College study break
Jake Shaw on the state's elite receivers, irrational fans and more.
Last week's issue of Sports Illustrated devoted four pages and a few thousands words to tell Texans what they already know: Quarterbacks in the Lone Star State are pretty dang good.
SI gave the usual list of reasons of why seven NFL teams currently employ Texans as their starting quarterbacks: 7-on-7 giving players more time to work on their skills; excellent high school coaching staffs; the passion for football inherent in most living, breathing Texans; and the huge population (and continued growth) in the state.
While a very good read, none of this was news. In fact, go back to the 2006 summer edition of DCTF, and you'll see the cover story was devoted to the "Texas Revolution" of quarterbacks taking away the spotlight from the running backs. Tis true; these days, programs want good running backs, but they need good quarterbacks to be successful, and Texas is producing them far better than any other state.
But lost in the story -- and absent in DCTF's version, to be fair -- is a position that's been overlooked for years now. There are guys catching passes from those illustrious quarterbacks, right? It's about time the state's receivers get some credit.
The disrespect of the receiver extended outside the state's borders, when around this time last week Ole Miss QB Beau Wallace -- citing how Texas A&M nearly upset Alabama -- said Ole Miss can score on Alabama because "we have better receivers."
(Let the record show Ole Miss scored 42 fewer points than the 42 the Aggies put up against Bama's defense.)
The media (myself included) has been guilty of overlooking these pass catchers too. The stat sheets don't. Currently, 40 percent of college football's top 10 in receiving play for Texas programs. One of them, Houston's Deontay Greenberry, originally hails from California, but if Texas can claim Ricky Williams, Houston should get credit for developing Greenberry.
The other three guys show how deep the state's talent pool at receiver is.
There's Mike Evans, who might be the best player on Texas A&M, and that includes Johnny Manziel in the discussion. Listed as an "athlete" coming out of Galveston Ball -- and proving it with some acrobatic catches in just 18 career games -- Evans ranks third nationally (one spot ahead of Greenberry) with 138.2 receiving yards per game. Yet Texas A&M, according to Rivals.com's database, only had to fight off Colorado State and Tulane for his services.
Antwan Goodley was recruited only slightly more than Evans. He chose Baylor over A&M and Texas Tech but spent the past three seasons sitting on the bench. With guys like Kendall Wright (Titans) and Terrance Williams (Cowboys) now out of the way, Goodley has exploded for 370 yards and 4 TDs in just three games. He's on pace for nearly 1,500 yards.
Then there's Tevin Reese, who when coming out of Temple High had just one single scholarship offer. And frankly, it's not like Baylor was that sold on Reese, either. Baylor had Reese grey-shirt -- meaning he waited an extra year to enroll in college after graduating from high school in 2009 -- before joining the Bears in 2010. Since then, he's steadily improved from a contributor to a star. Reese, who ranks 10th nationally with 116.2 receiving yards per game, would lead Baylor in receiving if not for that Goodley guy.
The state's deep receiving corps isn't limited to the nation's top 10. North Texas has two Texas-bred receivers -- Darnell Smith (Garland) and Brelan Chancellor (Copperas Cove) -- that rank in the top 100 … as does Texas with Mike Davis (Dallas Skyline) and Jaxson Shipley (Brownwood) … as does SMU with Jeremy Johnson (John Tyler) and Darius Joseph (Abilene) … and so does Texas Tech (Odessa's Bradley Marquez and San Antonio's Jace Amaro, a tight end). Even UTEP's run-based offense chips in with Tomball-ex Jordan Leslie (83rd nationally).
Let's not limit this to Texans playing for Texas programs, though. Josh Stewart starred at Denton Guyer before moving on to Oklahoma State (54th nationally in receiving), Ty Montgomery (48th) was a four-star recruit at St. Mark's in Dallas before going to Stanford, Josh Huff (39th) played running back at Aldine Nimitz before finding his true home at receiver for Oregon, and nobody in the state recruited Rashard Higgins, yet the former Mesquite Skeeter ranks 96th nationally as a true freshman for Colorado State.
Add it all up, and nearly 1 in 5 of the nation's top 100 receivers, at least statistically, either play for Texas programs or played prep ball in the state.
The future's just as bright, too. Mount Pleasant's KD Cannon is rated the second-best receiver in the nation by Rivals, and nine other Texans join him on that recruiting service's list of top 100 receivers.
Then there's Texas receivers of days gone by (at least recent days). Ever heard of Dez Bryant? He headlines a long list of Texans catching passes in the NFL, from rookies Terrance Williams (Dallas WT White; Baylor) and Josh Boyce (Copperas Cove; TCU) to veterans like Donnie Avery (Alief Hastings; Houston) and to emerging players like Emmanuel Sanders (Bellville; SMU) and Denarius Moore (Tatum; Tennessee).
Where's their Sports Illustrated cover?
The need for a quarterback probably outweighs every other position on a team, but without good receivers, even great quarterbacks would feel the impact. Houston struggled mightily in 2012 partly because it graduated its top four receivers from the 2011 team. Through four games this season, TCU's top receiver (Brandon Carter) has just 156 receiving yards. Boyce, now with the Patriots, had more than that in the first two games of 2012. The Texas offense, which admittedly has its fair share of issues, loses some effectiveness with Davis out of the lineup because of injury.
