On Texas Recruiting Quarterbacks

Thoughts on Texas quarterback recruiting, derived from a Mack Brown quote on the position.

When I was younger, my hairline was higher and was still more new to the Texas beat (read: last year), I asked then-Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis, specifically, what his plan was for recruiting quarterbacks.

Regarding reporters, you should know that very few questions are asked in a vacuum. There's pretty much always a side angle, something that we're thinking about that the question can shed light on. You don't ask the president about foreign policy unless you have a foreign policy story that you're working on, or a specific angle that you're looking to test.

Anyway, the side angle at this Monday press conference, the same as all the others, was an angle that had been battering Davis seemingly since the start of the 2008 recruiting class. So when I asked Davis "what do you look for in a quarterback", the question more accurately could have read: "Why did you pick Garrett Gilbert (then struggling) over Russell Shepard (then an LSU receiver?"

It seemed the most valid question in the world. Here was Texas, still somewhat fresh off a national championship with a zone read quarterback. There was Texas, still employing the zone read with an underrated athlete at Colt McCoy. And it wasn't like the Longhorns were struggling. They were putting up tons and tons of points and racking up the wins at a high rate.

Davis smiled, as I'm pretty sure he saw through the question. And then he answered that the Texas plan for recruiting quarterbacks was simple: find the best quarterback in Texas, then go get him. He didn't go any further, though you could certainly read through the comment what you wished. He might as well have said that the Texas staff thought Gilbert was the better quarterback, so they took him.

Ignoring the fact that Davis started recruiting a non-Texan quarterback, Connor Brewer, that same fall, his answer should have drawn a follow-up question, the kind that are often difficult to get in press conference scenarios: why? Why was Gilbert the best quarterback in the state, instead of Shepard? What makes a quarterback "better"?

Fast forward to the start of spring practice, and we now have an answer to that question. With the newer staff, many things that were gray before have been more well-defined. And quarterback recruiting is one of them.

Hidden away in Texas coach Mack Brown's press conference during the spring was this well-said explanation for quarterback recruiting:

"What we're looking at are quarterbacks that we feel like can be great at something. And then I like the diversity of this offense enough and the multiplicity that we can do whatever he does best when he's in there."

Brown wasn't talking about Tyrone Swoopes versus J.T. Barrett, or even J.T. Barrett versus Cody Thomas. But he might as well have been. Swoopes, it is well-known, is an elite runner. He's "great" at it. You could build your offense around his talents as a zone-read runner. And, though he's different from what made Connor Brewer great — Brewer's accuracy and intangibles — he's still a fit. Because if a player is truly elite in one phase of their game, you can build an offense around it. And Brown said that Bryan Harsin's offense was multiple enough to take advantage of varying talents at the position.

It was one short statement — two sentences, and not even a full paragraph. But its worth was that of a Rosetta Stone in terms of translating what the coaching staff would be looking for in future signal callers. It ceased being something so trivial (and as undefinable) as "find who the best quarterback is" and gave more of a road map.

If you haven't read our takes with Yogi Roth, who helps with the Elite 11 camp, they're must reads. And one of the things that Roth said separated teams that utilized their quarterbacks well from those that don't, is the willingness of the staff to look at a quarterback and adjust their system to meet the quarterback's strengths.

With Brown and Harsin, that doesn't appear to be an issue.

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