Quarterbacks: How Did We Get Here?

Few recruiting storylines have been hashed out as often, and in as much detail, as Texas's struggles at the quarterback position.

Those rumblings became especially loud this year, when after an injury to starter David Ash, the Longhorns spent most of the year with the limited Case McCoy as a starter. So the question is: How did we get here? Class-by-class, I take a look.

* Note: Quarterbacks listed in italics were on the 2013 roster


Takes: Garrett Gilbert

Could Maybe Have Had: Russell Shepard

Breakdown: The debate to end all debates. Texas decided early that Gilbert was the quarterback it wanted, with the Longhorns not even taking a QB the previous year to further lock-in Gilbert as the heir apparent to Colt McCoy. But Gilbert, who excelled in a spread offense, also happened to coincide with 1) a drop-off in overall talent at Texas and 2) a switch to more of a ground-and-pound attack, which didn't fit with Gilbert's skill set as a spread quarterback. Gilbert struggled against BYU as a junior and was replaced by a combination of McCoy and Ash. An injury ended his season and gave him a redshirt season, with Gilbert transferring to SMU after the 2011 year.

That means he would have been a redshirt senior for the Longhorns in 2013, which also would have meshed with Texas moving to more of a traditional spread offense. How well did he do this year for SMU? Prior to Gilbert's injury in Week 13, he led the country in total offense and was third in passing yards.

Those who wanted another option typically homed in on Shepard, the explosive dual-threat option to Gilbert's accurate throwing one. Texas even could have potentially gotten both, had the Longhorns wanted to promise Shepard a chance at quarterback. But that promise didn't come, and Shepard instead went to LSU, where he wound up at wide receiver. Could he have succeeded in a zone-read heavy system like what Texas was running? We'll never know.

In what was considered to be a top class for in-state quarterback talent — four of the top 11 prospects were come from the state of Texas — the best quarterbacks might have been lower in the class. Shepard and Gilbert were five stars, followed by four stars Cody Green, Tyrik Rollison, Shavodrick Beaver, Jacob Karam and Ryan Mossakowski. But look further down and you'll see three-stars like Bryce Petty of Midlothian and Casey Pachall of Brownwood.


Takes: Connor Wood, Case McCoy

Could Maybe Have Had: James Franklin, Missouri

Breakdown: It's actually pretty tough to get wound up over this one. Wood was the No. 2 QB in the state per Scout.com, ranked below Scotty Young, who went to Texas Tech before transferring to Louisiana Tech, where he threw four passes in seven games this year. Many thought Wood was the heir apparent to Gilbert upon his arrival, but the word in practice was that he would make great plays followed by poor ones, and he transferred out after he was passed by a true freshman in David Ash after redshirting his first year. Wood started the first four games for a 4-8 Colorado team this year, completing 53.5 percent of his passes for 1,103 yards and eight touchdowns to seven interceptions on the year before he was beaten out by Sefo Liufau. He'll have one more year left to play.

McCoy, of course, is one of the most polarizing figures in recent Texas football history, though it's worth noting that he wasn't the primary quarterback take in this class (much like his brother with Ryan Perilloux years earlier). Unlike his brother, his career, though it had some high points, didn't result in All-America mention or conference titles as McCoy became a lightning rod for criticism.

Texas didn't really recruit Franklin, an unpolished passer out of high school. Interestingly enough, in 2010, the top quarterback in the state was a junior college talent, one Cam Newton of Blinn. Interesting factoid No. 2: Texas fought Oklahoma for Wood, and when it became apparent Wood was likely coming to Austin, Oklahoma offered its No. 2 choice, Blake Bell.


Takes: David Ash

Could Maybe Have Had: J.W. Walsh, Johnny Manziel

Breakdown: The Ash take — or more specifically, those who question the Ash take — represent an outstanding example of why it's more difficult to recruit Texas, from a media scrutiny standpoint, than anywhere else in the country.

