Daily Focus: How will Heard's move to WR affect Texas' offense?
Editor’s note: Every day in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest college football news and translate what it really means for each team involved.
Texas QB Jerrod Heard working out at wide receiver: Reports out of Texas camp have QB Jerrod Heard working out at wide receiver, an expected development based on true freshman quarterback Shane Buechele’s strong spring. Heard took 554 at quarterback last season, showing an impressive deep ball (third in nation with adjusted completion percentage of 59.4 percent on deep passes) and dynamic running ability (No. 12 run grade in the nation among QBs). While it wasn’t always conventional, Heard showed that he can be a playmaker at the position, but it appears that Buechele is the future at quarterback for the Longhorns.
It comes as no surprise as we saw Buechele at Elite 11 last summer where he excelled in our play-by-play grading of the nation’s top high school quarterbacks. He finished second in our grading at the event as he worked efficiently through reads and threw with accuracy both outside the numbers and to the middle of the field. Buechele did more of the same last spring, as the early enrollee finished strong with an excellent spring game that put him in position to become the opening day starter when Texas hosts Notre Dame inWeek 1.
So where does that leave Heard? By all accounts, he’s prepared to take the field at wide receiver if need be, and given the playmaking ability he showed last season, it could be a game changer for the Texas offense. Fellow quarterback Tyrone Swoopes stepped up late last season as a run threat in his own right, and having both players back will give Texas more options to tap into offensive creativity. Will they use screens and short passes to get the ball into Heard’s hands? Will they still look to Swoopes in short yardage to give the offense a numbers advantage? Will they use gimmick plays to allow Heard to throw the ball and take advantage of his deep ball? The options are plentiful for the Longhorns, and Heard’s willingness to change positions is admirable. With an average passing grade and excellent grade as a runner last season, Heard showed that he can play quarterback at the FBS level, but it just might be a move to wide receiver that proves most valuable for the Longhorns.
Florida loses an offensive lineman: The Florida Gators need all the offensive line help they can get and their depth took a hit this week as guard Antonio Riles went down for the season due to a knee injury. Florida had arguably the worst offensive line in the nation last season, ranking third from the bottom as a run-blocking unit and eighth-worst as pass blockers. A converted defensive lineman, Riles wasn’t great last year, but given his youth at the position, his slightly below-average run and pass blocking grades were encouraging enough to expect another step forward this season. Perhaps the biggest issue with Riles’ injury is the domino effect it has for the Gators up front. While Riles was projected to be a part of the guard rotation rather than locked in as a starter, there was some hope that he could play well enough to allow former five-star recruit, Martez Ivey, to see time at perhaps Florida’s biggest question mark up front at right tackle. Instead, Riles’ absence puts more pressure on Florida’s young offensive linemen who may have to see the field earlier than anticipated.
Maurice Smith free to transfer from Alabama: One of the big storylines in college football the last week has been Alabama safety Maurice Smith’s decision to transfer and Alabama’s decision to block him from going to an SEC school. Reports had Smith hoping to transfer to Georgia to reunite with former Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, but Alabama did not want him staying within the conference. However, they relented yesterday, reportedly allowing Smith the freedom to move anywhere he pleases, pending confirmation from the NCAA and the SEC. When and if Smith lands at Georgia, the Bulldogs add to an already-strong secondary that features four returning starters, all of whom graded positively last season. Smith’s best bet to get on the field may be as a slot cornerback where he spent 263 of his 339 snaps the last two season. He’d be competing with sophomore CB Rico McGraw as well as safeties Quincy Mauger and Reggie Wilkerson who did the majority of the slot work last season.