I have a theory.
I'm not sure it will be a popular one and there's a good chance I'll be ridiculed for it. My expectations include protest and cries of excuse-making. That being said, it's a theory that has been rolling around in my head for the last couple of years and it crept back into the forefront of my thoughts this week when Orangebloods spoke with team sources about the development of the UT quarterbacks early in summer workouts.
You ready for this? I must warn you that it deals with the discussion of the quarterbacks and specifically the development of presumed starter David Ash, so if you want to skip down to section No.2, go for it.
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Ready? Here it is…
The biggest problem that David Ash has going for him right now isn't his age, his relative inexperience or even the dreaded sophomore slump… it's his own defense.
More to the specific point, I believe that elite defenses, especially elite defensive backfield units make the development of the quarterbacks on their own teams incredibly difficult. For a quarterback like Ash, the ability to improve and find cohesion with his receivers comes down to reps. Actually, it comes down to successful reps. A quarterback has to be able to achieve success in practice in the passing game before he can become Dan Marino in the games. In order to throw that late-touchdown pass to win the game, he has to have repeated that play with his receivers and achieved repeated success.
The question that I have with Ash is pretty simple… can he do that against this Texas defense as he prepares for the season? If you haven't noticed, the likes of Carrington Byndom, Quandre Diggs and Kenny Vaccaro lead a nasty little unit. It's the same unit that made a top 10 pick in Ryan Tannehill look very average and ranks as the best in the country in the minds of some.
Meanwhile, Ash currently has Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis to work with, but everything else has a question mark attached to it. Just how many successful reps could any quarterback have with those restrictions against him, let alone one trying to find his comfort zone?
So, what's my suggestion? This is the part where you might jump up and scream bloody murder. The conclusion at the end of my thesis is that the Longhorn coaches should go out of their way in the fall to limit the amount of 1-on-1 work between Ash and the starting defensive backfield.
Historically, the feeling in football is that 1's vs. 1's makes a team better. It certainly can make a physical team more physical. That's where the old school philosophy works, but isn't it a little outdated in this new offensive world of ballet in cleats? Isn't it obvious that until Ash is truly ready to compete against the likes of this group, he needs to be allowed to work at a different level. Before you could reach level eight in Super Mario Brothers, you had to clear seven others first. If football were SMB, wouldn't Ash be on level three right about now?
Generally speaking, if you think about elite passing offenses at the collegiate level, they aren't usually accompanied by elite pass defenses. The top five pass efficiency defenses in the country last season were Alabama, South Carolina, LSU, Georgia and Rutgers. Those teams ranked 69th, 95th, 106th, 48th and 52nd in the country in passing offense. No team that ranked in the top 10 in pass efficiency defense last season was joined by a pass offense that ranked in the top 30 nationally.
When Colt McCoy was taking the next step as a college player in the off-season between his sophomore and junior seasons, he did so while facing a secondary that was incredibly young and a lot of those freshmen that eventually earned playing time in the fall weren't around in the spring in 2008. Those deadly McCoy-to-Shipley and McCoy-to-Cosby combos became magical in part because they didn't truly have to fight for success in practice against their own teammates.
Is it really an accident that right about the time the Longhorn pass defense got incredibly good under Will Muschamp in 2009, the passing game under Colt McCoy looked ragged at times when it involved anyone other than Shipley? Is it a surprise Garrett Gilbert struggled in 2010 when you consider that the secondary was littered with pro football players. Do I need to mention 2011?
If the Texas passing game is going to get a lot better this year, the coaches and players need to consider changing their approach because I believe Ash will have the decked stacked against him if he keeps having his head kicked in by the team's strongest position group.
Otherwise, the next time I hear that David Ash is failing to distinguish himself in the summer workouts, my reply is going to be, "No sh*t."
