Bo Wallace finds the endzone against UTEP on a zone read keeper (Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE).
Back at the start of the year, the Texas Longhorns had a decision to make -- stick with the quarterbacks on campus, or pursue a graduate transfer or junior college prospect.
There for a few crazy, hectic, rumor-filled days, it looked like East Mississippi Community College prospect Bo Wallace, a Tennessee native who had spent one season redshirting at Arkansas State before making the move to EMCC, would visit Texas during a tour of the state also including a stop in Waco.
Then, just as quickly, the Longhorns backed away, with Wallace eventually reuniting with his offensive coordinator from Arkansas State -- Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, fresh off a successful year as the head coach in Jonesboro.
On Saturday night in Oxford, Wallace will go head-to-head on the field with sophomore Texas quarterback David Ash, the man he could have been battling for a starting job in Austin this season.
If Wallace out-performs Ash, which is hardly out of the question, Longhorn fans with the benefit of hindsight, as well as those who were in favor of pursuing Wallace in the first place, will have a field day criticizing the coaching staff for the decision not to pursue Wallace, who set multiple junior college single-season records during his year at EMCC.
But what really happened?
The conversations with Wallace were probably best described as exploratory, from what co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said:
[It was] nothing more than that. We were just trying to figure out the direction we were going at that time in recruiting.
Head coachhad a slight addition to the story:
The number one junior college quarterback in the country, Bo Wallace, is the young man that [Texas offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach] Bryan [Harsin] talked to a few times on the phone. And we just didn't decide to go for a junior college quarterback. We kept what we had.
A couple phone calls. Just a brief flirtation. No extension of a scholarship offer. Yeah, the visit plans, but the impetus for that seems to have been more from the Wallace camp than from the Texas coaches.
In this space, the thought from the beginning was to stick with the quarterbacks on campus.
At the time, the argument had three parts, but the most important part was the serious reduction in reps that both Ash and McCoy needed at the time, still need, as well as the promise that Mack Brown made to Connor Brewer and his family that he wouldn't go after a quarterback beyond Jalen Overstreet, who was added late because of the two defections from Connor Wood and Garrett Gilbert.
The severe need to land Wallace would have arisen if Case McCoy had transferred. McCoy stuck around, so the need for Wallace wasn't there, in the opinion of the Texas coaches.
Here's Harsin again:
We sat back and looked at the picture of where were going. We decided that what we had was good and we needed to focus on that.
The argument essentially ended by noting that picking up a quarterback for a year could mortgage the future, with a junior college quarterback perhaps no better -- risk that could reduce reps, but never produce an answer, and only further confound the situation.
The difference with Wallace is that he wasn't a graduate transfer. He wasn't a typical junior college transfer with only three seasons of eligibility, either. Instead, Wallace has three years after redshirting at Arkansas State in 2010 and then spending 2011 at East Mississippi.
A change in the dynamics, no?
Well, not in the case of the ultimate determining factors for the Texas coaching staff, which again went back to the pure numbers. If McCoy had left, Wallace would have been a target. McCoy stayed, making Wallace a no-go.
And in the end, as Brown mentioned, it might not have mattered:
I don't know that we could have gotten him.
Wallace had the Freeze connection, though that connection is compounded by the fact that Wallace ended up leaving Arkansas State. In the end, Ole Miss was probably the best fit for him -- it was only Barry Brunetti and Randall Mackey, since moved to wide receiver and then running back. Both were terrible last year. Really, really terrible.
Wallace had already had some interest in Ole Miss prior to that, too, according to Kirk Bohls:
Wallace told me this week that he'd become an Ole Miss fan since making a trip there as a freshman from Pulaski, Tenn. He loves getting encouraging texts from Rebels legend Eli Manning.
And despite all the struggles Ash experienced last season, he turned in his best performance in the Holiday Bowl, earning MVP honors. At least he was trending in the right direction, altering the considerations for Wallace if he had been pursued seriously by Texas. Not saying he would have been afraid of the competition, but again, becoming a Rebel may have been the best move for Wallace. It's certainly working out well so far.
If Wallace tears up the Longhorns on Saturday night in Oxford, and Ash struggles in comparison, the what-ifs are going to fly fast and hard. With some merit. Yet fruitless, because there was never really any decision to make, as Harsin pointed out:
There wasn't any need to. That was just the way we were going in recruiting.
Texas opted to maintain the status quo, to move forward with two quarterbacks who needed the room and opportunity for growth.
Ash professed not to have known much about the conversations, not exactly surprising given how cursory they were. The Belton product did have positive things to say about Wallace:
From what I can tell he's an outstanding quarterback. He's an outstanding quarterback and I wish him the best.
Just not so much on Saturday night, right?
Brown admitted that Wallace would have been the target, had Texas opted to go that route:
We would have gone after him if he we had gone after another quarterback. We thought we'd stick with what we had and not go after a junior college quarterback.
There simply wasn't a compelling reason.
So even if Wallace plays well, and even if Ash struggles in comparison, just remember that it was McCoy who stopped the conversations with Wallace short. Otherwise, the staff would have risked alienating Brewer and his family after Brown promised not to take any more quarterbacks after the Overstreet addition.
Not only that, but there were never any guarantees that Wallace would be this good.