Monday, December 23, 2013
Next Texas coach getting star in Heard
By Max Olson
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Lee Vallejo has a tradition. For some reason, it brings out the best in Jerrod Heard.
The Denton Guyer quarterbacks coach sits down with his prized passer every Friday before a game and opens up YouTube. Before every game, they review the same mixtape: Cam Newton highlights.
Reviewing the finest plays of his Heisman-winning season at Auburn gets Heard fired up. And that’s how his coaches see the future Texas quarterback: A 6-foot-2 version on Newton.
“He’s similar,” Guyer head coach John Walsh said. “He always seems to be running just fast enough that nobody ever tackles him. He’s physical. And he has a cannon for an arm. He’s just not 6-foot-5.”
Jerrod Heard's familiarity with several different offensive styles makes him a fit at Texas no matter who the Longhorns hire as their next coach.
Whoever becomes the Longhorns’ next head coach will inherit a coveted quarterback to build around in Heard, an incoming freshman whose commitment to Texas remains “very strong” even after Mack Brown’s resignation.
On Friday, he led Denton Guyer to 31-14 victory over San Antonio Brennan for its second consecutive Class 4A state championship. He walked off the field at AT&T Stadium as accomplished a quarterback as you’ll find in the 2014 class.
Heard won 36 games in three seasons as a starter. He finished with more than 6,500 passing yards, nearly 5,000 rushing yards and 134 total touchdowns in his career. Heard went 13-1 in playoff games and accounted for 10 TDs in state title games.
“It is crazy to think my high school career is over,” Heard said. “But I’m glad I finished it the way I did. It’s just an awesome feeling.”
He’ll bring not only a sparkling resume to Austin, but more polish than most passers his age. He comes from an elite high school program and was trained by coaches who’ve sent three other QBs to BCS schools. He’s been drilled on footwork and reading defenses ever since he was in middle school.
He was underestimated prior to the Elite 11 finals in Oregon this summer due to his prolific rushing total and finished fourth overall. Once undersized, he’s now 6-foot-2 (coaches give him another half an inch) and 205 pounds.
“He’s the best in the state,” Vallejo said. “There’s not much more he can prove.”
Against Brennan, he proved once again that he can win big games with modest numbers. Heard went 9-for-9 passing for 95 yards and rushed for 159 yards and two scores and put up 31 on a defense, led by ESPN 300 Texas defensive end pledge Derick Roberson, that gave up a total of 30 points in the regular season.
“I think I played my part,” Heard said. “Of course I think I could’ve done better but, you know, what matters is we got the ‘W’ and a great season.”
The Bears' defense slowed down Guyer’s read-option attack, but Walsh prides himself on running an offense capable of a variety of different looks. Take what they give you, he’ll say. He had the perfect triggerman for that vision in Heard.
When the pocket collapsed, Heard danced around defenders and found openings. He broke seven runs of 10-plus yards. His final career touchdown was an improvised 28-yard dash up the middle off a broken play.
“He can do so many things with his legs or arm,” Walsh said. “I’ve had fun building our offense around him. The next guy is going to, too.”
What will that next guy do with Heard? His pedigree and ability to play in any offense should impress Texas’ next coaching staff. At Guyer, he received an education in running shotgun, pistol, under center, play action, read option and more. He’s ready for whoever takes over.
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“I have no doubt that they’re going to get the best head coach,” Heard said. “No worries, actually.”
Heard wants to play right away in 2014, but he knows he’s walking into a situation that might not present that opportunity. David Ash returns after missing more than 10 games with concussion issues. Tyrone Swoopes played sparingly as a freshman but still has a long way to go. And that’s it for Texas’ quarterback options, unless an experienced passer transfers into the program.
Because he won’t enroll until the summer, Heard knows he’s at a disadvantage. Walsh’s son and Heard’s predecessor, Oklahoma State’s J.W. Walsh, redshirted before making his debut. They know a year off would be advantageous.
“I don’t wish it on any high school quarterback to have to go in and lead a program, especially the stature of Texas,” John Walsh said. “We need David to be healthy and we need Jerrod to learn a little bit.”
Whenever his time comes, Heard recognizes the expectations placed on him will be sky high, at least from the fanbase. That’s how it goes at Texas. But if these two state title runs prepared him for anything, it’s pressure.
“That’s part of being a quarterback, that’s going to be that burden on you,” Heard said. “I’m just going to play my game.”
And he’s ready to play it no matter what Texas does with its coaching search. The No. 1 coaching job in college football comes with a big paycheck and a nice bonus gift: Texas’ quarterback of the future.