Instant analysis -- The great mystery of the sparsely-attended second Texas Junior Day at the end of February was the expected offer that never materialized for Angleton athlete Quandre Diggs. While the program certainly prefers to recruit players with connections to the program, Texas doesn't offer a scholarship to every legacy -- witness the grayshirt offer for the talented Lake Travis quarterbackor near-complete lack of interest in Eryon Barnett's younger brother Chris, who never received a Junior Day invite and subsequently committed to Oklahoma.
Within that context, then, it was no surprise that Brown opted to take more time to evaluate the defensive back class in 2011 and Diggs in particular. However, within the context of Diggs' prodigious talent and the fact that former Texas great Quentin Jammer is his brother an offer for Diggs seemed like a no-brainer throughout the process. As it turned out, the coaching staff lost contact with Diggs after the national championship game and then declined to extend an invite to the first Junior Day and an offer at the second, as Brown informed Diggs that Texas would continue to evaluate all the defensive backs in the class.
That all changed when Major Applewhite called him on the evening of March 9th and told him that he would be receiving his long-awaited offer, the Texas coaching staff having apparently finished their evaluation of Diggs not even two weeks after the second Junior Day. The smart money says that the staff finally had a chance to sit down together and decided that Diggs was simply too strong of an athlete to pass up in the class as clearly the top remaining in-state option at defensive back.
We'd been in communication since the junior day. When I talked to Major, he emailed me (on Tuesday) and said they had good news. He told me to take a day or so to talk about it with my family and coaches. I called him last night and told him that's what I wanted to do, I wanted to be at Texas. It's always been my dream school. I want to keep the Texas tradition in my family.
Many of the early commitments grew up as Longhorn fans and Diggs did as well, but his circumstances were a little bit different -- he actually spent significant time around the Texas program:
I've grown up around Texas my whole life. Every time I go to that campus, I fall in love again. I've grown up bleeding orange. I bleed orange to this day. When I told my family, they all said hook 'em, that's where they wanted me to be. That's where I wanted to be.
I grew up around Shaun Rogers, Casey Hampton, Roy Williams - I wanted to be a Longhorn, keep that tradition going.
Of course, those former Texas stars have long since departed for the NFL, so it's the coaches that have stayed who continued to build a strong relationship with Diggs -- particularly Mack Brown and Duane Akina, the latter of whom will likely be the position coach for Diggs in college. The trust built over years and the fact that the staff knew Diggs growing up undoubtedly played a strong role in the coaching staff eventually deciding that they did want Diggs on board.
Even though he had over 20 offers at the time of his commitment, tracking his quotes over time reveals a common progression for athletes intently interested in becoming Texas Longhorns -- at the beginning, he was effusive with his praise and love for the program, but over time turned towards more vague comments about keeping his options open and considering every school equally. Not entirely sincere, of course, but almost all of these players eventually realize that they are best served by publicly keeping on open stance on the process.
As a versatile athlete in the secondary, Diggs fills a major need as the Longhorns put the finishing touches on a defensive back class that already includes the top cover corner in the state in Leroy Scott and the ultra-talented Sheroid Evans, not to mention another athlete in Mykkele Thompson who probably projects as a safety. Though Diggs was told that he is being offered as an athlete by the coaching staff, Diggs effectively makes the fourth defensive back in the class, with room for only one more commit in the defensive backfield.
Instant scouting report -- A perfect example of the best athlete on a high school team ending up at quarterback, Diggs looks like a more solidly built DJ Monroe with his hands on the football, showing elite-level burst and quickness when turning the corner or exploding through a hole. In addition, he shows excellent hands, several times handling poor snaps without panicking or risking losing the football, even scooping and scoring on a field goal attempt he blocked. Tasked with running the Angleton option offense, Diggs shows an intuitive understanding for getting defenders out of position with shoulder fakes. At the end of runs, Diggs finishes with aggressiveness and a clear desire to pick up extra yardage.
On the defensive side of the ball, Diggs splits time at cornerback and safety, showing a willingness to come up in run support as a safety, while also looking comfortable at the line of scrimmage taking on blockers on occasion and sifting through traffic. A hard hitter who often puts every ounce of his 5-10, 190-pound frame into collisions, showing an understanding of when to form tackle and when to uncoil and explode into the legs of an opposing player.
At cornerback, he uses his quickness to get into and out of his backpedal quickly and with the same elite-level burst that characterizes his play on offense. While Diggs doesn't have the preferred height for a Will Muschamp cornerback, he has every other skill required -- explosiveness in his first step, leaping ability, and good hands. It's difficult to evaluate his backpedal and how well he flips his hips on his highlight tape, but if his overall athleticism in other parts of his game is similar to that particular aspect of his game, he should be able to transition seamlessly to the position in college.
Though Diggs could certainly fill a role on offense similar to that of DJ Monroe in the jet series, he is on record as saying that he wants to play defensive back at the next level, a nod to his unselfishness and also likely to the realization that his future in football most likely lies on defense. With his toughness and explosiveness, the lack of pure size should not negatively impact his collegiate career, as Diggs is roughly the same height as the departed Earl Thomas, whose height never kept him from finishing plays at Texas.
If there's one surprise about Diggs, it's that he didn't have much of an impact as a junior in the third phase -- on special teams. The Angleton star only returned three kickoffs and nine punts on the season, averaging only four yards per punt return and picked up only 35 yards on his first two kickoff returns before taking the third 96 yards in the final regular-season game against Manvel.
It's remarkably little production for a player who appears to have the skillset to contribute on special teams in college -- it's possible that teams kick away from him, but he wasn't much more productive as a sophomore, either. It may also be the case that the stats on Maxpreps are not complete, so don't count Diggs out as a potential kick or punt returner at Texas.
Even if Diggs never contributes on as a return man for Texas, he still has the skills to become an excellent defensive back with his fluid hips, recovery speed, and a strong ability to high-point the football for his size. For his part, Diggs also says that his understanding of the quarterback position helps him read and react as a defensive back. it's difficult to tell at this point whether Diggs will play cornerback or safety at Texas, but he has the skills to play either position and may end up safety where his lack of elite height won't be as much of a factor by reducing the number of one-on-one jumpball situations he will face.
There's also an outside shot he could see some time on offense as well, but if Diggs has the desire and pedigree to play defensive back, Mack Brown surely won't stand in his way.