No. 2 - The Pride of Texas shows out in Atlanta…
I'm tired… I haven't slept well… I missed my wife and dogs…and yet after taking in the inaugural Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge this weekend, I can honestly say that there's nowhere else I would have rather been. The talent on the field on Saturday and Sunday was that good. With the best of the best from all over the nation on hand, I got the kind of up-close look at the nation's best players that you just can't put a price on.
From the 2013 list (which will be updated in about 10 days), you had the No.1, No.2, No.3, No.6, No.9, No.12, No.13, No.16, No.21 and No.24-ranked players in the state. That's 10 of the top 25.
From the 2014 list (which will be updated this week), you had the No.1, No.19 and an unranked lineman that will likely be in the top 10 in a few days.
The competition was just as sick. It was just silly stuff.
Therefore, when we talk about what happened this weekend, you'll need to consider the atmosphere. This will be a camp that will feature a slew of future NFL players, make no mistake about it.
The Longhorn commitments on hand performed in a way that caught everyone's attention. Let's just run down the list.
1. Tyrone Swoopes
Here are the things that you had to keep in mind going into this weekend with Swoopes: He's a work in progress as a passer and has not seen as many quality reps as many of his peers, his biggest current strength as a player wasn't going to help him this weekend, the quality of competition he was facing was a significant upgrade (as was the case for everyone, but especially a Class 2A kid) and he had zero time to build any chemistry with the receivers he was working with. When you take those factors into consideration, I thought Swoopes had a pretty damn good weekend as it relates to meeting my expectations and then surpassing them. Let's get the bad out of the way, first. On Saturday, he started a little slow, had some consistency issues and didn't throw the deep ball. However, if you peel the first layer on the onion back, you'd have seen a kid that threw the ball surprisingly well on some difficult intermediate throws and flashed serious improvement from earlier in the spring. Considering the circumstances, I came out of Saturday thinking more highly of Swoopes as a passer than I had previously, and I didn't hear anyone that had seen him earlier this spring say otherwise in my discussions with those on hand. On Sunday, he started slow again, which was expected in my mind considering all of thins previously mentioned, but when he caught fire after the first half of the first game, he suddenly started to match all of the quarterbacks on hand, throw for throw, and even the pesky deep ball issue on Saturday was wiped away with a number of touchdown strikes on vertical throws. Man, there's so much good inside of that kid from a talent and make-up perspective, but he's just going to need some time. You can't make any promises with him (or anyone else), but this kid has a chance to be special.
2. Kent Perkins
Speaking of stock going up, I thought Perkins looked every bit of a five-star prospect. Physically, this young man has everything you're looking for and when he was able to stay balanced, there wasn't anyone that was getting beyond him in one-on-one drills. When he got his hands on a guy, it was pretty much over. The thing I love about this kid is that he's made so much progress with the development of his body in the last 12 months. What was once potential has turned into beastly results. He'd compete for playing time right now for the Longhorns. He'll arrive as the most ready-to-play tackle from the high school ranks that Mack Brown has ever recruited. I'm pretty confident in saying that. Have fun, Stacy Searels.
3. Jake Raulerson
This might be the biggest compliment I've ever given a Longhorn prospect, but Raulerson is the hardest working kid I have ever seen and I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone every thirst to compete like he did this weekend. Let me tell you right now that it was clear who wanted to compete once the reality set in among the players on hand just what kind of talent was on hand. Some kids got served with some reality checks. As for Raulerson, he couldn't get enough of it. That kid took so many reps that he rotated between both sides of the ball, moving up and down the line of scrimmage. Whatever he had to do to get on the field for a rep, he did. Also, I thought he looked much more athletic than I thought he would against this level of competition, as he made strong plays on both sides of the ball. His versatility is just exceptional. If you had 85 of him, you'd never lose. He's a future captain.
