Football coaches will often use coach speak to motivate players or downplay a big game on the schedule. Phrases like “he didn’t have a good week of practice” or “we play one game at a time” can be a tactic to temper expectations or light a fire under a player.
Recent comments by Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong may hold a cryptic meaning for Longhorn Nation.
Following a spring game where his squad looked like a team that has had only 15 practices to learn a new system — uneven — Strong told Longhorn supporters at a rally to shelve any national title hopes for 2014.
This probably didn’t come as a surprise to most fans. A new coaching staff trying to change the culture of a program almost always means some growing pains at the outset. No problem, coach, we understand.
But do we need to read further into Strong’s comments? Is he trying to prepare fans for an even bigger revelation?
Like a true freshman starting under center at some point this season?
Longhorn fans would be understandably skittish with this idea. The last quarterback to start a game as a true freshman is still on the roster – David Ash in 2011. He didn’t fare very well that season. It was argued that Ash was thrown into the fire before he was ready and it stunted his growth as a quarterback. Tyrone Swoopes certainly didn’t look ready for the spotlight in his limited action last season either.
Texas fans don’t want the same fate for heralded quarterback prospect Jerrod Heard.
Starting Heard is not the ideal situation. But at this point, he has to be considered. Ash is an injury risk, and Swoopes is still developing as a quarterback. Max Wittek may end up transferring to Texas, but he will have the same amount of time in the system as Heard — none.
The unsettled quarterback situation may force Strong to play Heard earlier than he would like. It would not be the first time he has turned to a true freshman either. Just look back a few short years ago when Strong was a second-year head coach with the Louisville Cardinals.
In the third game of the 2011 season, Teddy Bridgewater replaced an injured Will Stein against the Kentucky Wildcats and never looked back. Bridgewater had a solid, but not spectacular, freshman season. Two years later, he is a potential first-round pick in the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft. Bridgewater won 23 of his last 26 games at Louisville.
I think a few Texas fans would take that.
Heard has impressed those around him with his maturity. Anyone willing to give up their spring break to go work with one of the country’s best quarterback gurus has the markings of a special player. One who wants to get the most out of his talents.
Maybe starting a freshman wouldn’t be so bad, after all.