Virginia and Oklahoma State might have ultimately lost. But as heavy underdogs, they also took the top two ranked teams in the country to the wire on neutral sites. Both squads should gain a ton of confidence from their performances. And assuming they both play the way they did in their openers, their 2014 outlooks will look much different than they did in the preseason.

Disappointment of the week: Iowa State lost its season opener to an FCS opponent for the second straight year. The Cyclones jumped to a 14-0 lead, then got dominated by North Dakota State the rest of the way. Iowa State could be without leading receiver Quenton Bundrage for awhile. And the schedule doesn’t get any easier, with the next four opponents all coming off bowl appearances.

Big (offensive) man on campus: West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett was terrific in the loss, throwing for 365 yards -- the second-most a Nick Saban Alabama team had ever allowed behind Johnny Manziel in 2013. Trickett also completed 29 of 45 passes, and would have had more completions had it not been for several drops.

Big (defensive) man on campus: Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman was unblockable against SMU Sunday night. He had two of Baylor’s eight sacks, as the Bears held SMU to just 64 yards of a total offense in a 45-0 shutout -- the first time the Mustangs had been shutout since 2004.

Special teams player of the week: Tyreek Hill set an Oklahoma State record for all-purpose yards in a debut with 278. And he did it against the No. 1 ranked team in the country. Florida State has one of the nation’s fastest teams around, and yet they couldn’t catch Hill, whether it was on offense, on punt returns or kickoff returns. The Cowboys have one dynamic playmaker in their backfield, and on special teams.

Play of the week: Oklahoma State had the ball at midfield with five minutes left and a chance to take the lead over the Seminoles. But as quarterback J.W. Walsh dove for a first down, he was upended and lost control of the ball. The Seminoles recovered and scored two plays later to extend its lead to 37-24. Oklahoma State came right back and scored a touchdown, but couldn’t come up with the onside kick. The fumble was the difference maker.

Stat of the week: Baylor finished with more sacks (eight) than SMU did first downs (seven).

Quote of the week: “We can function. It’s not like it’s the end of the world.” – Texas coach Charlie Strong, after revealing Monday morning that quarterback David Ash would miss Saturday’s game with BYU due to concussion-like symptoms suffered in the opener.

Big 12 FPI rankings

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
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ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) is a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team's performance going forward for the rest of the season. Every week, ESPN will be updating its FPI to compile a ranking based on 10,000 simulations of the rest of the season using FPI, results to date and the remaining schedule.

Here is how the Big 12 stacks up after Week 1 of the season:

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Over the weekend, colleeague Max Olson released his helmet stickers for the top performers of the weekend. But I also wanted to highlight some other players who really impressed me in Week 1:

Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State: Running back Tyreek Hill drew the “oohs” and “aahs” with his speed, but Ogbah had just as big an impact for the Cowboys defensively. Facing off against an offensive line starting five seniors, Ogbah was dominant in his first career start, finishing with six tackles, two sacks and two pass breakups. The Big 12 is loaded at defensive end with Cedric Reed, Ryan Mueller, Charles Tapper and Shawn Oakman. Ogbah, just a sophomore, showed Saturday night that he might be in that class, too.

[+] EnlargeKevin White, Bradley Sylve
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsKevin White's 100-yard game against Alabama could mean he's the go-to receiver West Virginia needs.
Jay Lee, WR, Baylor: With Baylor ailing at wide receiver, Lee displayed that he’s also capable of taking on a primary role. With Corey Coleman and Antwan Goodley dealing with nagging injuries and Clay Fuller out with a broken collarbone, Lee hauled in eight passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. The Bears are overflowing with talent at receiver, especially with the additions of freshmen K.D. Cannon and Davion Hall. But Lee is another reason why.

Kolby Listenbee, WR, TCU: The Horned Frogs have desperately been in need of playmaking at the wide receiver spot. They might have uncovered the answer in Listenbee. The burner hauled in 38- and 36-yard bombs from Trevone Boykin, and added a touchdown grab on a fade late in the game from Matt Joeckel. Listenbee was beating his man all game. The Horned Frogs might finally have a weapon at receiver who can cause concern for the opponent.

Demarco Cobbs, LB, Texas: Cobbs missed the entire 2013 season and was such a non-factor before that anyway that some speculated his college career might be over. But Cobbs appears to have something left in the tank and displayed that with a pick-six in the opener. If the Longhorns suffer any injuries at linebacker, Cobbs could prove to be a key backup.

