Here's an interesting sub-plot for this coming season. Let's go back to the signing class of 2004. Texas had just lost the Holiday Bowl to WSU, and the feeling was definitely out there that maybe the Brown regime had topped out a couple of years earlier. The 2004 class of Texas schoolboys had a bumper crop of nationally ranked quarterbacks, and Texas was spurned by most of them. Understandably, they all had NFL aspirations, and they were concerned about being able to do so if they played for Texas. That class of quarterbacks will be playing their last season in 2008, so let's take stock of where they are, and how their hopes and dreams worked out.
Bad Times at the Holiday Bowl in 2003
Rhett Bomar was the only 5-star recruit of this bunch. He and Adrian Peterson were considered the top two recruits in the whole state, and Rivals.com had Bomar as the top ranked passing QB in the nation. Phil Steele rated him as the #3 QB recruit in the nation. Texas and OU each offered him very early in the process. He committed to OU, expressing doubts about Texas' ability to prepare him for the NFL, noting that Chris Simms was barely a first day draft pick after himself being the top quarterback recruit in the nation back in '99. The Sooners felt that in signing him and Peterson, their backfield was set for years of MNC runs. He redshirted in 2004, as OU returned to the MNC game, and played as a redshirt freshman in 2005. Here are his stats (I really hope the formatting works).
A C Y TD I Rat. R Yds Ave TD
2005 OU 308 167 2018 10 10 113.48 89 184 2.07 4
2007 SHSU 291 172 2209 10 6 130.09 87 406 4.67 7
Total 599 339 4227 20 16 121.55 176 590 3.35 11
He was unimpressive as a freshman, with his mistakes contributing to the Sooners' drop to an 8 - 4 record. Sooner optimists pointed to a bowl win over an Oregon Ducks team playing without its QB as reason for optimism for the future (he was MVP for leading the Sooners to 17 points). Phil Steele's 2006 pre-season magazine had Bomar as the #21 QB in the nation, and Bomar certainly had reasons to expect 2006 to be a career-launching year.
It was not to be. A local booster had hired him and allowed him to receive pay for work not performed, and the Sooners booted him off the team. This happened before the season, so he transferred to a D-1AA program, SHSU in Huntsville, so that he wouldn't have to sit out a year.
The NCAA did not feel there was a real need for them to address his transfer and eligibility immediately (perhaps they felt he could be more forthcoming in their investigation), and he ended up missing the 2006 season anyway. He started at QB for SHSU in 2007, and played well in spots, but was hurt late in the year. He played against one D-1A team, Oklahoma State, in 2007, but performed less well against the Cowboys backed by the Bearkats than he did when playing as a Sooner two years earlier.
Hang in there, Rhettt.
So, what are his prospects? He almost certainly still has NFL ambitions. The NFL will notice a big year, even in Huntsville. What exactly constitutes a big year? How will he perform when he plays another D-1A team in 2008, at Kansas? Right now, an invitation to the NFL combine and being drafted on the 2nd day would be considered a good outcome for Bomar.
Has he fallen far since 2004 signing day? It's not fair to say that. The recruit ranking services ranked the 2002 top three passers as Ben Olson, Trent Edwards, and Justin Zwick- three good college QBs, but only one NFL QB. The top three passers from 2003? Kyle Wright, Chris Leak, and Tommy Grady (think he second-guessed his decision to transfer to Utah in the summer of 2006?). It may be that he was never actually as on-track for the NFL as initially thought. What does he need to do in 2008 to get on the NFL scouts' radar screen? He needs to stay healthy, and play well. Physically, he has decent size, good speed, and a good arm. He needs to show he can play at an elite level. He has not done so yet, and has one chance left to do so.
Stephen McGee was rated the nation's 4th best passer by Rivals, and Phil steele had him as the #7 QB recruit in the nation. He was offered early by Texas, but decided quickly to sign with TAMU. At the time, like Bomar, he gave indications that he believed that he could develop more as a pro-style QB at TAMU than in Austin. Fran was new at TAMU, and had not yet switched to the spread option attack. McGee would backup Reggie McNeal after redshirting a season, and then take over the reins of the Ag offense.
