Days of Future Past: Dispatches from the 2016 Spring Game


As rain threatened the first glimpse of Texas football on Saturday afternoon, the mood inside DKR turned nostalgic. As Longhorns old—seniors, that is—and new warmed up for the Orange and White Scrimmage, rap songs from the mid-aughts boomed from the PA. “Knuck if You Buck,” the debut 2004 single from Atlanta’s Crime Mob thumped as the phalanx of amped-up players on the spring roster raised their horns high. Next was “It’s Goin’ Down,” a 2006 Yung Joc anthem. Consider that prized new true freshman wide receiver Collin Johnson was in elementary school when both songs were released.

And then Johnson’s partner in crime, fellow true frosh QB Shane Buechele got going, and you’d have thought it was 2009 all over again.

Eliciting comparisons to Colt McCoy in both stature and style, Buechele had an excellent afternoon, though he didn’t start. That would be Tyrone Swoopes, thrust back into the starting position after an excellent spring at practice and a shoulder injury to the throwing arm of sophomore Jerrod Heard. Swoopes and Buechele traded non-scoring series for the first five drives until the freshman unfurled a perfect touchdown strike to junior wide receiver Armanti Foreman, who finished the day with six receptions for 81 yards and a TD.

On the day, Buechele did all the little things that made him seem more experienced than a quarterback who is 0-0 as a starter: he scrambled out of pressure, threw the ball away instead of forcing a bad pass, and executed a nasty pump fake on a go-route to Foreman early on. Coach Charlie Strong praised Buechele’s composure after the game, noting that as the youngest of five siblings and the son of MLB pitcher Steve Buechele, “he’s always been around competition. The day he stepped on this campus, you know nothing is going to fluster him.”

Swoopes, usurped last year by Heard as the starter for most of the season, was in the driver’s seat to regain his spot. His mediocre line (4-for-16, 0 TD, 2 INT) doesn’t quite reflect how the senior actually played. Swoopes dropped a couple nice bombs in, hitting receivers in stride, including one to WR John Burt that the sophomore couldn’t hold on to for a TD. Similarly, both of Swoopes’ interceptions were on tipped balls, including one that was ripped free by Antwuan Davis on a perfectly thrown deep ball to DeAndre McNeal.

It was an odd afternoon, as rain came and went. Safety Kevin Vaccaro had a big pop on Buechele after a scramble, and defensive end Quincy Vasser at one point swung Swoopes all the way around, as Strong (mostly) made everyone fair game. Not wanting anyone to actually get hurt, the scrimmage was called at halftime as the storm rolled in. Players like backup QB Kai Locksley didn’t get any reps but was not listed on the official injury report, which included key players like Heard, Dylan Haines, Jason Hall, and Kirk Johnson. “He probably would have played second half,” Strong said of Locksley. “He’ll get his chance.”

After the game, coach Charlie Strong said that the most progress has been made this spring at the quarterback position. Where he says the Longhorns need depth is on the offensive and defensive lines. Luckily, come fall, he gets a number of true freshmen on both sides. He also praised presumable 1A and 1B running backs D’Onta Foreman and newly bulked up sophomore Chris Warren III, and said that there is “no ego between them.” They’ll both get a ton of carries as Strong said Texas will run a lot in this new-look uptempo offense. “Let’s ride those guys ’til we can’t ride em anymore,” he said. Warren and D’Onta Foreman both scored touchdowns, Foreman’s from 4 yards out and Warren’s a 51-yard burst.

Strong was predictably asked about the season opener against Notre Dame, specifically if he’d be comfortable starting a freshman QB against one of the better teams in college football. Finishing at 22-for-41 with 299 yards, 2 TDs, and 0 INT, Buechele made a strong case for himself as the next starting quarterback, to which Strong confirmed that if Buechele wins the competition this fall, he’ll be under center come Sept. 4.

As the Longhorns look to an uncertain future—an open quarterback competition, a plethora of unknowns on both sides of the line, no No. 1 kicker—it may be Buechele, looking like a relic of Longhorn past, who leads the charge.

Photo of Collin Johnson courtesy Texas Athletics.


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