...and you need to be OK with that.
JT Barrett is what Robert Griffin would look like if Griffin played in the current era of Texas football, one dominated by shotgun spread option. Other than distance from the center and the deployment of a fullback, the two players are nearly identical. Seriously, watch one reel and then the other and try to come up with a meaningful difference.
Cody Thomas plays the position better than Aaron Rogers and Tom Brady did at the same age. Kenny Hill is a product of the productive SLC QB Cloning Program, with top scientists managing to take Chase Daniel's DNA and redistribute the excess weight from the skull to the legs. Kohl Stewart also exists.
Texas will likely have to face them all at some point, possibly more than once. You should be OK with this because our guy is better than the whole lot of them.
I will spend the next 1,800 words telling you why, starting with this hyper-technical answer: Tyrone Swoopes is the best prospect in Texas because he is enormous and he is fast. He can throw a football very far, very quickly. And our OC loves him.
You're heard the phrase "3 inches only matters in horseshoes and hand grenades and porn and quarterbacking," right? It's a common phrase because it's true -- taller QBs are generally better for any number of reasons so obvious that they don't need to be covered here. But it isn't just his height that separates him, it's the girth that comes with it. Barrett will likely play around 6'2 210, Swoopes should be aiming for a Newtonian
If you're curious how important those 40 pounds are, go into a weight room with a friend and have him toss a 45 pound plate at your head. That's the difference between tackling the 20-year-old versions of Barrett and Swoopes. That'll be important. too, because the less reliable your arm is, the better your run game needs to be. Cam Newton and Tim Tebow
were essentially wildcat QBs, using their size and quickness to gain the 4-8 yard runs every chain-moving offense needs between TD strikes.
Griffin and Barrett are a different sort of fast, the kind that needs space to really blossom. They aren't tackle-breakers, aren't pile-movers, aren't the type for which you'd call QB Power
on 3rd and 4. They can buy time to throw, scramble for 10 yards on 3rd and 9, etc, but neither one is what you'd call run first.
Grffin, as it turns out, has a sophisticated risk aversion combined with dangerous downfield accuracy and built a career out of turning threats to scramble into deep throws over flat-footed, run-fearing safeties. His success came from a simple, run/screen/play-action system built around his ability to seize touchdown opportunities at a superhuman clip. He only averaged about a dozen carries per game, many coming on busted passing plays. Cam Newton, meanwhile, averaged over 20 carries and ran for over 65% of Griffin's entire collegiate total in one season.
So it's not as much a measure of "better" as it is "different," as you can win with either guy, obviously. But if you are looking at replicating one style over the other, and I should stress that this is solely my opinion (to be fair, I am never wrong), you take Auburn's old fashioned single wing approach over Baylor's scramble and pray. Why? Because Robert Griffin, pound for pound, is a much better football player, with a more varied and unique skill set. The odds that JT Barrett reaches that level of excellence if pretty slim, while the odds of Tyrone Swoopes growing 30 more pounds and being a bitch to bring down on an off-tackle run are pretty high. We already know he can do it, and he's 17 years old.
Usually, a raw passer is a risk. In this case, he's the safe play. He can command a dangerous, championship-caliber run game in three years, you can be damned certain of that. Nobody else coming out of Texas since Vince Young can say that, and the sure-thing passer simply doesn't exist.
The early narrative that developed was that Swoopes may have an edge in straight line speed, but Barrett was quicker, which is more important. And it is, which is why you should be doubly pleased with Swoopes because he's the quicker of the two. He can change direction, shift sideways full yards at a time with little warning, and can keep a defender off balance enough to make it even less likely that he'll go down. Imagine tackling a refrigerator in the dark.
6'2 210 is not exactly small (for the record, Griffin was 6'3 195 out of high school), but when your direct competition is Keenan Robinson
, it can seem that way. The smaller you are, the quicker you need to be to get the same results. Johnathan Gray has mastered the art of blinking from one plane of existence to another, amassing roughly 1.2 billion yards during his high school career. Vince Young could do the same thing
. Swoopes has shown the same ability
at 16, which is when most chicken-legged high schoolers are just learning to run without wobbling.
Does it it matter if he's juking 2A athletes? Not really, just watch where his feet go and how fast they get there. It's the same size field as everyone else. Competition is relative but size and speed aren't.
- He can throw a football very far
He has a really strong arm.
