- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Jerrod Heard had committed to Texas but wasn’t signed yet in late 2013 when Mack Brown was fired as the Longhorns head coach.

So Heard cast his name about, taking a look at other Big 12 schools who might want a two-time state-championship winning quarterback with fast feet and a good arm. Plenty did.

Then the phone rang. The call was for Heard’s mother. On the line was new Texas coach Charlie Strong, who was on his first full day on the job and wanted to make sure Heard’s family knew the Longhorns still wanted and needed him.

“It was very shocking to me. That really impacted me a lot,” Heard said. “He’s a family first type of guy, so I was like ‘Yeah, I’m going to play for this guy.’”

That call may end up being the most important one Strong could have made. In just two career starts, the redshirt freshman is building hope that he’s the quarterback the Longhorns have been looking for since the days of Vince Young and Colt McCoy.

Texas (1-2) starts Big 12 conference play Saturday against No. 24 Oklahoma State (3-0).

“In Heard we trust,” Texas senior linebacker Peter Jinkens said. “I started that.”

Texas fans had been wondering when they’d hear from Heard.

He redshirted in 2014 when Texas went 6-7, then couldn’t unseat starter Tyrone Swoopes in the off-season. It wasn’t until Texas was trounced by Notre Dame 38-3 in the season opener that Strong demoted lead offensive player caller Shawn Watson and gave the starting job to Heard.

Watson had been a fierce defender of Swoopes and seemed reluctant to give Heard a chance. Heard revealed this week he was rarely given snaps with the first-team offense in training camp.

Finally given a chance, Heard has passed for 494 yards and two touchdowns and run for 247 yards and three scores. Texas beat Rice in his first start and rallied from 21-points down in the fourth quarter in a 45-44 loss to California last week. His 527 yards of total offense against California was a school record.

“It wasn’t that he didn’t look good in practice, he just wasn’t placed in a situation where he was in the game,” Strong said. “I said, ‘Let’s play him. What do we have to lose? Let’s play him and watch him go.’”

Swoopes presumably had the stronger arm, but Heard had four completions of 43 yards or longer in the first half against California. Against Rice, he hit receiver John Burt in stride on a 69-yard touchdown pass.

Heard’s draws comparisons to Young, who led Texas to the 2005 national championship. His 45-yard burst on a quarterback draw late against Cal pulled Texas within a point before a missed extra point cost Texas a chance to force overtime.

Texas started that drive on its 19 with less than 2 minutes to play. Strong reminded Heard Texas needed a touchdown and didn’t have any timeouts.

“He said, ‘Coach, I got it now,’” Strong said. “I’m going to get you a touchdown.”

Six plays later Heard was in the end zone.

McCoy’s last game for Texas came in Texas’ loss to Alabama for the 2009 season national championship and the Longhorns have been searching for star-power at the position ever since.

Garrett Gilbert led Texas to a 5-7 finish in 2010 and transferred during the 2011 season.David Ash was injured as often as he wasn’t and his career was cut short by concussions after the first game of 2014.

Case McCoy, Colt’s younger brother, was brash but was just as likely to make keys mistakes and he was to have moments of brilliance. Swoopes was 5-8 as a starter.

No one will be more excited about Heard than Strong, who is 7-9 in his second season Texas.

Senior running back Johnathan Gray has seen Texas quarterbacks come and go and likes what he sees in the new kid.

“Jerrod took over,” Gray said. “We need more guys like that to say, Give me the ball, move out the way.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide