Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 60 of 99 PRESEASON 2016 61 BY MATT JONES W hile Notre Dame sorted out its own quarterback situa- tion during preseason prac- tice — a battle that is ongo- ing with junior DeShone Kizer and senior Malik Zaire expected to split time in the season opener — a simi- lar affair unfolded in Texas. And like Irish head coach Brian Kelly, Long- horns head man Charlie Strong has decided the best thing for Texas is to play two quarterbacks. Entering a critical third season in Austin, Strong told reporters two weeks before the kickoff with Notre Dame that both senior Ty- rone Swoopes and freshman Shane Buechele continue to share first-team repetitions in practice. The starter has been decided, but Strong said he won't make that information public before the Sept. 4 game. "I wanted to know myself," Strong said. "And I kind of know. I don't even have to make a big announce- ment [to the team]. They'll know." Strong said Swoopes and Buechele would both play against the Irish in the primetime matchup at 100,119- seat Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Strong said he's not sure if he'll split the playing time "50-50, 60-40 or 30-70," but he did say the backup would see the field. Keeping the starter secret will limit the knowledge that the Irish have. "I'm not going to put it out there because I don't want Notre Dame to know who we are going to start at quarterback," Strong said. Kelly wanted a defined starter en- tering the opener, but as preseason practices dragged on it became clear that the Irish would go with both quarterbacks. Strong faced a similar predica- ment, saying early in fall camp that he wanted to announce a starter "early," but instead choosing to wait until game time. No decision is likely to have a big- ger impact on the 56-year-old's fu- ture at the blueblood program after two losing seasons. Whether Strong opts for the precocious freshman Buechele — the son of former MLB player Steve Buechele — or Swoopes, who's had an up-and-down career with the Longhorns, the coach has to get it right. "If I had to guess, I would say that the true freshman Shane Buechele will get the nod, but there's a lot of talk about Tyrone Swoopes, the senior who struggled badly in last year 's game," said Ryan Autullo, who covers the Longhorns for The Austin American-Statesman. "Based on what we have seen as reporters in two open practices … Shane Buech- ele was the better quarterback. He was the more accurate passer and has better poise." Strong pursued and ultimately landed the offensive coordinator he hopes can turn around an attack that has sputtered in his first two seasons at Texas. Sterlin Gilbert, the former offensive coordinator at Tulsa, was brought in to fix an offense that fin- ished the 2015 season ranked 92nd in the country in total yards per game (370.8). Before he accepted the job, Gilbert reportedly needed a guarantee from Texas president Greg Fenves and athletics director Mike Perrin that they're committed to Strong for the long term. Strong is 11-14 heading into his third season, and the Long- horns haven't had three straight los- ing seasons since 1954-56. Gilbert's system resembles the up-tempo spread schemes that are commonplace at in-state rivals Bay- lor, Houston, Texas A&M and TCU. His system preaches speed — Tulsa ran 83.3 plays per game in 2015, the fourth-most in college football. After enrolling early, the 6-1, 191-pound Buechele was thought to be the surefire starter to begin the season after impressing during the spring. One-time starting quar- terback Jerrod Heard — who com- pleted his lone pass attempt during last year's game against Notre Dame — has moved to wide receiver, and Swoopes is often erratic as a passer, evidenced by a 7-of-22 performance against the Irish last season. Should Buechele take the first snap, it would be the biggest home start for a Texas freshman quarterback since Colt McCoy led the No. 2 Longhorns against No. 1 Ohio State in 2006. True freshman quarterbacks have started only 23 games at Texas, going 13-10. Buechele flashed his immense po- tential during the team's Orange & White spring game, completing 22 of 41 passes for 299 yards with two touchdowns in one half. "He's one of those kids that's good at everything," Autullo said. "He's not a crazy athlete, but he can move around and make people pay GAME PREVIEW: TEXAS Facts & Figures NOTRE DAME AT TEXAS Game Info Date: Sept. 4, 2016. Site: Darrell K. Royal–Texas Memorial Sta- dium (100,119). Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET. Television: ABC. Radio: This broadcast can be heard live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio (channel 129) and on Notre Dame's IMG affiliates. Series Facts: This is the 12th meeting be- tween Notre Dame and Texas. The Irish lead the all-time series 9-2. Head Coaches: Texas — Charlie Strong (11-14, third season); Notre Dame — Brian Kelly (55-23, seventh season). Noting Texas: On April 8, 2016, the game was moved from Saturday to Sunday in order to secure an exclusive, primetime window on ABC … Notre Dame beat Texas 38-3 in the 2015 season opener … Notre Dame has 892 wins in school history (ranking No. 2 in NCAA history behind Michigan (925), and Texas ranks fourth with 886 … Texas was 3-3 in home games in 2015, with wins over Rice (42-28), Kansas State (23-9) and Kansas (59-20) … In the last meeting in Austin between the schools, in 1996, No. 9 Notre Dame kicked a 39-yard field goal as time expired in a 27-24 victory over No. 6 Texas. Strong was an Irish assistant at that time. Critical Choice A quarterback decision looms over the Longhorns entering head coach Charlie Strong's third season at Texas Strong finds himself on the hot seat after compil- ing an 11-14 record his first two years in Austin. PHOTO COURTESY TEXAS

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