What Swoopes' debut means for Texas

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas fans who tuned out early and missed the end of the Longhorns’ 30-7 late-night win over TCU likely woke up Sunday morning and did some screaming.

That’s because they missed out on the surprising debut of Tyrone Swoopes, who burned his redshirt and played Texas’ final drive of a blowout win. And that has caused a lot of yelling -- some happy, some angry -- in the last 24 hours.

The fan base reaction was immediate, especially on Twitter. Some were thrilled to see the much-hyped QB make his first appearance. Some were furious he had to waste his redshirt. Most were stunned and even a bit baffled.

There are lots of ways to break this down, but like the game plan Texas went with when Swoopes entered the game, let’s just keep this simple. Here’s everything you need to know about the decision to let Swoopes play.

Why did Swoopes play against TCU?

Swoopes entered with 4:57 left in the game because Texas had a comfortable 23-point lead and a chance to give him a stress-free debut.

“We felt like just getting Tyrone in the ballgame and letting him understand that now he is going to play, and he needs to be ready to play, now he’ll have better practices next week,” Mack Brown said. “We still have seven games left.”

In case you missed it: Swoopes handed off five times, had one 8-yard rush and lost 3 and 7 yards on two other runs. Texas coaches called two pass plays but he did not attempt one.

Why not let him continue to redshirt and use Jalen Overstreet?

Yes, Overstreet is perfectly capable of handing off eight times if asked. But this was a move made for the rest of Texas’ season, not the end of a blowout win. Swoopes, now healthy after a hamstring slowed him in camp, has won the No. 2 job and will now prepare knowing he’s always one play away from taking the field. Overstreet is a situational guy who can be used in packages. Swoopes has to be ready for the full offense.

Why didn’t this happen sooner?

There seemed to be a clear opportunity to use Swoopes on the road against Iowa State, when the Texas offense was struggling late the first half. But Brown and the staff passed on inserting Swoopes in the game, sensing it wasn’t the right situation. But really, Swoopes didn’t play earlier this season because there was a sense that David Ash returning would mean no playing time and no need to burn the redshirt.

What does this mean for Ash’s future?

This might be the most important takeaway from the decision on Saturday. Ash has already been ruled out for the Kansas game due to his concussion-related symptoms and has not practiced or played in a game in five weeks. Is he done for the season? That decision hasn’t been made yet. But playing Swoopes is, to some extent, an acknowledgment that Ash isn’t returning soon. The freshman needs to be ready. If Case McCoy gets hurt, he’s the guy.

Isn’t this exactly what happened to McCoy’s freshman year?

Not yet, but it could be. That’s one of the reasons why Brown has tried to be careful about this situation. McCoy never got a redshirt during his Texas career because, as a true freshman, he got in for mop-up time against Rice and FAU. Coaches usually try to avoid asking a player to forgo that redshirt year for so little playing time, and again, the fear was that if Ash came back soon there would be no need to use Swoopes.

What did McCoy think of the decision?

McCoy and his teammates said they were excited to see the 6-foot-4, 245-pound freshman get his first opportunity behind center. The senior quarterback said Swoopes has “kind of been my project” and is usually in his ear as he continues to learn the offense. He was happy to see Swoopes deal with the nerves and getting hit for the first time at the college level.

“Tyrone is a good athlete, has all the intangibles,” McCoy said. “The big thing for him right now is being a student of the game. He’s definitely taking advantage of that in his freshman year.”

Can Swoopes be a game-changer for Texas’ season?

He might be a situational weapon. He might just be the emergency guy in case McCoy goes down. That’s going to be up to the coaches, and also up to Swoopes and how hard he works and practices in the next few weeks. All we really know is he has a chance now.