With word that five-star dual-threat, dual-athlete Terrelle Pryor has dropped the Longhorns from his list of schools he's considering, expect some grumbles among fans who will wonder if Mack Brown is slipping as a recruiter. Pryor, who scouts most often compare to Vince Young, had listed Texas among his top five schools for nearly a year, but ultimately moved on because, as he told the media, Texas' coaches weren't putting in much effort to recruiting him.
Are Mack Brown and Co. making a mistake? If Pryor turns out to be like Vince Young - sure, it could be. But I think this is a reasonably practical calculation by Texas' coaches. For starters, it's hard to blame Mack Brown for being wary of fishing for high-profile out-of-state quarterbacks. After both Ryan Perrilloux and John Brantley turned their backs on Texas after an initial commitment, I can sympathize with Mack Brown not wanting to dump an excess of resources into trying to get Pryor (who very well may not have come to Texas even if the staff had rolled out the red carpet).
But more than that, Mack's got good reason to focus his attention within the Texas borders, as the 2009 class is led by two universally-heralded quarterbacks - Russell Shepard and Garrett Gilbert. Both are among Rivals.com's national Top 100 for the 2009 class (Shepard #4, Gilbert #49). Though Shepherd is one of the elite athletes in the entire country, Gilbert's performance as a junior has his stock as a pro-style passer soaring. This past week, Gilbert led Lake Travis to a 57-43 state playoff win by throwing 7 touchdown passes, one shy of a state record. Gilbert's Lake Travis Cavaliers (13-1) advanced to the state 4A semifinal, to be played in College Station this Friday.
Gilbert's supreme junior season and rising stock should make for high drama among hardcore Longhorn recrtuining devotees; the decision of whom the coaches should pursue the hardest is sure to spark fierce debate. Shephard is an athletic quarterback in the mold of John Chiles and consistently lists the Longhorns as among his top choices. Gilbert is a far more polished pocket passer, and though he's from the Austin area, he's not yet made it known which schools he's eyeing closest.
Texas' coaches will likely pursue both vigorously and, if I had to guess, put offers on the table for both. If that's the case, the smart money is on Shephard committing to Texas quickly, in all likelihood leaving Gilbert to choose among his other suitors. Though everything indicates Gilbert's going to be a fine, fine quarterback, this situation would be - in my opinion - better for Texas. This staff has failed to win a conference championship with a pocket passer. If we're generous, we could say McCoy's scrambling ability makes him somewhat of a hybrid, but he's not freezing many defenders who fear him as a rusher. In reality, this staff has had two elite seasons, both of which came with a true dual-threat quarterback.
I'm no recruiting expert, but I'd just as soon see Texas wind up with Russell Shephard. Either would be great, but recruiting is as much a matching game as it is identifying talent.