If newest Texas Longhorn commit Erik Huhn of Cibolo Steele was on the fringes of the recruiting radar, the offer that the staff extended on Monday evening to 2013 Waco lineman Andrew Billings represented an excursion even further off the radar.
What must have been an impressive showing at the Sunday mini-camp helped earn Billings the offer, but he's not entirely an unknown for Texas recruitniks, especially those who follow BON closely. After all, our very own recruiting contributor, HaroldHill, was brought on to the front page after devoting his first FanPost to the Waco product.
The love affair continued after Rivals released their first position rankings, with HH calling Billings his "favorite in-state three-star tackle." And that's not damning with faint praise, either -- the Texas staff apparently agreed. Maybe they read those posts.
With offers from 21 mostly mid-tier BCS schools, Billings still isn't anything approaching a national recruit and his Texas offer is by far his best (with Missouri, Arizona State, and Texas Tech among his better offers from other schools).
Yet, both HH and the Longhorns see something in Billings that his 6-1 height belies.
Here's the scoop on Billings, starting with the first post from HH:
Has anyone else heard of this guy? He plays for Waco High, his blocking at right tackle helped Darrell Harris run for over 2,300 yards, and he was named Class 4A honorable mention all-state on offense and defense. Somehow he doesn't seem to be on the radar of most recruitniks. 247 Sports has a page for him but he's not rated, and Rivals has some of his highlights but not much else, though Scout does list him as having offers from TCU, UNT, and UT-San Antonio. He's listed at 6'1" on the first two and 6'2" by Scout, and all three say he's 295 lbs. (the results from his most recent powerlifting meet list him as 303). Based on his highlights (and the stats available on him from the 2011 season) he played right tackle on offense and occasionally lined up at nose guard and 3-4 defensive end on defense. He was credited with 134 pancakes (41 combined in his team's last two games, versus Stephenville and Mansfield Summit) but only 9 tackles, though the lack of tackles does not seem to have been for lack of effort. Most recruiting websites that list him at all have him at defensive tackle, but based on the enthusiasm with which he mauls any defender in sight while on offense, he could probably play guard for a lot of places as well.
His highlight videos on Hudl are quite impressive but recently the settings were changed (though thankfully not before I got a chance to view most of them, some of which were worth multiple views) and they are no longer publicly viewable. He does still have a highlight video on YouTube (which are probably some sophomore year highlights, as the video was posted this past summer), and some Rivals highlights can be seen on Yahoo (okay, it's Yahoo News India, but at least they're viewable). He appears thickly built and absolutely lives for putting defensive ends and unsuspecting linebackers on their back (along with the occasional DB on screen plays). He doesn't have great speed on defense but is crazy strong and doesn't give up on plays. On one of his highlight films (probably one on Hudl) was a play where Billings opened a hole from his spot at right tackle, then followed the play as his running back ran 40 or so yards down the field before being tackled and fumbling the ball, and because he had not given up but continued to follow his runner he was there to dive on the ball and save the possession.
I could see him either blowing up and making a good 3-4 nose guard or 4-3 tackle somewhere, or staying under the radar and signing with someone like Baylor or TCU then spending his first two seasons pushing Dom Espinosa into the backfield. Makes me wish I could see high school video of Casey Hampton (who is the same height) just to compare the two at the same age. (Not saying he is or ever will be in Hampton's echelon, but who knows?)
I mentioned earlier that Billings competes in powerlifting, but did I mention that within the past month he has bench pressed 460, squatted 660, and dead lifted 635? I thought not. Not that he's on Texas' radar but would he not be their strongest player if he stepped on campus right now?
If that's not enough of a primer, this update should catch most everyone up to speed:
Waco's Andrew Billings is my favorite among the in-state three-star tackles. I wrote about him in a Fan Post in February, back when he had offers from TCU, UNT, and UT-San Antonio. He has since added Baylor, Minnesota, SMU, Texas Tech, and Tulsa to his offer list, and Texas A&M has invited him for a campus visit as well. Billings recently won the championship for the super heavyweight (276+ lbs.) class at the Division I State Powerlifting meet, recording a bench press of 470 lbs. and a squat of 700 lbs. Finishing 2nd in the same weight class was Waco University's Ben Hughes, another three-star defensive tackle who has offers from Kansas and Tulsa. If Texas loses out on , will they target another offensive lineman so they can play A'Shawn Robinson on defense, hold out hope that erstwhile 2011 signee Quincy Russell will keep his grades up at Trinity Valley Community College so he can enroll in January, or might the staff take a look at one of the lesser-regarded in-state DTs? It seems unlikely to happen, but I'd love to see Billings in burnt orange because he and Desmond Jackson would not only stage the most epic arm-wrestling matches since Over The Top, they would form the best (or at least the strongest) 6'1" and under DT duo to take the field for Texas since Casey Hampton and his shadow. (See: Billings' 2011 highlights.)
It's not clear at this time whether the Longhorns have offered Billings as an offensive lineman or a defensive tackle -- it's possible the staff doesn't care at this point and, like many of the current 2013 pledges, simply wants to get Billings on campus and then figure out where he fits.
Waco High coach Marty Herbst gave OB his take on where he thinks Texas sees Billings:
I'm pretty sure they offered him as a center or guard. It's just what the coaches see when they come to practice that stand out. He gives that extra effort that not every other player will give. He's diving to make the play, he's doing plays in shorts and still leaving his feet to make plays. That's the competitiveness he has. It's really, really rare. If he was 6-7, he'd be a kid that could skip college and go to league.
Herbst went on to note that while Billings is undersized -- especially for an interior lineman -- he does have long arms, which effectively makes him a bit taller than his listed 6-1. He also has a nasty streak, as he clearly relishes putting defenders on their backsides and packs one of the best punches for an offensive lineman in the 2013 class. Or of any lineman in the state in the last several years. Just look at those pancake numbers.
It's rare that Texas pursues a player who doesn't have prototypical size for the position -- after all, landing the prototypes is the prerogative of recruiting powers like the Longhorns -- but the case of Billings proves that the staff is willing to overlook pure size if it comes in the right package.
Assessing where the Longhorns stand with Billings right now is difficult, but how could be pass up the opportunity to have some weight room and practice field battles with his more highly-regarded clone, Desmond Jackson?