It has not worked out well for McGee. He has been a good soldier for his coach, putting his head down and assuming the primary running responsibility in the offense. Unfortunately, he lacks the elusiveness of a Vince Young, and so takes a lot of hard hits. He has started the entire 2006 and 2007 seasons, but has never played a full season at 100%. Injuries to his arm and shoulder each year have kept him from truly airing it out. Here are the stats:
A C Y TD I Rat. R Yds Ave TD
2005 TAMU 53 24 283 2 1 98.82 43 235 5.47 2
2006 313 194 2295 12 2 134.95 146 666 4.56 4
2007 364 211 2311 12 8 117.78 181 899 4.97 5
Total 730 429 4889 26 11 123.76 370 1800 4.86 11
Good, but not great numbers. In Phil Steele's annual QB rankings, he has had McGee at #21 for 2007 and #31 for 2008, which probably matches NFL scouts' estimation of him. In fairness, he was the victim of a bait-and-switch by Fran. He would never have committed in 2004 if he knew the offense would call for him to carry 370 times by his junior year. Also, he has never been fully healthy.
Should we feel sympathy for McGee? No. He signed up for this, and every year since he has recommitted to the program. After Fran's first year at TAMU, QB Dustin Long realized that he would have to transfer if he wanted to play in the kind of offense he wanted. McGee could have done the same when the spread option offense was presented to him, but didn't. Maybe he loved TAMU too much to transfer, or felt too much loyalty to his teammates, or maybe the moments of clear-headed lucidity were just too rare, but it was his choice to play in that offense.
Loyalty is good. Blind loyalty isn't.
What does he need to do in 2008 if he wants to keep playing football? He needs an eye-opening year. He probably needs to throw for over 2500 yards at least, with over 20 TDs passing. Mike Sherman's new offense should give hima great opportunity to show what he can do.
Unfortunately for McGee, he will have to do so with a raw OL and unproven receivers. This season will determine whether he goes on to the NFL career he has been imagining for years, or he goes on to compete with Mark Farris for insurance clients.
Graham Harrell was ranked the #7 passing QB in the nation in 2004 by Rivals, and #16 overall QB recruit by Phil Steele. Texas didn't recruit him, and he wasn't interested in Texas. He set a bunch of records passing in HS, but some feared he was a "system QB". It didn't matter, because he signed with the consummate "system" team- TT. It was a very sensible decision for both sides. Harrell is the best athlete TT has had at the position under Leach, and the offense has allowed him to fully display his abilities. Here's the stats-
A C Y TD I Rat. R Yds Ave TD
2005 TT 55 37 422 3 0 149.72 2 -10 -5.00 0
2006 617 412 4555 38 11 145.55 32 -66 -2.06 2
2007 713 512 5705 48 14 157.31 38 -91 -2.39 4
Total 1385 961 10682 89 25 151.77 72 -167 -2.32 6
From 2006 thru 2008, Steele has rated him as #18, #10, and now #5. What does he have to do in 2008 to get invited to the NFL Combine, and presumably drafted? Not much...maybe avoid some ridiculous scandal.
It's all coming together, isn't it?
The next couple of QBs are a little interesting. They were rated on the "dual threat" list. Mobile QBs can be effective in college even without the rifle arms the NFL likes. Some "dual threat" QBs are able to parlay their college playing experience, and growth in passing skills, into NFL careers (Vince Young, Troy Smith, Dennis Dixon). Certainly, these players expect to use college ball as a forum for launching a NFL career.
Robbie Reid was the #3 rated dual threat QB in the 2004 class. Phil Steele rated him as the #5 QB recruit in the nation, higher than all Texas QBs that year except Bomar. After striking out on Bomar and McGee, Texas offered him, but it was too late. He was miffed about being slow-played, and preferred a program that wanted him from the start- OSU. He redshirted his freshman year, and his head coach, Les Miles, left for the LSU job. Mike Gundy took over, and started easing Reid into play. Here are the stats.
