AUSTIN TX - SEPTEMBER 25: The Texas Longhorns on offense against the UCLA Bruins at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on September 25 2010 in Austin Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
For the last two years, part of my job has been to watch a young man's YouTube highlights and assess his ability to play college football. I'm far from the hardened, white-haired veteran, two days from retirement, but it still takes a lot to lift my eyebrow.
It takes something like a 6'5, 220 pound QB taking a shotgun snap, then ending up two yards past the line of scrimmage in four steps (1st play in the video over at Recruitocosm).
Look at that acceleration! Ricky Seals-Jones is why the tag "ATH" exists. Echoing Scipio, there is no point in evaluating footwork or route discipline. When your best player is that good, you make him do everything. You shouldn't be worried about a lack of expertise, you should be impressed that he can do all of it. All I wonder when I watch him play is which sadistic Sealy employee is letting that grown ass man play with children. Being comically large is one thing, but to be the quickest and fastest as well? OK football gods, good one.
The most important things about RSJ stand out immediately and are visible to even the most untrained eyes. Following the theme of this class so far, he is huge, and he is fast. It can be difficult, though, to appreciate just how quick he is. Moving 220 pounds of human and 15 more of equipment from one hashmark to the other is hard enough, but to make it look so effortless, so drama-free, undersells just how rare and amazing it is.
So is he a tight end? Receiver? Safety? No. He is a rather large young man who, unlike his genetic equal Tyrone Swoopes, doesn't need a role right now. He has great ball skills and hits with his shoulder pads. He's talented and creates violence. Worrying about a position now misses what Texas is trying to do -- collect as much physical talent as possible and put it in a pail (or as Bo Davis says, "pell." Sorry Bo, I heard about that. Everyone has their moments!) to sort out later.
In a way, we'll all get a peek into the minds of the coaching staff, using RSJ as a black ink spot (no racist!). When I watch him, I see another exciting option at QB. Guys like that can dominate games. But, we already have one of those, so next I see a future outside LB, jamming TEs off the line on one play and flying around the edge after the QB on the next. I believe in dominant running QBs and a strong pass rush.
But that's me. Bryan Harsin might feel that way about tight ends or big receivers. Maybe Mack gets excited about 240 lb. safeties. Part of it will be Jones' desire to play a certain position. I expect him to outgrow the purely skill positions and fall somewhere nearer the ball. His willingness to create contact would be best served, either way, with his hand down. You can win with Billy PIttman and Brian Carter at WR, if you have a David Thomas (or in this case, Jermichael Finley).
It's safe to project him into an H-Back type role immediately, lining up as a match-up problem on the outside, seam threat in the slot, or a deadly kick-out blocker from a fullback or motioning TE spot. The hard part for him will be learning to be a reliable edge blocker as a traditional TE. Blocking is not only one of the hardest things for a young player to master (especially if you're not full-time like a lineman), but he'll be going up against what is usually the defense's best player. The upshot here is that if you have an athlete like him, think Jason Witten here, your run game multiplies in effectiveness. If he can even become serviceable, it's still an advantage because Harsin can find match-ups. It not, Texas can still use him situationally, with heavy play-action, since he'll almost certainly be terrific receiving threat in relatively short order.
Do you keep your base package on the field to make sure Texas doesn't run you to death? Or do you bring on an extra safety, TCU-style, in order to defend against the scary downfield threats? Each team will have its own answer, and Harsin will earn his paycheck finding each solution.
The problem with RSJ is that nothing he does projects immediately to a role on a college football team. Yes, he's big and fast, but so was Myron Hardy. No sane high school coach is going to ask him to block all that often, so we have no idea how he'll take to it. Playing the Star Player Safety role won't prepare him for real, disciplined football, either. This should make you nervous with Brock Fitzhenry. When your take is 6'5, has RB vision and WR ball skills, you don't need to worry as much. If he has any competitive bones in his body, he'll be a good player somewhere.