Headed into this weekend, you can’t pull up "Texas football" without a plethora of articles about redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard appearing. The phrase, "Have you heard about Heard?" is getting tiring. But Heard is about the best thing Texas has going for it at the moment.
Heard was one of the first recruits signed by Charlie Strong back in 2013. Hailing from the destitute place known as Denton, TX, Heard attended Guyer High School and led the team to back-to-back 4A D1 State Championships his junior and senior years. Dave Campbell’s Texas Football ranked him the #1 Quarterback recruit in Texas. Scout ranked him the #37 player overall and the #2 quarterback in the nation. He went 146 of 231 for 2,148 yards his senior year. He had 22 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, and 2,172 yards rushing for 28 touchdowns that same year.
Heard sat out 2014, and Strong initially kept Heard on the sidelines for the game against Notre Dame. Tyrone Swoopes QB’ed that devastating (and rather embarrassing) 38-3 loss in Week 1. Strong wisely kicked Swoopes to the curb and put Heard in against Rice in Week 2. Heard threw for 120 yards and 2 touchdowns, with an additional 96 yards on 10 carries. After the 42-28 win, Heard’s fate was sealed as every Longhorn fan’s new offensive hero. Up next was the game against Cal, in which the Texas kicker missed the game-tying extra point with 1:11 left in the 4th quarter. While Texas lost 45-44, Heard went 20 for 31 and 364 yards. He also had a whopping 163 yards on 24 carries for 3 touchdowns. With numbers like that, Strong has no choice but to keep him coming back each week.
Then came the Oklahoma State game this past Saturday. If you thought the Frogs’ game in Lubbock was crazy, the Longhorns had their own version of crazy going on in Austin. A bumbled punt gave Oklahoma State the win, and Heard had a rough game. In the midst of fighting a stomach virus, Heard went 9 for 17 and had an interception against the Cowboys. He was sacked a whopping 7 times.
Which brings us to this weekend. Other than the game against Oklahoma State, Heard has been steadily improving. His high rushing numbers show that he has a solid set of legs on him. The Frogs should be expecting him to make a break for it when his receivers are covered, in true Boykin fashion. But there's a reason he wasn't the original starter for Texas. He's been described as inconsistent in practice. Heard's ball protection also appears to be lacking. As seen in the lead photo for this article, he starts to let the ball drop away from his side when he runs. TCU's defense needs to look for the opportunity to strip it away whenever they have a chance. It could lead to some huge turnovers for the Frogs.
When the Longhorns were trailing Cal by a touchdown, Heard reportedly went to Strong and told him that he was going to get a touchdown. Then he walked out on the field and did it in 6 plays. That’s confidence, folks. But there’s a fine line between confidence and cocky, especially at 19 years old. We’ve seen plenty of quarterbacks who got cocky and flopped under pressure. And pressure is definitely increasing on Heard. Strong is looking to cement his place at a school with a flair for firing people as dramatically as possible, and he’s surely hoping Heard will give him a piggyback ride to Longhorn fame. As fans, we need to lay it on thick this weekend. Fill the stands, make some noise, and bring your best signs. Let’s show the Longhorns what it means to play at the Amon. Lord knows our defense could use the help.