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The Tyrone Swoopes Conundrum: How Does Texas Longhorns OC Shawn Watson Play These Cards?

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

While the BYU destruction was frustrating, it did lend some much-needed clarity about the program.  Clarity about how tough the job of culture change really is, clarity with respect to how our coaches handle adversity and in-game offensive and defensive adjustments, clarity with respect to the ability level possessed by our back-up OL.  Certainly more clarity with respect to Charlie Strong's convictions and his willingness to live and die by them.

Perhaps most importantly, real clarity about what Tyrone Swoopes brings to the offense at QB.  The Tyrone Swoopes of imagination and fantasy no longer exists.  He played four quarters against a real opponent.  And a developmental timeline best expressed in years must now be cast in days.

The only silver lining?  I no longer have to read or hear that Swoopes is a dynamic runner.  He has some good attributes, but running isn't one of them.

Let's talk about Texas OC Shawn Watson's reality.  Here's what he's got to work with:

  • Swoopes is big, strong and has a live downfield arm
  • He's reasonably mobile - certainly capable of operating in a rolling pocket or running a bootleg
  • He's competent on single read short routes against zone or off coverage
  • His ability to read defenses is poor
  • He is raw and lacks reps in a college level offense, much less one predicated on reads and getting into the right play pre-snap
  • He doesn't step up into the pocket with pressure - he will self-sack and self-pressure
  • He overestimates his athletic ability in relation to legitimate college defenders
  • His ability to change plays or adjust to defensive overplay is poor beyond a basic binary audible - which most defenses should pick up and adjust to within one quarter
  • He currently self-defines and conducts himself as a playmaking dual threat QB, but isn't
  • Accuracy is inconsistent, ranging from very good to oh my God
Support personnel/system
  • His OL protection is poor, but doesn't give up free run shots
  • Run blocking is very poor
  • Run schemes are basic, uses no misdirection and assumes physical superiority or threat of passing game to create space
  • Texas can't run the ball conventionally between the tackles to set up consistent play action shots downfield
  • RBs are above average, M Brown largely incapable of creating without an initial hole
  • WRs are fairly good but built for precision possession passing game, no true outside deep threat
  • Most dynamic general playmaker suspended
  • 1st year in offense that is play and knowledge-based, not a scheme rep magnet program

Tyrone Swoopes is basically a big pocket-passer with some mobility.  That developmental timeline is a long one.  At best, a young Ben Roethlisberger - but one with no pocket presence yet.  He's not a "playmaker" and he's not "special" with the ball in his hands.  His upside rests in the development of his pocket presence, improvements in accuracy, football brain and growth in his decision-making and ability to process quickly.  Right now, all of those areas range from a F to a C grade.  He can't handle complexity yet.  He can get better.  He has to get better.  Or it will get very ugly, very soon.

Were Swoopes a legitimate dual threat QB, UT could craft an offense that would simplify Tyrone's decision-making, help our OL with leverage and angles, feature our RBs and use our WRs downfield in single coverage.  We might be simple, but our simplicity would have built-in counter-punches afforded by his legs and our ability to create indecision.
Watson had done that before.  But we don't have that luxury.

So we're left with a stagnant offense led by an offensive coordinator who prefers meat and potatoes plays run by veteran QBs pinning his hopes on the growth of the accuracy, acumen, pocket presence and brain of a 2nd year quarterback in his first year of a new offense who is, by any reasonable definition, a long term project.  Behind a very shaky OL in all phases and no compelling talent (Jamaal Charles) or an experienced OL to take the pressure off of him.

That's bad.

The more complexity we introduce, the more turnovers will spike.  The more simply and predictably we play it, the more time the offense spends in 3rd and 11.  Where turnovers eventually spike.  It's the Catch 22 of modern football - conservative play against good defenses isn't conservative at all.  

Our left tackle was a fourth string DT four weeks ago, the center is understandably not ready for primetime and the two guards have a lot of room for improvement. We have one plus player on the OL- Kent Perkins - a RT playing out of his best position.  The TE position has one solid performer and if we go double tight to help with protection, we guarantee a stacked box with little upside to show for it.  

You're Shawn Watson.  It's your offense.  It's Monday, September 8th.  UCLA, Baylor and OU loom.

What do you do?