What's Brewing With Texas' Roster?
By Mike Casazza
Connor Brewer is gone from Texas now, soon to be a commodity at another high-major college football program, which means he may soon be another burr in the saddle for however long the Longhorns allow Mack Brown to saunter into the sunset.
And truth be told, Brewer, who will never play a down for Texas and may never share a field with the burnt orange, could accelerate that gallop.
This is not to say Brewer was or is a savior or that Texas could ill afford to let the high school All-American get away from Austin. He was, after all, no better than third string behind a junior and a freshman and he may have even been behind senior Case McCoy, who is gone this summer for a two-month mission. Despite all of Brewer’s accolades — 100 touchdowns and 7,400 yards passing his three seasons as a high school starter — Texas was nevertheless compelled to recruit another quarterback in his 2012 class. And then another in the 2013 class.
Then again, that might not be a problem with Brewer as much as it could be a problem with Texas.
Brewer can spin it: As soon as word of his departure spread, the phone was ringing and schools like Notre Dame, Stanford and Alabama were on the other end.
Those are all schools with coaches capable of turning quarterbacks into stars and Brewer is capable of doing his part. Though off in the distance, that’s potentially bad news for Texas.
This is the same program that hasn’t had any sort of stability or reliability at the quarterback position the last three seasons and seemingly has talked itself into David Ash, again, to justify high expectations in 2013. This is the group that now has one less option if Ash doesn't work out again. This is also the team that has seen two Heisman Trophy winners and one No. 1 overall NFL draft pick grow up in the state and play their college football elsewhere.
True, Andrew Luck was a bit of a late-bloomer from Houston who had been committed to Stanford for a long time, and many other schools miscast or just missed Johnny Manziel, but Texas never offered Manziel a scholarship and never considered Robert Griffin III to be a quarterback.
The latter two have combined to craft a long-running joke now in which someone says “Mack Brown recruited (blank) as a defensive back.” Seriously, last week we learned Mack Brown recruited Sharknado as a defensive back. We can safely assume he’ll do the same to Sharknado 2. The whole thing makes people perk up and wonder if Brown has lost his eye, if the turnover on the staff has been too severe or if Texas just isn’t Texas anymore.
The state that, as far as high school players are concerned, still belongs to Texas and Texas A&M is getting crowded. Baylor is coming strong and fast. TCU had been charging for a while and now has significant help from the affiliation with the Big 12 and a schedule with teams that wouldn’t dare play the Horned Frogs before. Those teams make dents that didn’t exist before. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State aren’t retreating.
The Longhorns have to be something now they didn’t have to be before: Cautious. There can’t be mass misses. There can’t be critically-crowded positions that drive away players who crave playing time over competition. There can’t be a Brewer in one class and a Jalen Overstreet in the same class and then a Tyrone Swoopes in the following class.
How did that turn out? Swoopes opened eyes in the spring and evoked reminders of Vince Young. Overstreet will be changing positions, or was at least slated to. That might change now that Brewer is transferring. The deck might be shuffled in the future with the arrival of Jerrod Heard, who rates among the best quarterbacks in the 2014 class.
There’s a difference between collecting assets and building a roster. Trouble arises when teams don’t manage the difference. Texas has seven players already committed to the 2015 class — or put another way, seven players who were sophomores last fall and who in the next 19 months will grow and develop and improve a whole bunch.
Or maybe they won’t. No one knows.
Texas has for years filled up its recruiting classes quickly, usually by skimming the top of the rankings and scooping up marquee players. It’s just so inexact, though. There are three offensive linemen, one defensive lineman and one nondescript “athlete” who already have pledged to the 2015 class. They have a lot of stars next to their names, but that doesn’t guarantee anything about them getting better, or even wanting to get better knowing they’ve already made their college plans.
After its recruiting class was ranked No. 1 by Rivals.com in 2002, Texas followed with rankings of Nos. 15, 18 and 20, but also won the 2005 national title. The Longhorns were No. 5 in 2006 and 2007 and then No. 14 in 2008, but played for the national title after the 2009 season. From 2009-12, Texas ranked Nos. 5, 3, 3 and 2, but has been 5-7, 8-5 and 9-4 the last three seasons and 11-15 in Big 12 play with rosters defined by a lack of experience and depth.
The records are trending up, though, and Texas should be the Big 12 favorite when the coaches’ preseason poll comes out next week. The 2014 recruiting class currently is ranked No. 2 while the depth chart is populated by players who have stayed. The concern, though, is whether they’re good enough to keep it going or if the Longhorns hooked into players who extend the problem and don’t solve it.