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irish insider

Texas signal caller still unknown

| Friday, September 2, 2016

Question after question at a Monday press conference was about the lack of certainty at the quarterback position in the season-opening matchup between Texas and No. 10 Notre Dame.

It wasn’t Irish head coach Brian Kelly answering those questions, though. It was Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong, who is similarly faced with a choice between two quarterbacks he calls “good players.”

And, like Kelly, Strong refused to announce just one as starter, with senior Tyrone Swoopes or true freshman Shane Buechele as his two options. Two former contenders, sophomore Jerrod Heard and freshman Kai Locksley, recently switched to receiver.

Longhorns senior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes evades Irish junior safety Drue Tranquill during last year’s 38-3 Irish home win Sept. 5.Chris Collins | The Observer

Longhorns senior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes evades Irish junior safety Drue Tranquill during last year’s 38-3 Irish home win Sept. 5.

However, while Strong won’t make his decision public until the two teams run out of the tunnel Sunday, he said he has a good idea of who he wants to start.

Strong, who is entering his third year at Texas after two losing seasons, also said that both Swoopes and Buechele will see the field, but went on to emphasize that the starter would be getting the majority of the work.

“When we name the quarterback, he is our starter and he will be the starter unless he gets beat out or something happens to him,” Strong said.

Leadership is among the most important factors in making the decision, Strong said.

“You’ve got to have someone who can win the team over and the players feel comfortable with that player, and then it’s got to be someone who can just manage your offense and execute the offense,” Strong said. “We’ve been practicing, we’ve been seeing who can do that, so that’s what the decision is going to come down to.”

Texas senior receiver Jacorey Warrick said both players seemed to fit that description.

“Both guys are well respected on this team, and both guys are more than capable of running this offense,” Warrick said. “They’re both leaders. They both have skill sets that can contribute to this offense and running this offense.”

Swoopes was the starting quarterback for Texas in last year’s opener, when Notre Dame defeated the Longhorns 38-3. He went 7-of-22 for 93 yards and was benched in week 2. He didn’t start again until the final game of the season.

In 2014, he started every game but the opener and won five of them, as he threw 13 touchdowns along with 11 interceptions. However, Strong said the new offensive system being instituted by first-year offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert offers Swoopes — and the rest of the offense that struggled en route to a 5-7 record in 2015 — a chance to improve.

Buechele obviously has no track record at the collegiate level, and there is no bigger stage than a revenge matchup with the Irish for him to step into the college game for the first time. However, the 6-foot-1 native of Arlington, Texas, was ranked highly coming out of high school, and Strong described him as a “gym rat.”

“Buechele’s done well and he’s competed well,” Strong said via teleconference. “You have a good QB battle going.

“ … The thing about Buechele is he’s always willing to learn, always around the ball, always in the classroom doing what he needs to do.”

Strong said the quarterback competition has not affected the team’s performance and minset in practice. He also differentiated between the choice he’s faced with and the one Brian Kelly is making — or, rather, declining to make — between incumbent junior DeShone Kizer and now-healthy senior Malik Zaire.

“Our problem is a little different,” Strong said when comparing Notre Dame’s situation with his own. “You’re looking at [Swoopes], a guy who’s going coming into his senior year, then you have a freshman who’s sitting there and they’re battling it out. We haven’t made such a big deal about it.”

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About Renee Griffin

Notre Dame senior, formerly of Farley Hall. Originally from Lake Zurich, IL, majoring in American Studies with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. Enjoys talkin' about practice.

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