A C Y TD I Rat. R Yds Ave TD
2005 OSU 108 52 163 1 0 63.88 61 139 2.28 0
2006 OSU 267 148 2266 24 11 148.14 119 500 4.20 5
2007 OSU 49 26 275 1 1 102.86 19 15 0.79
Total 424 226 2704 26 12 121.45 199 654 3.29 5
As you can see, his 2006 season was terrific. Frankly, of these QBs, only Graham Harrell has had any seasons better. Going into the 2007 season, Steele had him as the #12 QB in the nation. Of course, Gundy is a man (he's 40), and he found a QB who could play better (Robinson really is good). Reid would not step aside gracefully, and left the team. He will use up his eligibility this season at Texas Southern.
Is he a pro prospect? I don't know. I don't want to ding him too much for not being a better sport about being demoted. Look at his 2006 season. A sophomore with a year like that has every right to expect great things in the future and to react when they are interrupted. It will be hard to showcase at TSU, though. He may have to consider the CFL route to the NFL.
The last of the five top Texan QB recruits from 2004 is Kirby Freeman, who was not offered by Texas. Freeman was the #6 dual threat QB in 2004 per Rivals. And Phil Steele had him as #14 in the nation. He signed with Miami, and after four mixed years (for Freeman and the Hurricanes) has transferred to compete as a senior at Baylor (I believe the NCAA gave him permission to transfer without having to sit out, perhaps because Miami was pulling his scholarship). Freeman has never been ranked by Phil Steele. Here are his stats.
A C Y TD I Rat. R Yds Ave TD
2005 Miami 31 15 183 2 2 106.36 8 38 4.75 0
2006 Miami 108 59 872 7 8 129.03 41 109 2.66 1
2007 Miami 58 18 256 3 6 64.49 22 50 2.27 0
Total 197 92 1311 12 16 106.46 71 197 2.77 1
He backed up Kyle Wright, but was given many opportunities to win the starting job. He never impressed, but then, neither did Wright, 2003's top ranked passer. Obviously, he would have to really light it up in a big way at Baylor to have any NFL shot. Maybe he will, if he starts, because the offense is closer to the one he had in high school. I wonder if he picked Miami because he believed the recruiters who told him that spread QBs couldn't go to the NFL, and he needed to go to Miami to learn the pro-style offense.
So there you have it, the Texas QB class of 2004. All of them are using a full five years of eligibility, and all had chances to start. Only two are still with their original team, and only one looks like he's headed for the NFL draft. This year is make or break for the rest. We'll probably know by the beginning of November if they have a chance.
If I had to rate their prospects for NFL careers, I would have them as:
Harrell- Going to be hard to screw up
Bomar- Maybe, needs an impressive year.
Reid- Maybe. He has a high ceiling.
McGee- Iffy. I hope he gets a fair shot.
Of these, do we Texas fans regret not signing any of them? Knowing what we know now, I think Reid would have been a nice pickup. Harrell is terrific, but I don't know that his skill-set fits our offense (probably, we'd have to change our offense to fit his skill-set, which is a whole other issue). Bomar ... meh. Even though he was our first offer, there is just too much baggage- his ego, his dad...just not worth it. If we knew then what we know now, I doubt he would have been offered. McGee has good leadership skills, and is a tough runner, but we just don't know what he can do in the passing game. Certainly he can light up an Akina defense, but can he do the same against the other schools we play? He's started 27 games and won 16 of them. Compare that to Colt, who has won 20 out of 26 starts, with big games in wins over TT, OSU, and NU. And Freeman? Right now it looks like he should not have been rated so highly. He should probably have been a 3-star recruit and gone to TCU or UNT, where he would have a less harsh spotlight to develop under.
Of the three that Texas offered (Bomar, McGee, and Reid), I would be surprised if any of them had not, in weaker moments, wondered, "What if?" about going to Texas. Even McGee must have struggled to keep his mind from wandering there as Fran was explaining the details of the QB keeper on the inside option plays as they prepared for OU. Four years later, the Texas program has a much better reputation among QB recruits than it did in 2004. Vince Young and Chris Simms are in the NFL. The rest of the Big 12 combined has contributed Sage Rosenfels. The Longhorns may not be a pro QB factory, but they sure will give a guy a chance. It's amazing what a difference four years makes.
Any thoughts on these guys' chances?