Just as the buzz about super QB recruit Terrelle Pryor reaches its final stages, one of next year’s prime quarterback targets has popped up on the recruiting radar for a number of programs. Cypress-Ridge (TX) quarterback Russell Shepard has already garnered attention as one of the top signal callers in the country for the class of 2009. Why are coaches and scouts making such a big fuss? With 794 passing yards and seven touchdowns through the air and 1,525 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground last year, Shepard showed he can be a defense’s worst nightmare.
“When you see me, you see that I make plays,” the youngster said when describing his game. “It can be with my arm or be with my feet. I take pride in that. If we’re down and we’ve got any time left, you know I’m going to make a play. I’m going to be a leader on the field. I’m not going to get all antsy. I’m not going to get flustered and throw interceptions or fumble. I’m also not the kind of player that’s going to get down on my teammates. I’m just going to do what it takes to win.”
A number of suitors have already tendered scholarship offers, including the University of Michigan. The Wolverines have emerged as major players, but just how major appears to be a topic of debate at this point. In a weekend interview with the Austin American Statesman, the 6-2, 185-pounder proclaimed the Maize & Blue his leader.
“I would say Texas is still up there, but Michigan is really at the top of my list, especially if they don’t get (2008 top recruit) Terrelle Pryor,” Shepard said to the paper.
In an interview that appeared earlier today on Scout.com’s Texas A&M affiliate, Aggie Websider, Shepard indicated that the in-state brethren Texas and Texas A&M are currently out front.
“I’d say that Texas A&M and Texas have a big advantage right now because of their location in-state,” said Shepard to David Sandhop. “A&M is less than an hour from my home, and Texas is a couple of hours,” Shepard said. “OU is something like 7-8 hours away. Michigan and Florida are a long flight away, and LSU is four hours away. I’d like to stay close to home if the opportunity is right, but if I have to leave I will.”
When reached by GoBlueWolverine for comment about his leaderboard last night, the talented youngster provided a more neutral take.
“I went down (to Texas’ junior day last weekend) and some things went down that brought everybody to a level playing field now,” he said. “They offered me as a quarterback and they said I could come in and prove myself. The situation there is they’d bring me in and I’d go compete as a quarterback. If it doesn’t work out and I get beat out fair and square, I’m all for going to the slot-receiver and being an All-American receiver.”
“Everybody knows that when you go to Texas, it’s big to commit when you go down there,” he continued. But with me, I told Coach Brown and Coach Greg Davis, the quarterbacks coach, ‘thank you for the offer. I really appreciate it. Thank you for being honest with me. I just want to go to different schools. I want to go to Michigan, I want to go to LSU, I want to go to Florida, and I want to go to Oklahoma.’ I wasn’t going to go down there and commit. I told them that before I got down there. I have a plan. I want to see those other schools before I make a decision.”
While it does appear that proximity to home could wind up being a factor in his choice, one issue that won’t have any bearing is longtime allegiance to any particular program.
“Growing up I wasn’t really a fan, too much, of any university,” said Shepard. “I just kind of kept up with different players. A lot of kids down here only keep up with Texas, but that’s not the case with me. I just kind of singled different athletes out like Adrian Peterson and Vince Young and I ended up really liking them.”
In the final analysis, the direction of Shepard leanings will likely be determined by his experiences on the unofficial visits he has planned for the coming months.
“I’m going to use three-day (summer) camps as my unofficial visits,” Shepard explained. “I’m going to use these visits to go see the campuses. I could make a decision before September… before the season even starts if I really like the universities when I go down for the camps. I’m an early graduate. I’m going to graduate in December. I’m going to take all of these trips back to back-to-back. I going to look at some different things and kind of see what’s going on and what these universities have to offer.”
“Another thing I’m going to look at at these universities is who else they pick up,” continued Shepard. “For example, if Michigan doesn’t get Terrelle Pryor, I could come in and start in the offense. Me and Coach Rodriguez have built a relationship through the recruiting process. He came down and we weren’t able to talk, but I called him later on that night and we had a real good conversation about the situation they’re in. They’re looking for a Pat White or similar type quarterback that can run that spread and be successful in it. If Michigan gets Terrelle Pryor, it’s still a good situation because I have all of the confidence in my ability.”
One aid to Michigan’s cause is the major presence it has had in Houston over the past few years. With five players on the 2008 roster from Shepard’s neck of the woods, Ann Arbor seems a lot more like home
“Me and Terrence Robinson come from the same area, which is northwest Houston,” he said. “We know each other when we hear each other’s name. Me and McGuffie are right down the street (from one another). We kind of train together sometimes, ran track together…we have a good relationship. I’m real good friends with him. He’s the one that kind of groomed me and welcomed me to 5A football when I was a sophomore and he was a junior. Stonum… I’ve seen him at some track meets. I know he can fly. So I’ve met three of the commitments from down here and I’m close to two of them.”
Stay tuned to GoBlueWolverine for more on Shepard in the coming months.