Do you remember where you were the last time Texas had stability at the quarterback position? I was a senior in high school doing everything I could to maintain my 2.8 GPA – hey, I got A’s in English – while watching “the best days of my life” unfold like some bad Ferris Bueller’s Day Off sequel.
But even as a mid-season defect from the football team, I wish someone would have encouraged me to send a highlight tape or two to the Longhorns’ recruiting department as a dual-threat (minus the threat) quarterback.
Since Colt McCoy went on to the NFL following the 2009 season, Texas owns a record of 36-28 (23-21 Big 12) and has had a miserable time trying to find a suitable replacement. Garrett Gilbert, Case McCoy, David Ash, and Tyrone Swoopes have all seen the field with limited or no success conducting the offense, and the Longhorns have swung-and-missed multiple times in luring top in-state products to what is arguably the biggest brand in collegiate sports. (Texas: Where breeding quality quarterbacks is as important as oil production.)
That includes Ohio State redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, who collected offers from plenty of Power Five programs – Arizona, Baylor, Kansas State, LSU, Mississippi State, Nebraska, and Ole Miss were on the list – but did not receive the same kind of extensive interest from the Longhorns.
“I was, at the time, a big Texas fan,” Barrett’s high school coach, Marc Bindel, told Cleveland.com. “I wasn’t really happy with the way (Barrett) got treated. I felt like they misled him a little bit and they chose to go Tyrone Swoopes and not offer J.T. I don’t know if J.T. would have gone there had he not gotten offered, but Texas, I don’t feel like handled the situation the right way.
“They don’t have a quarterback and Ohio State has three.”
Indeed they do not.
Texas’ quarterback situation has been in a state of futility long before Mack Brown decided to go all-in with Swoopes; the Longhorns’ gunslingers have gone a combined 1,226-of-2,051 (59.8 percent) for 14,035 yards, 83 touchdowns and 69 interceptions for a 123.88 Passer Efficiency Rating – which would have placed them at No. 78 among all QBs this past season – over the last five years, ranking as low as No. 113 in total offense.
And unfortunately, it doesn’t start and end with missing out on Barrett: Andy Dalton, Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel, Kenny Hill, James Franklin, Bryce Petty, and Darron Thomas are just a few high-profile names that decided to take their talents elsewhere. You can also include Case Keenum, Nick Foles, Chuckie Keeton, Nick Florence, and Shane Carden as under-the-radar prospects that would have been considerably better than what the Longhorns have fielded over the last few years.
And then there’s David Ash; the one quarterback that provided an inkling of consistency for Texas in 2012, completing 67 percent of his passes for 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions. But, of course, the football Gods deemed the Longhorns’ backfield unworthy of his presence, subjecting him to career-ending injuries that carried on from 2013-14.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not sure how long this tunnel is or if Texas has enough gas to finally get out by offseason’s end, but there’s a hope strong enough to give fans reason to upright in their chairs.
Charlie Strong is doing a marvelous job with the 2015 recruiting class, which currently ranks No. 11 in the country and No. 1 in the Big 12, according to 247Sports. Two of the 24 commits are quarterbacks, and either could end up being the short-term answer (something that Texas desperately needs): But at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, four-star Zach Gentry is the likely option moving forward.
He’s drawn some realistic comparisons to former Arizona State giant Brock Osweiler for his daunting size and ability to launch the ball downfield, not to mention the value of mobility he possesses in the red zone as a four-down threat. But like just about every incoming freshman in the history of college football, he’ll need the right coaching to develop his accuracy and pocket anticipation to adjust to the new speed of the game.
“Gentry is an intriguing quarterback with NFL size but surprising mobility for a big man. He has a downfield arm and can make every throw but also shows the ability, when flushed out of the pocket, to run for positive yards,” says Greg Biggins of Scout.com. “He looks to have a good feel in the pocket and doesn’t panic when the rush comes at him. He can keep his eyes down the field and throws an accurate ball whether in or outside of the pocket.”
Ranked as the No. 8 player at his position, Gentry isn’t even from Texas – he’s a New Mexico native, making him just one of five players given a composite rating from his state in the entire class.
But if he turns out to be the player that Strong and the rest of Hook’em Nation needs him to be, that won’t matter one bit.