Have you ever wondered how Texas, which has had top-five recruiting classes six of the last eight years, hasn’t produced a star quarterback since Colt McCoy?
New light was shed on this phenomenon in a tweet posted by ESPN’s Brett McMurphy during Florida State’s opener at Pitt in Week 1. The post included a quote from Jameis Winston, the young quarterback who was dazzling the nation in his debut, “If I’d gotten an offer from Texas, I’d be going to Texas right now.”
According to a follow-up article written by Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports posted the day after the game, Winston did reach out to Texas during the recruiting process, but never heard back from them.
Feldman contacted Winston’s high school coach, Matt Scott, who had an interesting tale of a talented young 5-star reaching out to a major program and hearing, well, nothing.
[Scott] told me he called the UT football staff ‘four or five’ times, and one time even spoke to a woman at UT after he tried the main line to Longhorns football office…‘I said, I know you get this call every single day. But lemme tell you, I’ve got a guy who some think is the No. 1 quarterback in the nation. Let me help you. You’re gonna want to get this message to the right folks. He’s interested in your school.’ She said, ‘O.K., I’ve got it.’
'I can promise you, they didn’t call me and I called them multiple times. And it’s hard to believe that one of the nation’s top programs is gonna concede, ‘Well, we’re not going to get this guy.’
We were going through some staff changes, Greg Davis had just left as offensive coordinator, Bryan Harsin had just come in…The young man called with some interest, Bryan Harsin talked to him. I had someone that was very close to the situation that I really, really trusted that knew exactly what was going on and I said, ‘Should we bring him in? And they said, ‘absolutely not, it’s a two-horse race, it’s down to Florida State who he’s committed to and Alabama. You’re not going to be able to get in it, so you need just stay out of it.’
And that’s what we did. Did we want him? Yes. Would we have taken him? Yes.
Though the failure to develop talent already at Texas could be labeled as egregious, ignoring a 5-star recruit’s determined interest in your program is inexcusable.
What’s unique about the Winston incident is that it involved a player outside of the state of Texas. Since 2010, the Longhorns have signed 90 recruits, and 80 of those—or 89 percent—have come from within the state lines.
So it’s no surprise that of the nine quarterbacks Texas has signed since Colt McCoy came on board in 2005, eight are from the Lone Star State.
This leads to issue No. 1, the Longhorns' dependence on one regional area for almost all of their recruits.
By and large Texas wins big recruiting battles in its own state, but in the meantime it misses out on bigger fish where other national powers like Alabama, Florida, Florida State and USC are trolling.
But in the case of quarterbacks, the issue isn’t that simple. No, not only are the Longhorns missing guys outside the state lines, they have chosen the wrong guys inside the state lines.
Harris waited in the wings for most of his career, playing only a couple of times and accumulating zero stats, he quit the team in August of 2010. Snead wound up transferring to Ole Miss at the end of the 2006 season. After two years as the starter for the Rebels he went undrafted in 2010 and never played in the NFL.
Texas’ misses from the class of 2006 include Matthew Stafford (a 5-star prospect from Dallas), Greg McElroy (a 3-star from Southlake, Texas), Christian Ponder (a 3-star from Colleyville, Texas) and Andy Dalton (a 3-star from Katy, Texas).
According to Rivals, the Longhorns did tender an offer to Stafford (who went to Georgia), but didn’t extend deals to McElroy (Alabama), Ponder (Florida State) or Dalton (TCU).
All five quarterbacks Texas passed on in 2006 went on to play in the NFL.
In 2007 Texas signed G.J. Kinne, a 3-star from Gilmer, Texas. Kinne transferred to Tulsa in 2008 and started there from 2009 to 2011. He went undrafted in 2012 and is now trying to secure a spot on the Philadelphia Eagles’ roster.
Mallett initially signed with Michigan but landed at Arkansas, while Foles signed with Michigan State and landed at Arizona State.
According to Rivals, the Longhorns did make an offer to Mallett but passed on Foles. Both are active in the NFL.
In what turned out to be a big year for quarterback recruiting in the state of Texas, the Longhorns didn’t sign a signal-caller in 2008.