4. Deoundrei Davis
Davis was a little banged up coming into the event, but he just wouldn't sit on the sidelines after tweaking his knee on Saturday. His physical frame is just beautiful and as he fills out, he has a chance to be an impact athletic playmaker. This wasn't really an environment designed for him to be a star, but his athleticism just drips all over the field. He's a big-time prospect, but this wasn't the best showcase for his abilities. There wasn't a linebacker on hand that looked like a top 10 player on the field.
5. Antwuan Davis
I'll be honest when I say that I thought this was a weekend when Davis' stock might have taken off into national top 50 territory, but that didn't unfold. The athleticism is there and the speed is definitely there (his make-up speed really stood out), but he didn't really stand out on Saturday, although he showed flashes at times. Davis has been a multi-sport athlete his entire life and this weekend kind of reaffirmed that his best football is front of him, as he takes on more reps and continues to learn the position.
No. 3 - Breaking down the rest of the Texas talent …
1. Ricky Seals-Jones
I said it on the message board on Saturday night and Sunday morning, but I kind of felt like RSJ would go into beast mode on Sunday after struggling a little on Saturday, while having to make many of the same adjustments as Swoopes. He's a multi-sport guy making a big leaps, but the kid is a hell of a football player and I had a hunch that a ticked off RSJ would produce when the lights came on in 7-on-7 work. Oh yeah, I'd say he delivered. More than a handful of national analysts on hand felt like he was the best player on the Southwest team on Sunday when the dust settled. Although he weighs 230 pounds, you'd never know it from his frame. I'm not sure if he has that extra gear to separate down the field (although he got open down the field a ton on Sunday), but he's surprisingly quick off the line and in his first 10 yards off the line. His ball skills are tremendous and his consistency will come with more reps. There were some doubters on Saturday, but he delivered five-star goods on Sunday. Well done, young man.
2. Torrodney Prevot
This one isn't complicated. His tool box is loaded because of his combination of speed, quickness and quick-twitch acceleration. He's just a little light in the britches and needs some time to develop a little more physically. If you had seen some of the linemen shaking their heads when he was able to get the jump on them, you'd know what kind of force he can be down the road.
3. Isaiah Golden
Golden is a fire hydrant of a football player. You worry about his body a little because he's pretty heavy at a young age, but if he redistributes some of that weight and doesn't let himself get too big, he's going to be an impact college interior defensive lineman. He was a little inconsistent in 1-on-1's, but when he got a little fire in his belly, he just pushed people around. Raw, raw and more raw.
4. Eldridge Massington
Massington looks like a million bucks, but he didn't really distinguish himself much when I watched him on Saturday and I didn't hear much about him on Sunday.
5. Deon Hollins Jr.
If I'm being 100% honest, I'm not sure what to make of Hollins. He's an undersized player whose top skill is rushing the passer. He's going to need to improve his sideline-to-sideline play because I just don't think he can make his living off the edge at the next level.
6. Hoza Scott
An ankle injury that was slightly aggravated kept him out of action this weekend, but man, he wanted to play. You could see the frustration all over his body. He'll get his chance next year.
7. Tony Brown
This kid has everything you want in a premier national corner prospect. His athleticism and natural ability allowed him to compete at an a very high level against a players a year older than him. My man will be fighting for top five honors in the next LSR top 100 update this week.
8. Demetrius Knox
I'll give Knox a lot of credit because this was a major leap up for him and there were kids here he was competing against that looked like NFL-ready players. Younger than the entire field and making a huge leap up in competition, Knox battled his way through what had to be some initial fears. Not only that, but he was playing at tackle and I think he's a natural interior player, built in the physical mode of a young Justin Blalock. This time next year, he'll be ready for the likes of some of the best players he saw this weekend.
