Texas QB commit Tyrone Swoopes has the versatility of Vince Young
QB Tyrone Swoopes has drawn comparisons to Vince Young for his size and speed
Swoopes racked up 3,661 yards and 44 TDs before pledging to Texas in February
Challenges are to be expected, but Swoopes could thrive in Bryan Harsin's system
Vince Young was working out in a Houston-area gym when one of his friends began raving about Tyrone Swoopes, a talented, dual-threat quarterback who recently committed to Texas. Young decided to perform a quick YouTube search, his preferred method for taking stock of incoming Longhorn recruits. One or two clips were all he needed to see.
"Yeah," Young recalled thinking, "he's talented."
It's no wonder recruitniks look at Swoopes and see Young: A rare combination of size and speed -- 6-foot-5, 220 lbs -- blessed with long, loping strides and the ability to leave would-be tacklers frozen in time (or on a highlight reel). There's the feeling that, with Swoopes at the helm, few deficits are too great to overcome.
For good reason: During his sensational junior season, Swoopes amassed 3,661 total yards (1,394 passing, 2,267 rushing) and 44 touchdowns while leading the Tigers to a 7-4 record.
"He reminds me of Vince Young," said Rivals' national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell. "And Tim Tebow, Cameron Newton, Terrelle Pryor -- a guy that can do a lot of things and is so dangerous."
The hype all but guarantees that Swoopes will be under a microscope from the moment he steps foot in Austin. But don't expect him to shy away from the pressure.
A Whitewright, Texas, (pop: 1,714) product who pledged on Feb. 17, Swoopes grew watching the Longhorns. He vividly remembers Young scoring the game-winning touchdown in the 2005 BCS Championship, seeing confetti blanket the triumphant Texas icon. Though Swoopes is soft-spoken -- his coach, Jack Wylie, jokes that he has a hard time getting his young star to talk -- he's ready to shoulder the expectations that come with headlining one of the nation's premier programs.
"Oh no, there's no way I'll be intimidated," Swoopes said. "It'll be fun to have all those people as passionate about football as I am to be watching me. It'll be crazy."
That doesn't mean there won't be challenges. Lauded as a bigger and more athletic version of Young, Swoopes has struggled with his passing game. He completed just 52.6 percent of his passes in 2011, and though his arm strength is superb -- "Tyrone can throw it 70 yards, he can throw it forever," said Wylie -- he's been inconsistent in stints: He went just 9-of-21 for 75 yards during a first-round UIL playoff loss to Lone Oak on Nov. 11.
He'll also need to transition to pro-style offense, one typically built around a pocket passer. After Colt McCoy thrived at Texas from 2006-09, Garrett Gilbert flopped trying to transition from the spread offense he ran at Lake Travis (Texas) High. After starting in 2010, Gilbert transferred to SMU last fall.
"We tried to make a transformation," Gilbert said after his decision, "and it didn't work out."
But despite Gilbert's shortcomings, the past also brings encouragement. Like Swoopes, Young was forced to adapt during his first few years on campus, with many analysts calling for him to switch to wide receiver or tight end. After watching countless hours of film and consulting with current co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, however, Young completed 65 percent of his passes as a junior.
"It was a learning process," Young said. "You have to continue to work on your weaknesses. My advice to Tyrone would be to be proactive. Take advantage of the film and all the camps. Try to throw 200 balls a day. Ask questions.
"The quarterback needs to have an understanding of the coaching staff and the staff needs to have an understanding of their quarterback. Coach Brown did a great job of letting me go out and play my style the more games I played. The more comfortable you get with your offense, the more you get to showcase your skills."
And therein lies the key. Swoopes isn't coming to Texas solely to take three- and five-step dropbacks. He's coming to develop his uncommon brand of versatility, one that's extremely coveted under center.
"I'll run a pro-style offense if they really need me to, but I'd definitely be much more comfortable in a spread attack, a shotgun formation," Swoopes said. "I'd like to run zone-reads, options, rollouts."
With second-year co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin at the helm, the Longhorns seem more receptive to that type mindset. The "Wild" formation became a staple of Harsin's offense last season, and the former Boise State coordinator seems to have rubbed off on Brown.
"We want quarterbacks who can be great at something," Brown said recently. "The great thing about the offense is it can feature whatever the quarterback does best."
Expectations are daunting -- Young compiled a 30-2 record as a starter, finished second in 2005 Heisman voting and led Texas to six fourth-quarter comebacks, including the 41-38 victory over USC for the program's first national title in 35 years -- but Swoopes isn't skirting the comparisons. He's fully embracing them.
"To be compared to somebody like Vince is pretty cool," he said. "He was a great player and I'll try to do some of the things he did."
In fact, he's already on his way.
During a game against Lindsay (Texas) High last Sept. 9, Whitewright trailed 24-7 at the half. Swoopes then sparked a furious rally: He orchestrated a 13-play drive, spurred by two fourth-down conversions, to cut the lead to three points before scampering for a four-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal to slice the deficit to 31-27. On a subsequent Lindsay third-and-long, Swoopes corralled an interception -- he also plays strong safety -- to set up a game-winning 25-yard touchdown strike with under a minute to go. Whitewright 33, Lindsay 31.
"Tyrone is so competitive, he put our team on his back and took us down the field," said Wylie. "He really is a once-in-a-lifetime kid."
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