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Twisting, Turning Road Brings Cobbs to Texas (Updated)

Finally, good news!

It seems like forever since the Longhorns actually landed a player in the 2010 class -- in fact, it has been more than seven months since Reggie Wilson decided to come to Texas. Since then, the Longhorns lost two commitments, from Ross Apo and Ahmad Dixon, and have fallen out of the race for the services of Darius White, though, on the positive side, Texas still has a strong chance with Jordan Hicks and Jackson Jeffcoat. The overriding point is that since the Longhorns receive so many commitments around the Junior Days in February, the recruiting class is essentially done shortly after it starts, leaving little in the way of positive news for the greater part of a year leading up to Signing Day.

The nearly complete and total lack of success in recent years in landing late commitments from elite players makes the commitment of DeMarco Cobbs, an athlete from Tulsa Central and the top-ranked player in the state of Oklahoma, all the more unexpected and surprising. Given that he got back in contact with the Texas staff, it doesn't mean that Mack Brown and company have finally found that elusive strategy that will suddenly result in elite players flocking to Texas near the end of the recruiting process -- if anything, the circumstances show just how much of an anomaly Cobbs' decision is, enough of one for Rivals to turn it "bizzare" on the front page of Orangebloods. In fact, Jeff Howe points out ($) that Cobbs is the latest big-time commitment for Texas since Roy Miller in 2005 and the first player from Oklahoma to commit to Texas since Brian Pickryl in 2002.

How exactly did Cobbs end up choosing to commit to Texas after committing to Tennessee back in September, seemingly ending his recruitment after seriously considering the Longhorns early in the process?

The twisting, turning Cobbs timeline

  • November 2008: Cobbs, visiting Austin for the Thanksgiving day game against Texas A&M, tries to give his verbal commitment ($) to the Texas staff shortly after visiting, but the coaches tell him that they don't offer players or accept commitments until after the 2009 class signs. However, Mack Brown and company do indicate to Cobbs that he is approved for a scholarship offer. Shortly before his visit, Cobbs indicates that he has been a Texas fan for much of his life ($):

Texas was a big surprise. I was happy when I heard from them. When I was younger, I always wanted to play for the Longhorns. I'd always play with them on video games, and I watched Vince Young and Cedric Benson play.

  • December 2008: In an interview with Orangebloods ($), Cobbs says that he has "always just loved Texas," and that he plans to attend a Junior Day.
  • Janurary 2009: After receiving national interest from programs like Alabama and LSU, Cobbs decides to open up his recruitment ($), saying that he wants to give every interested school a shot. Cobbs also unofficially visits Oklahoma State and the Rivals site for the Cowboys ($) reveals that his nickname is "Booby" and Cobbs once again says that he always planned on playing for Texas growing up. Late in the month, Cobbs says that he plans on waiting until close to Signing Day ($) to make a decision.
  • February 2009: SoonerScoop names Cobbs Mr. Oklahoma ($) for the class of 2010. Cobbs receives his Texas offer in the mail ($) early in the month and says that he plans on making the first Junior Day, while speaking again about how wide receivers like Limas Sweed, Roy Williams, and Quan Cosby helped Texas gain his attention. For the first time, Cobbs' ride falls through ($) and he can't make it to campus for the Junior Day at the beginning of the month, as his head coach has other obligations in his new role as athletic director. His coach does, however, report that Cobbs says that "We're going to be really good," when referring to Texas. For the second time, Cobbs can't make it down to the second Junior Day because of his coaches obligations as athletic director. Meanwhile, by the end of the month, Texas has 19 commitments, including four wide receivers and another player in Adrian Phillips who could get a look at that position. For the first time, the numbers begin to become a concern.
  • March 2009: Despite not making it down to Austin for either Junior Day, which begins to raise some credibility issues for Cobbs and questions about how much he really likes the Longhorns, he does call Texas his "dream school."
  • March to May 2009: Cobbs begins to fall off the Texas recruiting radar and loses contact with the coaching staff. In late April, Cobbs reports more than 30 offers from all over the country and names five of his top 10 schools ($) -- Oklahoma, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, and LSU. In May, Cobbs says the Texas coaches have seemingly "dropped me," and that he has not been in contact ($) with them for some time -- the Texas coaches simply haven't called. He insists that he is still interested in the Longhorns despite naming a top 10 that does not feature Texas at all, instead adding Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee, USC, and Arizona to the other five teams on his list. A USC coach visits Cobbs in Tulsa ($) and he makes plans to attend the Rising Stars camp, while saying that USC may be his favorite. At the end of the month, Cobbs puts in a call to Bruce Chambers ($), who tells Cobbs that the Texas coaching staff believed he wasn't interested in the Longhorns any more. Cobbs says that they are now "on the same page" amd plans on attending a summer camp if he can make it.
  • June 2009: Cobbs firms up plans ($) to make it down to Austin for the end of the three-day overnight camp from June 14-17. He says that Texas is "definitely back in the mix." Once again, Cobbs fails to make it down to Austin, saying that he failed to get the proper identification to board the plane. It seems that Cobbs has now fallen off the Texas radar as his excuses for not making it to Austin begin to ring hollow. At the end of the month, Cobbs does make it out to Los Angeles to participate in the USC Rising Stars camp ($), where he struggles at time to get separation from a good group of defensive backs.
  • July 2009: Cobbs trims his list ($) to six -- Alabama, Tennessee, LSU, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Florida. His interest grows in Tennessee, but a trip to a camp at Alabama ($) impresses him greatly.
  • August 2009: After spending the weekend in Knoxville ($), Cobbs cites the success of players from Oklahoma at Tennessee as a major reason the Volunteers are now one of his favorites. By the end of the month, Tennessee is his leader ($).
  • September 2009: Cobbs commits to Tennessee ($), saying that he feels the pro-style offense there and the NFL experience of many members of the coaching staff will prepare him for the next level, while indicating that he is also happy to end the "hectic" recruiting process.
  • October 2009: Cobbs begins to have second thoughts about his commitment to the Volunteers and decides to re-establish contact with Bruce Chambers. Texas receives his senior film and expresses their continued interest in Cobbs, staying on contact for most of the month until Cobbs decides on October 29 that he wants to become a Longhorn, seemingly ending a process that saw him attempt to commit to Texas early, completely lose contact with the coaching staff, commit to Tennessee, then finally end up committing to Texas.