In his first full year as a starter, as a sophomore in 2012, Ash ranked in the top-25 nationally in passing efficiency, led comeback wins against Oklahoma State and Oregon State and threw for 300-plus on the road against Ole Miss. Texas expected him to be a top 10-15 passer nationally as a junior, meaning he would have been one of the top quarterbacks in the Big 12. Instead, two concussions shortened his season and the Longhorns had to rely on McCoy for most of the year. If Ash can be a top 10-15 quarterback in college football, something that is certainly within his grasp, was he a poor take? Only when you contrast that with the fact that Manziel, whom the Longhorns could have had, was arguably the top overall player in college football the past two seasons.

Slight tangent: that's the primary downside of recruiting at Texas. Even if you get a player who's an A-minus, if you missed on a player who was an A (or in this case an A-plus) to get him, you're seen as having made a mistake. And in this case, Manziel was largely overlooked. Remember that Texas A&M didn't even offer him until way later in the process, either.

While Walsh has had some nice moments (though he lost his job this year to Clint Chelf), Ash will always, for better or worse, be compared to Manziel, who was a huge Texas fan. Just one spot separated them in the Scout.com rankings — Ash was No. 21 and Manziel No. 22 — and while Ash has been excellent at times, and could still develop into a great player, it will be impossible for him to beat (with the exception of possible team accomplishments) what Manziel accomplished in his two-year career in College Station, when Manziel captured one Heisman Trophy and had a second season that was arguably just as good.


Takes: Connor Brewer, Jalen Overstreet

Could Maybe Have Had: Trevor Knight, Tommy Armstrong

Breakdown: Brewer was touted as the next Kellen Moore, a heady, accurate, cerebral quarterback who, despite some physical limitations, would be an ideal fit for then-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin's system. But Brewer couldn't beat out Ash or McCoy, and was getting pushed by true freshman Tyrone Swoopes, so he elected to transfer to Arizona. He sat out this season and will be eligible to play next year. Texas took Overstreet later in the process when the coaches decided they needed more depth on roster. Unfortunately, Overstreet struggled with a more complex passing game and was moved to running back.

Texas actually took a pretty long look at Armstrong, though not initially. When the Longhorns elected to pursue a second quarterback later on in the glass, they inquired about Armstrong's interest, only to be told that he wasn't going to shift his commitment from Nebraska. But had Texas gotten in earlier, the Longhorns would have had a great shot. Knight, of course, was a huge Longhorn fan who desperately wanted a Texas offer, one that never came. Both quarterbacks started several games as redshirt freshmen this year and have a great chance to start next season at their respective schools.

Ford Childress (West Virginia) is another from this class who has played early for his school, with Childress throwing for 359 yards and three touchdowns against Georgia State. But Childress was a non-factor the next week in a blowout loss to Maryland and didn't attempt another pass after an injury ended his year.

Jameis Winston has made headlines recently by insisting that he always loved Texas, but that the staff didn't return his calls, but it's been overblown. Those who covered his recruitment for four years said that he didn't ever mention Texas in a single recruiting update.


Takes: Tyrone Swoopes

Could Maybe Have Had: J.T. Barrett, Cody Thomas.

Breakdown: It's way too early to make any kind of determinations on this one, though, like with Ash and Manziel, Swoopes will likely always have his accomplishments viewed through the prism of what Barrett and Thomas accomplish (if not Kenny Hill at Texas A&M).

The Texas staff was especially torn on the Swoopes-Barrett debate, ultimately opting to go with the bigger, stronger-armed Swoopes over the quicker, more accurate Barrett. Barrett figures not to get his full shot for at least another year with Braxton Miller returning to Columbus, and Thomas faces an emerging Trevor Knight in Norman, while Swoopes will battle with a recovering David Ash this spring. Who emerges first, and who flashes the most? It will be a fun question to answer over the next few years.

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