Instant analysis -- One of the most exciting aspects of recruiting season is just how quickly an unknown can go from not being on the radar to an integral piece of a recruiting class. Such a stories is that of Bishop Dunne DT Alex Norman. In basically three days, Norman went from a prospect no Texas fan had heard about to a Longhorn commit and the linchpin of future recruiting efforts not only at the defensive tackle position, but also along the entire line.
The involvement between Norman and Texas runs much deeper than merely three days, however. The Longhorn coaching staff was aware of Norman even when he was a 330-pound freshman. Norman's mother attended Texas, so selling Norman on the program was never going to be difficult. The Longhorns have a lot of Cowboy connections with Jackson Jeffcoat on the roster and Tre' Newton will around the program -- both of them are progeny of former Cowboys and Norman is, too, as his grandfather, Pettis Norman, was a tight end for Dallas.
Thought to be a lock before coming to Austin, it was a surprise that Norman came down on Saturday. It was much less of a surprise that he decided to commit, with his pledge breaking in the evening.
The second defensive commit of the class, Norman is an extremely important get for the 2012 Texas class. First, Norman is at a need position at defensive tackle, a need magnified by Malcolm Brown looking like a Texas A&M lean. Second, Texas only needs one or two more defensive tackles at this point, meaning the coaching staff can afford to be patient with Brown, Javonte Magee and take more time evaluating the second tier of Paul Boyette, Zorell Ezell, and Anthony Smith.
Instant scouting report -- When Norman surfaced on the radar, the question wasn't about whether he was willing to commit -- that was clear. The question was about whether he was good enough. Unfortunately, Norman was also under the radar of the recruiting services, so no film was available when news broke of his invite on Wednesday. Even though both Rivals and 247 scrambled to get over to Bishop Dunne and pick up his film, it wasn't until Friday that his film finally surfaced online.
During those 48 hours in between, recruitniks desperate to decide whether or not Norman was worthy of an offer had to scour to interwebs for any film on Norman. Unfortunately, the only film available ended up being highlights from Norman's teammates in 2009. Fortunately, Norman played both ways for that team, as did each of the three prospects with highlights.
On the downside, it's difficult to properly evaluate a player based on highlights for other prospects. In the plays available, Norman looked overweight, slow, and lacked a high-level motor, clearly taking plays off. Playing both ways, it's easy to take some plays off and not particularly surprising. The biggest concern though was his physical conditioning and overall movement -- kid looked heavy on his feet and only rarely flashed. A lot of times, Norman didn't come off the ball hard and gave up ground easily at times on both sides of the ball by not having a strong enough base. Most of the aforementioned flashes came on the offensive side of the ball, where he was consistently able to dominate opponents in the running game.
Flash forward to Friday. After the services stopped by Dunne, a couple things became apparent. The first was that Norman was 330 pounds as a freshman. Then 300 as a sophomore. Now, the first-team All-State TAPPS selection is a svelte 275 pounds and the difference is apparent. This gem from the drunken nomad sums it up:
Basically he’s a Benjamin Button version of Taylor Bible.
In fact, Dunne's coach is confident enough about Dunne's overall athleticism that he speculated Norman could play defensive end in college. While that's certainly a stretch unless Norman continues to lose weight, it is conceivable that he could play some five tech (3-4 DE).
As for concerns about Norman gaining back that weight again, two words: Bennie Wylie. Still not convinced? Gipsy again:
I’m not buying that a kid that works that hard at that young of an age to get a scholarship is going to stop working hard when NFL millions are within reach. Hell, he might work harder. And yes, the NFL is a real possibility if you look at his bloodlines. His Grandfather is former Cowboy Tight End Pettis Norman. Davey O’Brien will come along later to tell us who that is. To further the point, this kid has seen the fruits of his labor materialize in the form of attention from programs like Texas and OU. Hell, if he picked OU, it might be to enjoy the vomit and sardine shakes that Jerry Shmidt offers to make him thrice daily. This isn’t going to be the Oprah weight fluctuation scenario, but if the kid is Oprah, his version of Gayle will be Benny Wylie.
The second revelation was his film.
Wow. After transforming his body, Norman transformed himself into a player. Quick of the ball and with an advanced ability to time snap counts to improve his ability to beat opposing offensive linemen, Norman also showed some understanding of technique and pad level. If there's a criticism, it's that Norman can be a drag-down tackler at times, raising questions about his ability to really sink his hips and show off that natural flexibility. All in all, though, it's a minor concern.
The good news is that he makes a serious punch from his thick lower body and with his hands. Combine that with his explosiveness and that's a seriously dangerous combination for opposing linemen. At the college level. As a sophomore, Norman didn't even look close to a guy like Quincy Russell in terms of athleticism. Now? Now Norman looks every bit on Rusell's level.
His competition level is coming up a lot and it's not the highest, but the key point is that Norman's athleticism and ability to move so much better than he was able to when carrying more weight completely outweighs concerns about competition because those attributes aren't impacted by competition. Magnified by poor competition, perhaps, but there none the less.
Alex Norman Highlights (via 247SportsStudio)