And going back to A&M's Evans -- Manziel would have a few hundred fewer passing yards if not for Evans's ability to out-jump every defensive back on the planet.
Sure, this state has started to -- and will continue to -- produce some mighty fine quarterbacks. But in a state as big as Texas, it's about time the guys on the receiving end got a little more credit for their success.
ODDS AND ENDS
> Week 5 Game Ball: The three-hour weather delay impacted the crowd Saturday in San Marcos, but it had no effect on Texas State RB Robert Lowe. He rushed for a career-high 138 yards (his second straight 100-yard effort) and scored half of Texas State's six touchdowns in the 42-21 upset of Wyoming.
Lowe played so well he overshadowed teammate Tyler Jones, a true freshman making his first start of his career. Jones (14-18, 196 yards, TD), who didn't have any other offers despite a nice career at QB factory Stephenville, could be the latest example of a guy the state's programs missed out on. At 6-2, 190, he definitely looks the part of a college quarterback.
> Houston QB John O'Korn, the precocious true freshman QB, who threw for 312 yards, 4 TDs and no INTs to help offset a running game held mostly in check in the 59-28 win at UTSA;
> The Texas A&M running game, which for the first time since last year's Cotton Bowl produced more yards than the passing attack. Led by the two Treys -- Trey Williams (9-83, TD) and Tra Carson (9-64) -- A&M rushed for 262 yards in the 45-33 win at Arkansas, one more yard than Johnny Manziel (9-59) passed for.
> Rice CB Bryce Callahan, who led his team with seven tackles, had two broken up passes, and intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter that set up Rice's game-winning touchdown in the 18-14 victory over Florida Atlantic. The Rice defense collected four turnovers to help offset Rice's suddenly struggling offense.
> TCU safety Sam Carter, named the Walter Camp Football Foundation National Defensive Player of the Week after collecting five tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and two interceptions -- one that he returned 66 yards for a touchdown.
> Irrational fan of the week: When you've won a Heisman, run over every linebacker that came your way in the NFL, and then launched a successful sausage company, well, you've earned the right to speak your mind. But that doesn't mean your comments won't be criticized.
In an interview with a Houston TV station, Texas legend Earl Campbell didn't mince words, saying "Coach Brown is a very good man" … "I just hope he doesn't stay."
Those words are pretty clear, but just in case you're getting mixed messages, Campbell added this: "Nobody likes to get fired or leave a job, but things happen. I'd go on record and say 'yes I think it's time.'"
Again, Campbell has every right to speak his mind and to be heard, but I do feel for Mack Brown. If the message board nation hasn't been vocal enough, it's not uplifting when your program's greatest living player doesn't have your back, either. Sometimes opinions are better left in the head and not put out on public record.
Of course, when things like this go public, there's always the backtracking. From Twitter:
According to Mack, someone from the UT side talked to Earl, and per Mack... Earl indicated the comments were taken out of context.— Geoff Ketchum (@gkketch) September 30, 2013
I think we've reached the point that the world does a collective eye roll when someone uses the "taken out of context" excuse. I assume Campbell regrets his words now, even if he truly believes them. Either way, the damage has been done, enough to earn the great Earl Campbell his latest award: The Irrational Fan of the Week.
> Top Tweet(s): It amazes me, and sometimes just flat out angers me, how much the media influences perceptions of reality. One of the more clear-cut cases, at least in the sporting world, is how for years the media claimed poor SEC offenses were simply the product of playing incredible defenses.
Half of that is true; the SEC defenses have been great. But the offenses have lagged a few years behind, with some exceptions (the Cam Newton-led offense at Auburn, for example). Texas A&M exposed that myth last year, and the rest of the conference is trying to catch up. They're doing a good job of learning on the fly, as the 44-41 Georgia thriller over LSU proved. That came a week after Alabama was forced to play some offense to beat Texas A&M.
Glad to see I'm not the only one who is seeing through this fallacy:
Submitted without comment: Two biggest SEC games this year have combined 152 points ... and counting.— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) September 28, 2013
Dodd said it all without saying anything.
Another tweet to digest:
#TexasTech coach Kingsbury: QB Michael Brewer to be at practice today "and we'll see what happens." Not sure if officially cleared for Sat— Jimmy Burch (@Jimmy_Burch) September 30, 2013
After the debut in the win over SMU, I thought true freshman Baker Mayfield would be pretty secure in his job. But since Mayfield threw for 780 yards, 7 TDs and no INTs in his first two games, he's thrown for just 340 yards, 1 TD and 4 INTs in his next two. He has been limited by getting banged up some, but it also shows how hard it is to play consistent football so early in a career.
With Mayfield finding things more difficult, and with his fellow true freshman backup, Davis Webb (514 yards, 4 TDs, 4 INTs), also having nearly as many lows as highs, the door has reopened for Brewer, who was originally designated the starter this season. If healthy, I think he takes the job. With a 4-0 start, Tech's season expectations have increased, and I think Brewer -- a third-year sophomore -- maximizes Tech's potential.