How firm is his commitment?

Any recruit who changes their mind several times begins to raise issues of trustworthiness. Given Cobbs' history of failing to make it to Austin, Cobbs might seem even less trustworthy than most. The overriding factor that makes his commitment to the Longhorns seem genuine is his long-time love for the Longhorns. In fact, it was probably miscommunciation between Cobbs and the coaching staff that led him to drop Texas in the first place and an unfortunate situation with his high school coach that kept him from making the first two Junior Days, though his absence in June is much harder to explain.

The other good news is that, unlike Ahmad Dixon, Cobbs actually called the Tennessee coaching staff after switching his commitment, handling that business with great maturity. Add to it the fact that Cobbs is reportedly a genuine kid and Texas fans should have confidence that he will sign with the Longhorns next February. This is also not a case of the coaching staff continuing to pursue a committed player -- Cobbs re-established the contact after wavering on his commitment to Tennessee, as he began to think more and more about being so far away from home.

Cobbs had this to say about his decision:

In the beginning, Texas was where I wanted to be. I just felt like it wasn't too far from home, Texas was always my dream school. I'm pretty solid with that commitment. I don't plan on changing my mind. You can't go wrong with that decision. I'm pretty excited about it.

I just went ahead and got it over with. Now I'm a Longhorn. I'm not going to change my mind. Now I'm a Longhorn and that's where I'm going to college.

Who wouldn't want to be a part of a winning program? It's just a great place to be, a great place to go to school and a great place to live. Texas has been in my heart ever since I was little. That's where I wanted to be and I'm glad I got that opportunity.

The comment about being "pretty solid" with his commitment may raise some concerns, but the fact of the matter is that there is every reason to believe that Cobbs does really want to be a Longhorn -- he called Texas his "dream school" so many times during the early part of the recruiting process and spoke so often about the Longhorns being his favorite growing up that there is little reason to doubt his sincerity right now. There's also the fact that Texas fans have plenty of other, more pressing things to worry about than Cobbs de-committing, like the game in Stillwater Saturday evening.

What position will he play?

At 6-1 and rougly 200 pounds, Cobbs is listed as the ninth-best athlete in the 2010 class by Rivals and has the ability to play several positions in college, the foremost being wide receiver. A quarterback for his Tulsa Central team, Cobbs also plays defense and could play safety or even outside linebacker in college. With his excellent feet and explosiveness, running back is another, though much more far-fetched, possibility -- it seems unlikely since the Longhorns alreadly have two other big running backs from the 2009 and 2010 classes -- Chris Whaley and Traylon Shead. Given the similarities, it doesn't make much sense for Cobbs to play running back in Austin, though his ability to make plays with the ball in his hands opens up a variety of possibilities for his use in the Texas offense. Possibilities as varied as Greg Davis' creativity will allow. So yeah, there's probably not a great chance of much creative stuff.

As for a personal preference, Cobbs understands that quarterback will not be his position in college, but still desires to have the ball in his hands, making wide receiver his first choice. Since the Texas coaching staff asks incoming players what position they want to play and attempts to accommodate those wishes, it's probably safe to say that Cobbs will start out as a wide receiver at Texas, though he could be an incredibly physically imposing presence at the safety position. Cobbs did say after his commitment that the coaching staff hasn't decided where they would prefer him to play.