This is actually more important to me than arm strength. Garrett Gilbert had a glacial wind-up, to the point where it didn't matter how fast he could make the ball move, the defense was already on its way. A quick release, paired with a quick mind, can take advantage of smaller windows and give teammates more opportunities after the catch.
Barrett has an OK release, but when he rushes it the ball flutters and his zip disappears. Cody Thomas is technical perfection
and gives me a complete football boner, but has the downside of not being a massive bundle of fast twitch surrounded by uniform. Swoopes is so strong that his foot placement and momentum almost don't even matter, the ball gets out quick and it stays quick for the duration.
When he throws deep, his mechanics are fine, his arm is high and he gets full extension, the ball spirals and goes roughly where he wants it to. This is why most of his highlights, I'm guessing, are deep balls. On shorter throws he has the Vince quirk where he lets his elbow fall and he throws like he has a squirrel in his jersey. That can be coached out, but based on the booger-flinger we let man the spot part-time last year, I'm guessing it's not going to be a priority. The difference is that Swoopes can shoot a free throw from 40 yards away, while Case McCoy
has to muster everything he has to squirt that ball that far.
You'll probably never see Swoopes picking teams apart with the quick game. He'll never have exquisite footwork, and probably won't ever hit a fourth read in a pattern. Happily, the other team does not get to pick which plays we run. Stick to the veer/power/zone/wildcat run game with a healthy dose of play-action, and you've got a winner.
If there was one thing I learned from coaching, it's that fans are morons. Across the board idiots, every one. I include myself in this, too, because as good as I look in headphones, I still become a blathering iDolt when talked about football teams I don't belong to, which is a majority of them.
We have incomplete information. We buy any rumor or theory that fits the things we do know, which is often frighteningly little. Why is Little Johnny Superstar struggling? Nobody knows, so we all offer opinions, pick the best one, and repeat it until it becomes fact. A run got stuffed? Should've called a pass. A pass falls incomplete? Should've called a run.
We are not always wrong, but often when we're right, it's by chance. The guy who claims he always knew Garrett Gilbert would bust is the same guy that still thinks Case McCoy is the future of Texas football, Gene Chizik checked out in 2006, Blake Gideon
is good, and 9/11 was an inside job. We have strong opinions on everything, we are going to hit on a few of them.
So what do we know about Tyrone Swoopes? Not much. We don't know his grades, his study habits, how he treats his teammates, classmates, teachers or coaches. We don't know how well he takes to instruction, learns a scheme, or his practice habits. We don't know what he looks like throwing to other talented players in a camp setting. We've never talked to him. Bryan Harsin has, and he likes what he saw. That's why I'm not overthinking this. Swoopes is The ManChild: Eater of Worlds, there is only one guy like him every 4-5 years. Every comp he has won a BCS Bowl, and two won MNCs (two were also involved in serious NCAA violations, which, if anything, should show the market value of a kid like this).
Now, Harsin did come from Boise State, which does not have access to guys like this. Could this be a case of a teenager losing his mind when upgrading from the Victoria's Secret catalogue to internet porn? Perhaps. His first QB recruit at Texas was Kellen Moore Jr. What must it be like to see someone like Tyrone Swoopes stroll onto your campus and say he'd like to play for you? I imagine it would be fast, messy, and shameful. It's entirely possible Harsin is infatuated with the new toys suddenly available to him, but until it's proven, the combination of genetics and Harsin-approved intangibles should be enough for us.
The bottom line is, I can imagine a scenario in which JT Barrett best football has already been played. All you have to do is look at the career of John Chiles
or Reggie McNeal. They were fast, but not great runners,
had big arms, but weren't great passers.
Cody Thomas could never adjust to the speed of the big leagues and turn up in 4 years at Sam Houston State. Even if Tyrone Swoopes never learned to throw, he could still carve a career, Tommie Frazier style, out of a punishing ground game. Alternatively, Barrett could be at TCU, Thomas at OU, fighting one another for yet another Big 12 title. I would still maintain that we made the right choice in 2012, although I will say it in as bitter and hater-y a way possible.
He is simply a phenomenal athletic specimen. He's a better runner than Cody Thomas is a passer, he's a better runner than JT Barrett is a dual-threat. For a prospect whose reputation is built on upside, he also has the highest floor. If he never progresses in the pass game, he's Terrell Pryor. You take that. You always bet on phenomenal.