COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 24: Head Coach Mack Brown of the Texas Longhorns works the sidelines in the second half of a game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field on November 24, 2011 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Darren Carroll/Getty Images)
Mack Brown just received a commitment from a Dallas-area QB considered the best signal-caller in the class of 2014. We brought in an SB Nation recruiting writer to discuss what this all means.
Texas received a verbal commitment from QB Jerrod Heard, a rising junior from Denton Guyer, on Wednesday night. For analysis and reaction, there's no better authority on area college recruiting than Wescott Eberts (@SBN_Wescott), who covers it for SB Nation.
1) Talk a little about Jerrod Heard as a player. What type of QB is he?
The simple answer here is that he's currently ranked as the second-best dual-threat quarterback in the nation right now by 247Sports, and while all the caveats about the early nature of the process apply, I think that says a lot about where he's viewed right now.
Especially for fans who might be focused on the struggles of 2013 Texas commit Tyrone Swoopes over the summer at some major events, it might be easy to downgrade Heard a bit because of he's considered a dual-threat prospect.
But that would be a mistake. While he was hardly the most refined quarterback I saw out at 7-on-7 this summer (I did see Swoopes go against some of the best in the entire country at The Opening), I might be inclined to grade Heard as a more refined passer than Swoopes right now. Certainly more so than Swoopes a year ago, all of which is aided by Heard working against significantly better competition in practice and in games.
To try to answer the question fully, Heard is a guy who isn't a quarterback just because he can run -- he has some arm talent, too. A solid passer who also happens to be a strong and effective runner.
2) Is he considered the best class of 2014 QB in the state? In general, are most high-level QB prospects identified by the time they are rising juniors?
Yeah, Heard is considered the top quarterback in the state by Orangebloods, 247, and this humble scribe. Fort Bend Bush's Ronald Monroe could mount a challenge for the title as a junior if he gets unleashed in the running game after showing little in that regard as a sophomore, even though the teases were there.
Other than that, there's not much strong competition at the moment, though Humble Summer Creek's Aaryn Sharp and Fort Worth All Saints' Foster Sawyer are solid, with the latter being a pretty pure pocket passer and the former a dual threat with some upside.
It's not always the case that good quarterbacks are identified by this point in the process, but it happens fairly often. Former Guyer starter JW Walsh, now at Oklahoma State, was well known by this point, as was current prospective Texas starter David Ash in the same class. Same for Tyrone Swoopes last year, with Oklahoma commit Cody Thomas being a guy who really emerged a bit later.
Even for guys who haven't started yet in their careers, the opportunity to work out at camps and combines during the spring will often reveal some of the better talent, as is the case with a guy at Round Rock Westwood, Bear Fenimore, who will take over for Texas baseball signee Ben Johnson, but has been out on the circuit and is clearly poised for a good season based on camp and 7-on-7 efforts. All aided by the fact that when he's not in Austin working out with Heisman winner Ty Detmer, he's working out in Florida with Heisman winner Chris Weinke.
Quarterbacks get out there, which may in large part be fueled by the fact that they need high-level instruction, and that in turn leads to early exposure.
3) Heard is the 5th rising junior committed to UT; is this the new trend in recruiting? What are the pros and cons at picking players at such a young age?
It's definitely a new trend. Texas responded with these early offers because Mack Brown and his staff could no longer wait until February after a prospect's junior season. This for a school that pioneered early recruiting when Mack Brown first got to Texas simply by offering before a recruit's senior season.
The thing is, there aren't really any major positives. In a vacuum, it would be ideal to offer at the last possible second before Signing Day and then land the top targets. Since such a world does not and will never exist, early offers are a necessity because the key time in recruiting for these players is now the spring evaluation period, when they start receiving offers based on sophomore film and what coaches see in person at practice during that time. Waiting means that a team could fall seriously behind in a kid's recruitment -- 2014 prospects were committing this summer. To the overall extent that waiting is a risk not really worth taking.
There are plenty of negatives, though. A prospect could decide that they have it made and lose the hunger to keep getting better. They could get in trouble, whether off the field or in the classroom. On and on. Concerns I have heard high school coaches voice to me in the past regarding early recruiting.
For the best, however, the hunger is always there. So it becomes even more of a question of how coaches can evaluate the psychology of 15- and 16-year-olds. After seeing the leadership from kids like Lewsville Hebron's Jamal Adams on the field, a kid who is going to be a junior, there are plenty of times that mentality is already evident at such a young age. Not always, but enough to reduce the risks.
Enough to keep the calculus the same.
4) Heard plays for Denton Guyer, who sent JW Walsh to Oklahoma State a year ago. How much has playing in a QB-friendly system helped him?
First of all, JW's father, John, is the head coach at Guyer, so the mastermind behind JW's success there is still in place and working with Heard, which is significant.
More than that, the system at Guyer helps prepare quarterbacks by using a variety of what could best be called spread and pro-style sets. In other words, Heard already has experience both under center and from the shotgun, so he's advanced for his age in that sense in terms of his drops and running some different things, and well prepared to play in a diverse system in college, but more specifically, prepared to fit easily into Texas co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin's system.
5) Do any games on Guyer's schedule stand out in terms of seeing Heard play against high-level competition?
Several games stand out -- the opener is against Cedar Hill, consistently one of the top programs in the Metroplex, featuring an explosive offense with multiple talented prospects. That game will be a shootout. While that game will feature Heard against Arkansas State commit Damion Hobbs at quarterback for Cedar Hill, two other quarterback battles are equally intriguing -- the match-up the following week between Heard and Colleyville Heritage's Cody Thomas, the 2013 Oklahoma commit, and then Heard against Ohio State commit JT Barrett and Wichita Falls Rider in the regular season's penultimate contest.
6) I guess the million dollar question is how he compares to Tyrone Swoopes, UT's high-profile QB in the class of 2013. Maybe they'll both be playing in Cowboys Stadium in November this year.
As a passer, Heard is ahead. In terms of athleticism, Swoopes hasn't tested particularly well this summer, and the greater competition that Heard faces gives a better perspective on his pure speed. Still, Swoopes is taller and has dunked on the best basketball player in the 2013 class, Julius Randle, so it may be necessary to throw the testing out with Sheryl's nephew.
The big difference is that Swoopes has a high ceiling and a low floor -- he could be the next Vince Young, or he could be mediocre if he never hits a significant developmental curve. With Heard, the floor is higher, but the ceiling isn't quite as high. Where Swoopes is a risk, Heard is a relatively safe take, which makes them a nice combination in back-to-back classes for the Longhorns.