[Update]: Just a few thoughts on Cobbs as a wide receiver. Rivals ranked him as the third-best athlete ($) at the Gridiron Kings event in Florida this spring, saying that Cobbs is a strong athlete, but "isn't a natural wide receiver." The concerns about his future at receiver stem from his route-running ability ($), which is certainly raw, but also his hands -- apparently he had some trouble consistently catching the ball at the event. The scouting report by ESPN ($), on the other hand, cites his ball skills as a strength and another observer at the Gridiron Kings event came away impressed ($) with his ability to get off of press coverage and "outbody" defenders for the football. Cobbs did score four touchdowns at the event, mostly from the slot, showing his ability to make plays in an extremely competitive environment and an observer at the Oklahoma camp ($) called him "smooth" at the receiver position. And, despite his struggles at times ($) when he attended the Rising Stars camp, the review of his performance began by saying "If you had the ability to create the perfect receiver, Cobbs would be the end result," while also citing his incredible potential.

All in all, Cobbs is physically ready for college football, as he will not need much time in the weight room to contribute -- in fact, he might be better served maximizing his speed at this time. By most accounts, Cobbs is still raw, but has the athletic ability to become an exceptional wide receiver and should be able to use that strength to fight off defenders and go up and get the football. However, given his less-than-stellar vertical, catching jump balls may not ever be his strength. If Cobbs can become a good route runner, there's no reason why he can't succeed playing wide receiver at Texas.

Also, a couple of other numbers on Cobbs -- his Scout page ($) reports a 10.62 100m time and a 32-inch vertical, while benching 305 pounds and squatting 400.

[end Update]

Here is his high school film:

Demarco Cobbs Junior Highlight Film (via goose7856)

The quality is terrible on that YouTube video, but the same film can also be found at Inside Texas (I believe it is free).

Just how athletic is Cobbs?

Watching the available film on Cobbs, two main comparisons jump out. The first one is Michael Crabtree because of his excellent feet, ability to jump cut, vision, and pure physicality -- this is the comparison many scouts have made. The second one is John Chiles, as both appear to have roughly the same explosiveness in high school and both played the quarterback position for their respective schools. Watching their film back-to-back, Chiles may have the slightest of edges in pure speed, but Cobbs in high school looks faster than Chiles in college.

The bottom line is that Cobbs looks extremely impressive on film and appears to be the type of player who could excel in the short passing game at Texas and become a major threat on stop patterns, hitches, but particularly in the screen game  -- he has top-notch feet for a wide receiver and elite vision for the position, the same skills that lead to speculation about him being able to play running back.

The biggest concern about Cobbs is how well he tested at the Army All-American combine back in January, where he posted a 4.76 40, a shuttle time of 4.60, and a vertical of only 26 inches. Several things are important to note about those times: 1) the track at the combine is notoriously slow, as only seven players posted sub-4.5 times at the entire event, and 2) his high school coach said that it may have been the first time that Cobbs ever ran a timed 40.

To the first point, the Temple running back ran a 4.50 flat at the event and his speed is relatively unquestioned -- he would probably shave a tenth of a second of that time on a better track, with some reports stating that he has been timed in the 4.3s -- those reports are probably pretty unreliable, but the overriding point stands. Kyle Prater, the second-ranked prospect nationally and the top-rated wide receiver, ran a 4.70 at the event, but his Rivals page lists a 4.56 40 as his best time. As for the vertical, the Temple running back tied for the best result at the combine, posting a leap of 36.5 inches. Watching film, it's probably safe to say that Cobbs is a legit 4.5 guy, thought it's hard to say if that's closer to 4.50 or 4.59.

To the second point, Cobbs' high school coach Corey Russell had a variety of explanations ($) for why his star player did not turn in an impressive time at the event -- he didn't start well, have the right shoes, or even the proper technique for starting well. Cobbs had to borrow a pair of shoes from a fellow attendee after falling on his first attempt and Russell said that they work on stance and starts at Central, but place little emphasis on running the 40.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, 40-yard dash times simply don't matter that much on the football field. Al Davis famously falls in love with fast wide receivers who have one major problem -- they aren't really wide receivers, just extremely fast dudes playing football. The best tool for evaluation, then, is film. And Cobbs passes that test with flying colors -- he is clearly an exceptionally talented football player.

Because of that, he represents an excellent pick up for the Longhorns and though he may need to conintue working on his first-step explosiveness and avoid whatever program Mad Dog has had John Chiles on at Texas, there can be little doubt that Cobbs is an excellent addition to the 2010 Texas recruiting class and has a strong chance of being a big contributor on the field, whether he ends up on offense or defense. And, perhaps just as importantly, Texas fans finally have another commitment to help them feel better about the 2010 class, which now may be the best in the country. Rejoice, Longhorn recruitniks!