Prospects that Texas missed out on included Andrew Luck (a 4-star from Houston), Robert Griffin III (a 4-star from Copperas Cove, Texas), Darron Thomas (a 4-star from Aldine, Texas) and Nick Florence (a 3-star from Garland, Texas.).
Luck went to Stanford, Griffin and Florence signed with Baylor and Thomas landed at Oregon. According to Rivals, none of the four received an offer from Texas, not even Luck.
Both Luck and Griffin are starting quarterbacks in the NFL, Thomas just signed with a team from the Champions Pro Indoor Football League and Florence has retired from the game.
In 2009, Texas signed 5-star prospect Garrett Gilbert out of Lake Travis High School in Austin. After making a notable appearance in relief of an injured McCoy in the 2009 BCS title game against Alabama, Gilbert wound up transferring to SMU in 2011.
Gilbert will finish his career with the Mustangs in 2013 and is rated by NFL Draft Scout as 40th-best quarterback in the 2014 NFL draft.
The only real name to come out of the state of Texas in 2009—other than Gilbert—was Casey Pachall, who was a 4-star out of Brownwood, Texas. He is finishing out his career at TCU this season.
Given that the Longhorns were set on top-gun Gilbert in 2009, it’s no surprise that they didn’t knock on Pachall’s door. That said, it’s compelling that NFL Draft Scout has Pachall at No. 14 among quarterbacks available for the 2014 draft.
McCoy—a senior in 2013—is now serving in a backup role to starting quarterback David Ash. Wood transferred to Colorado in August of 2011 and is the go-to guy for a Buffaloes team off to a surprising 2-0 start.
In another relatively dry year for Lone Star State quarterbacks, the most notable miss for the Longhorns in 2010 was 4-star James Franklin from Corinth, Texas.
According to Rivals, Texas didn’t tender an offer to Franklin, a decision that based on his performance at Missouri was not ill-advised. That said, it would have been interesting to see what Franklin—with tremendous athletic ability—could have done with the talent that would have surrounded him in Austin.
This was the year that Texas picked up 3-star prospect David Ash from Belton, Texas. As a junior in 2013, Ash will have to fight to keep the starting job in what is a fluid situation.
Again, according to Rivals, Texas didn’t make either of these guys an offer.
Manziel won the Heisman as a freshman at Texas A&M in 2012, while Walsh was named the starter at Oklahoma State after his Week 1 performance in a win over Mississippi State.
Manziel is an especially sore subject for Longhorns fans because he—like Winston—wanted to play for Texas.
According to Trey Scott in a Dallas Morning News article from December of 2012 which quoted Manziel’s appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, Manziel stated that Texas recruited him a “little bit” as a defensive back.
I actually called them and expressed an interest to them and let them know just how much I wanted to be a part of that program…They were recruiting me more as a defensive back, something that was fine with me at the time because there were schools that were throwing that out there.
2012 and 2013
Though it’s too early to gauge Texas’ misses from 2012 and 2013, it is known who the Longhorns have signed at quarterback over the last two years.
Brewer—the only guy from outside of Texas since 2006—announced his transfer to Arizona in July of this year.
After enrolling in school in January, Swoopes had a solid spring and is considered the No. 3 quarterback on the Longhorns’ roster.
The Bottom Line
There are three ways to explain how Texas hasn’t managed to produce a star quarterback since McCoy: poor evaluation, limited scope in the recruiting process and poor coaching.
Either Texas isn’t finding the right guys or, instead, it does have enough talent at quarterback and it’s botching up the coaching.
Though the coaching angle is compelling, the hits-versus-misses ratio in recruiting—especially in the state Texas owns—is so high it is impossible to argue that the problem is all coaching.
The Winston debacle could stand on its own as a red flag that something is amiss in Texas’ recruiting process, but when you add in the lack of an offer to guys like Luck, Mallett, Griffin and Manziel, the pattern is clear.
Not only does Texas not cast its net far enough into the national recruiting scene, it is missing the boat in its own state.
All recruiting statistics presented here are from Rivals.com. This includes recruiting rankings, star ratings, offers made to individual prospects, etc.