The University of Texas is hungry. That may be the understatement of the decade. With recent losing seasons still burning in the minds of the Longhorn faithful, a new hope emerges in the Arlington, Texas native and 18-year old true freshman Shane Buechele.
It is a rare occurrence when a blue blood program looks to such a young player to lead the offense to success. Last year’s starter Tyrone Swoopes was inconsistent, while backup quarterback Jerrod Heard’s throwing prowess left many wanting more. Many believe Bevo is left with few options behind center. Heard, after being bumped down the QB depth chart, has turned into a wide receiver leaving Swoopes and Buechele to duke it out for the starting role.
In most cases, yes, the school turning the keys over to a kid fresh out of high school is almost a death sentence. However, Buechele can ball.
At 6-2, Buechele was tagged as the fourth best dual-threat quarterback in the country according to 24/7 Sports. He is no sprinter by any means, but he has incredible quickness in the pocket. Similar in ways to Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield who can extend plays with his feet.
In the annual Texas Spring Game, Buechele showcased his amazing skill set with an offensive line that did little to protect him the pocket. Buechele was able to scramble and keep the play alive. He delivered pinpoint passes moving around and showed a calm demeanor not common in young players. The Arlington product threw for 299 yards on 22-of-41 passing with two touchdowns. The excitement from Longhorn nation after the Spring Game reached an all-time high not seen since the days of Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley.
Buechele has yet to be named the starter by head coach Charlie Strong, but it appears to be the worst kept secret in the Big 12. Most likely, the young freshman will lead the ‘Horns onto the field against Notre Dame.
Last season the Longhorns were outclassed and outplayed by the Fighting Irish, losing an embarrassing game 38-3. When the ball is kicked off in Austin, Texas on September 3rd, the Longhorns will have the “advantage” of trotting out an athletic quarterback with absolutely no college football tape. The Irish will have to learn on the fly how to stop Buechele. It will be a tall task for the Longhorns to beat the Irish, who will be a top 10 team. The burnt orange faithful realistically want to see a competitive game that helps feed the overflowing optimism they first tasted in Spring. It will be a difficult test for the freshman to face.
Thankfully for Texas, Buechele is no stranger to facing tough decisions/tasks and performing at a high level. He comes from a family of former Sooner athletes and fans. His brother Garrett played baseball for the Sooners while his sister-in-law was an All-American volleyball player at Oklahoma. Recruiting battles can get testy but spurning family bias to remain south of the Red River is something that creates both legends and villains on each paradigm.
Not only does Buechele stand to be the Longhorn’s quarterback for the time being, he has the opportunity to save his coach’s job as well as return Texas to conference title conversation. Texas has not been in the hunt realistically since the national title loss to Alabama in the 2009 BCS championship game. If Buechele is able to stay healthy, learn on the fly as well as have moderate to great success, the Longhorns will no doubt be a major contender.
The Big 12 is no stranger to starting freshman in big games. Last season, Baylor reserve Jarrett Stidham was thrust into the starting spot due to an injury to Seth Russell. In 2013 Texas Tech started walk-on true freshman Baker Mayfield. The passing offenses and quarterback-friendly systems of the Big 12 make it an easy transition to play quarterback right out of high school. Will this result in Texas having concrete success? That remains to be seen.
One thing is for sure, Buechele has the pieces to be successful. Despite Texas’ on the field struggles, Strong has been able to boast great recruiting classes since his start in Austin. With the lack of competent quarterback play, that surplus of talent beyond the signal-caller has been underused. Buechele hopes to be the key to that ignition to make the orange engine go.
Again, realistic Longhorn fans more than likely do not expect a victory over the Irish. But if Buechele shines and Texas can compete, their season suddenly becomes more optimistic. A second week, tune-up game against UTEP should be an easy Longhorn victory. The following week will be a rematch against a Cal team who will be without NFL first overall pick Jared Goff. There is no reason why Texas cannot be 2-1 heading into their initial Big 12 showdown with Oklahoma State.
Optimism remains high, for at least another week. But it seems the Longhorns have their man,well… kid. And boy, is he good.