Mayfield has impressed, but his time will come later.
And, finally, from the feel-good news department:
S/O to Coach Levine from UH for visiting my friend and teammate @slimdiesel60 in the hospital after his surgery. Class act, much appreciated— Taylor McHargue (@TMcHargue16) October 1, 2013
Rice lineman Matt Simonette suffered an arm injury in the loss to Houston, one that required a nearly seven-hour surgery and kept Simonette in a local hospital for nearly two weeks. Rice's QB said it best: class move by the Houston head coach for paying Simonette a visit.
> Buy/Sell: In 2015, the FBS ranks will admit four new programs (Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Old Dominion and Charlotte). That adds to the list of schools like South Alabama, Georgia State, Texas State and UTSA, all which joined or transitioned to the FBS level last fall.
If I had to pick one model program out of this group, it might be UTSA. The Roadrunners have been competitive from the start, a credit to how head coach Larry Coker has built the program from the ground up. That's why I'm buying the following statement from InsideUTSA.com, a web site that covers Roadrunner athletics:
Disappointment by the fan base, players, coaches, etc is a good sign. Took two years and five games for shine to wear off. About wins now.
As much as the results on the field, the off-field reaction by UTSA's already large fan base shows just how far this program has come in three years. That UTSA only trailed by three in the fourth quarter and gave Houston a challenging game this past Saturday doesn't excite fans like it would've two years ago.
The fans have seen enough that they now expect to win; moral victories no longer count. The want actual wins, even against successful, established programs like Houston.
This program is on an upward trajectory. Auto-BCS programs that, years ago, scheduled UTSA for future dates are probably having a slight bit of remorse. It won't be the easy win they thought it would be.
> My Power Poll ballot
This is what I turned into the DCTF offices for the Week 5 edition of the Power Poll.
1. Texas A&M
3. Texas Tech
8. North Texas
10. Texas State
The rationale for my order: There was very little movement in my power poll ballot this week. Texas State moved into the Top 10, replacing SMU, which moved down to 11th. I almost ranked Texas State ninth overall -- above UTSA -- but UTSA won the head-to-head matchup vs. Texas State last year, and UTSA was neck-and-neck with UH before the Coogs blew the game open in the fourth quarter, so they looked pretty good for three quarters. I did, however, move North Texas one spot ahead of UTSA, because the Roadrunners do deserve some kind of penalty for giving up 28 fourth-quarter points.
> Leftovers … As much praise as I gave UTSA, Texas State might be in better shape, at least in the context of its conference. With ULM losing its starting QB for the season, Arkansas State continuing to slide since losing its coach to Ole Miss, and Western Kentucky not looking quite as good as it did when beating Kentucky in the opener, Texas State has a legitimate shot at winning the Sun Belt, especially after Dennis Franchione called Saturday's win over Wyoming the most complete performance by his team this year. It was win No. 200 for Coach Fran, by the way. Fran had ugly departures from TCU, Alabama and Texas A&M, but I bet even many fans of those programs are happy for him. …
If I'm the coach of TCU, first of all, I'm likely to be the next one fired after Lane Kiffin and Paul Pasqualoni. But say I did have the job, my first order of business going into Saturday's game at OU would be reinstating Waymon James as the starting running back. Against SMU, James finally looked like the running back he once was before he injured his knee. I love BJ Catalon's upside and explosiveness, but James, who had season highs of 11 carries for 54 yards Saturday, seems to be the more complete back, the guy that can get both big gains and produce in short-yardage situations. …
Paging all Rice insiders: What is going on with the Owl offense? After putting up 509 yards against Texas A&M in the opener, Rice has followed with 370 against Kansas, 463 against Houston, and 273 last weekend against FAU. My best guess is at QB, where Taylor McHargue was 7-of-24 for 69 yards on Saturday. Wonder how short his leash will be Saturday at Tulsa, the first of three straight road games. …
While I hate the new targeting rule that allows officials to overturn a player's ejection for targeting -- but not for overruling the actual targeting -- the rule needs to remain in college football. It just needs to be fully reviewable so that both an ejection, and the actual call, can be reversed. It's such a tough call for officials that they should be allowed to reconsider the call after looking at replays. But the targeting rule must remain. People forget that, despite the amount of money involved in college football, these are student-athletes playing the game. Their health and safety needs to be of the upmost importance. …
The LSU loss at Georgia hurts Texas A&M's chances at an SEC West title. Alabama will now need to lose two conference games for A&M to have a shot, and that ain't happening. Because even if LSU does beat Alabama, an A&M win over LSU would still keep Bama and A&M tied with one loss atop the SEC West standings, ahead of a two-loss LSU. If that scenario plays out, A&M's only shot at a BCS bowl game will be as an at-large. Could we see an A&M/Bama rematch in the BCS championship, similar to the Bama/LSU rematch? That would be every A&M fans' dream come true. …
The final word: I've written before that Kevin Sumlin only leaves Texas A&M for an NFL job, but that USC opening is giving me second thoughts.
Jake Shaw is a special contributor to TexasFootball.com. Contact him by email whether you loved, hated, were excited by or depressed by this column.