No. 4 - My Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge All-Star Team…
Here's what my first-team All-5-star Challenge Team looks like…
QB: Max Browne, Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline, Committed to USC
RB: Taquan "Smoke" Mizzell, Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside, Undeclared
WR: Earnest Robinson, Pinson (Ala.) Pinson Valley, Committed to Auburn
TE: O.J. Howard, Autauga (Ala.) Autauga Academy, Committed to Alabama
OT: Kent Perkins, Lake Highlands (Texas), Committed to Texas
OG: Josh Boutte, New Iberia (La.) Westgate, Committed to LSU
C: David Dawson, Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech, Committed to Michigan
DE: Carl Lawson, Alpharetta, (Ga.) Milton, Committed to Auburn
DT: Andrew Brown, Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith (2014), Undeclared
LB: Jaylon Smith, Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers, Committed to Notre Dame
CB: Kendall Fuller, 5-11/189, Olney (Md.) Good Counsel, Undeclared
S: Leon McQuay III, 6-2/185, Seffner (Fla.) Armwood, Undeclared
No. 5 - A few more nuggets from Atlanta…
… The best player at the entire camp by a mile as far as I'm concerned was Carl Lawson. When the coaches at the event cannot contain their enthusiasm for a kid, you know he's something special, especially when those coaches all have NFL backgrounds.
… I had a someone with connections to a Longhorn commitment tell me this weekend that big-time tight end prospect DeSean Smith of Lake Charles Barbe in Louisiana would have a serious interest in the Longhorns if they approach him. I think this is a kid the Longhorns can get in on and achieve some success. It wouldn't be a Hail Mary, and this kid is a stud.
… I'd rate Max Browne as the No.1 guy at quarterback, but Swoopes would rank No.2 for me, which is tall praise when you consider his No.1 strength was not in play this weekend.
… Holy moly, Smoke Mizzell is the kind of offensive playmaker that you'd cut a finger off for. He has Percy Harvin-like explosiveness.
… I thought Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian Academy defensive tackle Kenny Bigelow was the most disappointing five-star guy I saw. I just didn't see a guy that either dominated, nor wanted to dominate. He was a guy I really wanted to see in person and I didn't get to see much.
… If I'm Duane Akina, I'm calling Leon McQuay III. I don't even know if he'd answer, but I'd call nonetheless.
No.6 - Six Random thoughts from the sports world …
1. R.A. Dickey bleeds.
2. Marquise Goodwin, please take a bow. He became the first collegian to win both the NCAA title and U.S. Olympic Trials title in the same year since 1960. That's drop the mic stuff, folks. See you in London.
3. Speaking of London, you'll also be seeing Sonya Richards-Ross because she did some Sonya Richards-Ross stuff in the 400 meters.
4. A broken jaw made Victor Ortiz say, "No mas." . I ain't judging.
5. Jerry Sandusky will rot in prison until the day he takes his last breath. For that, I am incredibly thankful. He's a monster and I'm not pure prison is enough. However, I can't say Friday night felt like a time for celebration. Instead, I found myself getting very emotional and just hoping that the victims involved can begin a new chapter in life and find peace in their hearts, minds and souls.
6. On a punch someone in the face Monday, there's this schmuck . This guy's 15 minute of fame needs to end now.
No. 7 - They said what…
A look at the 10 most memorable Tweets/sequence of Tweets from the last week on my timeline.
1. "#TeamNortheast mocking their #TeamSoutheast counter parts chanting "S-E-C! S-E-C!" after winning. Love it #RivalsChallenge"
2. "Hey, Broadway, remember that time Mike Tyson raped someone? Ok, good talk, TTYL.:
3. "Terrance J just said on 106 & Park that this new Chris Brown & Drake beef is like Biggie & 2Pac? LMAO more like Brandy & Monica!"
@WilllFerrell (Parody Will Ferrell account)
4. "Rem: If I'm Mike Miller, I get my ring, retire on the podium, and donate my organs to science. This is his moment."
5. "Cab driver pulls over, gets out, throws up, examines car, gets back in, then turns to me and says "we'll make it." God Bless America."
6. "Why do hot dog buns come in packs of 8 but Shane Battier's head looks like a pack of 10 hot dogs?"