Kevin White, WR, West Virginia: Other than quarterback Clint Trickett, there wasn’t a more impressive performer against Alabama than White. The senior wideout had nine grabs for 143 yards and a touchdown. The Mountaineers had a solid wide receiving corps last year, but they never had a go-to target emerge. White clearly established himself as the target for Trickett and could be in for a monster season.

Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech: In an otherwise dismal performance, Texas Tech’s running back trio of DeAndre Washington, Quinton White and Stockton looked solid against Central Arkansas. And with Stockton, a true freshman, contributing, the Red Raiders should be fine at the position even with Kenny Williams at linebacker. Stockton had a couple of nice runs while finishing with 38 yards rushing and a nifty 6-yard touchdown.

Tyler Evans, OG, Oklahoma: Evans is in his sixth year with the Sooners, but he hadn’t played since the 2011 season Insight Bowl due to knee injuries. Saturday, Evans got the start at right guard in place of an injured Nila Kasitati, and the offensive line didn’t miss a beat as the Sooners racked up 436 yards of offense. Evans at one point quit football because of the injuries. Instead, he’ll be a valuable cog for the Sooners up front.

David Ash won't play vs. BYU

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Longhorns QB David Ash will not play against BYU this weekend after experiencing more concussion-related symptoms, and coach Charlie Strong said he is worried about the quarterback's future.

Ash told Strong and team doctors that he believes the first hit he took against North Texas triggered a recurrence of symptoms after the game. He missed 10 games and received a medical redshirt after suffering a concussion at BYU last season.

Strong said he is worried, but no official determination has been made about how long Ash will be sidelined or if he will play again this season.

"Anytime you have that number of concussions, you have to be concerned," Strong said. "You're always concerned about a young man's health, and we would never jeopardize a young man's health just for this football team. Players' health is always first."

Texas sophomore Tyrone Swoopes will make his first career start at quarterback in Ash's place. He passed for 26 yards and rushed for 79 and a touchdown in six games last year. True freshman Jerrod Heard will be his backup.

"Tyrone can handle it," Strong said. "I'm not concerned about that. The team will rally around him."


(Read full post)


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Junior Running back Johnathan Gray discusses being back on the field and the strengths of the Longhorn offense during the North Texas game.
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Senior Linebacker Jordan Hicks talks about the defensive mindset going into the North Texas game.
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Texas head coach Charlie Strong talks about the first game against North Texas, 38-7.
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Texas Defensive Coordinator Vance Bedford discusses the Texas defense during the North Texas game and impact players who helped the Longhorns to a 38-7 win.

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 1

August, 31, 2014
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Well, that was a pretty great day of football in the Big 12, all in all (sorry, Cyclones). We were on the lookout for guys who surprised in this first week of college football, and we had no trouble finding enough guys worthy of the coveted helmet sticker. Yes, Baylor still has to play, but here's who we're handing stickers out to for big games on Saturday:

ATH Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State: The best compliment you can offer Tyreek Hill might be that, without a doubt, Florida State wishes that guy was on their team. The heavily-hyped junior college transfer might've actually exceeded his electric expectations with 106 yards of offense on 14 touches and, including returns, 278 all-purpose yards in the 37-31 loss to Florida State. We tried to warn you all about him. Hill is going to be special and he's going to give Big 12 defenses fits.

QB Clint Trickett and WR Kevin White, West Virginia: What a gutsy performance from the Mountaineers and especially this duo during the 33-23 loss to Alabama. Trickett came out firing and finished with 365 passing yards and no turnovers. White might've been even better. He took it to the Alabama secondary with 143 yards on nine receptions, including a 19-yard score, and evoked a lot of talk about his NFL future. Trickett and White were put on a big stage and they stepped up.

WR John Harris, Texas: Welcome back to the big show. Harris, a senior who was seldom used last season, had an eye-opening, career-best performance as David Ash's go-to guys during a 38-7 win over North Texas. He hauled in seven receptions for 110 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown in which he trucked through a defender near the goal line. Harris caught five passes in all of 2013 but could be poised to do big things if he and Ash keep up this rapport.

QB Jake Waters, Kansas State: Waters kicked off his senior-year campaign with another typically steady showing, leading K-State on a 55-16 rout of SF Austin while putting up some nice numbers: 223 yards on 19-of-28 passing, two passing TDs, 55 rushing yards, two rushing TDs. He's becoming an excellent distributor. KSU's offense won't ask him to put up crazy Air Raid stats, but this was a nice performance.