7. "Clear off the confetti: Kobe wants to shoot some jumpers!!!"
8. "I still don't understand people who say nasty things about me and then tweet them to me. Can't you talk behind my back like everyone else?"
9. "Derek Jeter isnt that clutch. I mean he only has 1 career HR in November." Serge Ibaka"
10. "The term 'hooker' is associated with Civil War General Joseph Hooker who allowed his troops to interact with prostitutes to improve morale"
No. 8 - Pop goes the culture because the culture goes pop.…
… Movie Trailer of the week: The Dark Knight Rises (The Final Trailer)
… Movie Trailer of the week II: Hoffman + River Phoenix's little brother = Yes
… WTF Headline of the weekend: 'Back to the Future:' Eric Stoltz as the original Marty McFly
… DECLARATION: Your woman will want one of these..
… Hottie of the Week: Kate Upton just keeps getting hotter .
… 100-Word Movie Review : Prometheus (C)
If I spend the entire next day thinking about how the parts of movie didn't make sense, that does not mean that a movie is good… it just means it didn't make sense. Why run straight and get killed when you can turn left and live? Also, this movie absolutely steals from Independence Day with the use of Stringer Bell and I don't know how to deal with that. While visually striking, I just didn't connect with the movie, although the concept of the Space Jesus is one I find quite amusing. Seriously, Space Jesus.
No. 9 - The List: Jimi Hendrix
7. Red House
6. Bold as Love
5. Hey Joe
4. Little Wing
3. Voodoo Chile
2. Purple Haze
Previous Lists: 2-Pac, Beastie Boys, Biggie Smalls, Boyz II Men, Chuck Brown, Jeff Buckley, Cartoon themes, Eva Cassidy,Phil Collins, Sam Cooke, Joe Ely, Al Green, Guns N' Roses, Hall and Oats, HBO Shows, Whitney Houston, Kool and the Gang, Metallica, George Michael, Mo-Town, Bill Murray, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks,Prince. Queen, Scarface, Sexiest Women of All-Time, Snoop Dogg . Gary Stewart , George Strait, TV Themes, Stevie Ray Vaughan
No. 10 - And finally…
Please indulge me for a moment as I deliver an in-house pat on the back of sorts.
There have been questions about the direction of Rivals.com at times from some, but this weekend was a perfect example of why I'm so excited about the future of Rivals. The inaugural Rivals100 5-Star Challenge wasn't just a camp. No, I've been to camps before and there's just never been anything like what happened in Atlanta.
Not with the Nike Camps. Not with the Elite 11. Not with the US Army Bowl. Nothing.
In addition to what might have been the best collection of 102 prospects ever put together in any camp setting, the entire weekend was the definition of class, from the red-carpet the kids walked in on when they arrived to the hotel to the player's lounge area to the Friday night dinner with Rodney Harrison as guest speaker to Saturday's incredibly inspirational and moving seminar from Petey's camp counselor in American Pie II to the flat out incredible competition, everything was elite of the elite. I loved the fact that here most events only allow each kid a handful of reps, the kids at this event got more than they could ever ask for.
In my mind this was the single most dynamic moment in the history of this industry, There's never been an event like this and next year's will be even better with a year under our belt.
My man, Eric Winter has only been in charge of Rivals for about a year, but he's such a visionary that he pulled off what everyone else in the business has always talked about, but never had the stones to pull off. Only ESPN has come close. When you consider the upgrades that have been made in a lot of areas since his arrival, along with the vision of having a truly state of the art network for 2012 (next spring is going to be fun), he's turned into our pied piper.
I said it at the beginning of the weekend and I'll say it again, he's the most dynamic leader Rivals.com has ever known and the best from this network is still ahead.
This entire week was a special one, but it was truly an honor to be a part of such a special event over the weekend.
This post was edited on 6/25 8:48 AM by Ketchum