RB Keith Ford, Oklahoma: Freshman Samaje Perine finished with more yards and Alex Ross chipped in two scores, but Ford did some really nice things with his touches. He finished with 116 total yards (65 receiving, 51 rushing) and punched in two first-quarter touchdown runs to get the Sooners rolling to a 48-16 win over Louisiana Tech. OU's inexperience stable of backs got the job done.

DE Mike Tuaua, TCU: The Horned Frogs' defensive line fared just fine without Devonte Fields thanks to a breakout performance from Tuaua. The former juco transfer went wild on Samford with 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles during TCU's 48-14 win. A three-game starter last season, Tuaua almost matched his entire TFL output from last season in one night. He won't get to catch folks by surprise anymore, that's for sure.

Plays that changed the game: Texas

August, 31, 2014
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Charlie Strong promised fans would see a Texas defense that played tougher in 2014. The first impression he and his players presented Saturday, in a 38-7 beatdown of North Texas, did not disappoint. Texas held the Mean Green to 94 total yards of offense, 15 passing yards and picked off four passes to begin the Strong era.

Here's a closer look at four of the Longhorns' top defensive plays, one from each quarter, and how they shaped what proved to be an easy season-opening victory.

1st: Walk-on gets the pick party started

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Dylan Haines burst onto the scene this spring with an interception in the first quarter of the Orange-White spring game. He did it again Saturday night. The third-year sophomore ran to the right place at the right time when Josh Greer's third-down pass deflected off the outstretched hand of tight end Marcus Smith. He grabbed the ball and took off for a 22-yard return.

Teammates mobbed "White Chocolate" -- Haines' nickname handed down from Texas' veteran DBs -- as soon as the play ended. "It's a really special moment," he said. "To share it with the 10 other guys on the field and have everyone come up and celebrate me was a truly awesome feeling." Though Texas didn't capitalize with points, Greer seemed rattled after that misfire. After the game, Haines told reporters Strong did put him on scholarship earlier this month.

2nd: Ten players, no problem?

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Watch this one closely. Unless there's a player hiding somewhere off the screen, it seems Texas got stuck with 10 defenders on the field for a third-and-4. Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford have a reputation for being fearless when it comes to blitzing, and on this play, they send six. Defensive tackle Desmond Jackson takes on the center, clearing the way for linebacker Demarco Cobbs and safety Mykkele Thompson to run past them. Cobbs gets to backup QB Andrew McNulty first and Thompson finishes the job.

UNT punted and Texas answered with an eight-play TD drive. It's a nice breakthrough play for Thompson and Cobbs, who've both endured some struggles in recent years but appear revitalized this fall under the new staff.

3rd: A rare chance to get pressure

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North Texas did not want to throw the ball in this game, especially once Texas started grabbing interceptions. The Mean Green finished with 17 pass attempts and their quarterbacks had more sacks (four) than completed passes (three). Here's one of the few times Greer, a juco transfer making his first FBS start, attempted a pass on first down. Texas defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway, one of the team's most enigmatic players, had no trouble here. He went right around UNT's right tackle and brought Greer down from behind. Teammates say the light bulb is coming on for Ridgeway, whose lazy habits limited his opportunities last season. He's the No. 3 defensive tackle in this lineup but could develop into a force.

UNT went three-and-out here and Greer attempted just two more passes the rest of the quarter. "Because they were young, they came in not to lose that game," Bedford said. "They played close to the vest, didn't give us a chance to really get after their quarterback enough. We finally got him in the third and fourth quarter."

4th: One more for the road

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Texas had three interceptions with four minutes left. Not bad at all. But they didn't stop there. More misfortune for Greer, a pass over the middle that bounced off his receiver's hands. Cobbs swooped in to grab the ball out of the air and dashed 28 yards for the pick-six. Cobbs sat out the 2013 season while recovering from a knee injury. The new coaching staff gave him a fresh start, and he rewarded their trust Saturday. If Texas' defense can be this prolific at forcing turnovers and turning them into points, they're going to be a tough out for any opponent.

"Hopefully you see a lot more of that," Bedford said.

Video: Charlie Strong pleased with effort

August, 30, 2014
Aug 30
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Charlie Strong was pleased with his team's effort in Texas' season-opening win over North Texas.

Texas 38, North Texas 7

August, 30, 2014
Aug 30
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Malcolm Brown rushed for two touchdowns as Texas beat North Texas 38-7 in Charlie Strong's Longhorns debut.

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David Ash Out With Concussion
Longhorns QB David Ash will miss this week's game against BYU with a concussion.
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