Each Wednesday during the Texas high school football regular season, I'll be featuring players who, going into their senior year, lack scholarship offers and/or remain under the radar of most college recruiters, for whatever reason. These guys may not light the world on fire at the FBS level, but I'm a fan of all of them and believe they're good enough to warrant more attention than they have received up to now. Our first Unheralded 2013 Player of the Week is Collin Bowen, star quarterback at Canyon Randall, a school in the middle of the recruiting no man's land known as the Texas panhandle.
Collin Bowen stands 6'4" and 205 lbs. His frame and style of play are reminiscent of former Brownwood star Casey Pachall, now the starting quarterback at TCU. He ran a 4.46 second 40 at a combine early this summer. His team is undefeated in games he both started and finished. As a junior, Bowen completed either 63% or 68% of his passes (sources differ on his number of attempts) for 1,042 yards and 16 touchdowns. (That last number is impressive considering he attempted less than 100 passes on the year; he averaged one touchdown for every six passing attempts.) He also carried the ball 128 times for 1,060 yards (8.3 yards/carry) and 10 touchdowns.
He was voted District 3-4A's Offensive MVP and named an honorable mention all-state quarterback by the Associated Press Sports Editors. Randall's head football coach, Bryan Wood, says Bowen is the unquestioned leader of his team, and a young man of the "highest character". He adds that Bowen has a "tremendous" work ethic, which he combines with a "very high" skill level. And to top it off, "He is the best QB I have coached in 20 years."
Despite the impressive numbers, accomplishments, and praise from his coach, Bowen begins his senior season without a scholarship offer from a college at any level. There are two likely reasons for this. The first is location. Canyon, Texas sits on the wrong side of an imaginary line that major college recruiters rarely cross. Canyon is in the Texas panhandle about 10 miles south of Amarillo, 100 miles north of Lubbock and Texas Tech, and 290+ miles from the next three closest FBS schools (Oklahoma, New Mexico, and New Mexico State). Says Coach Wood: "Honestly, I believe that if he lived in the Metroplex area, where the recruiting traffic is much heavier, he would have already committed to play at a D1 school."
The second reason is injury concerns. Bowen's junior season ended when he broke his collarbone in week 9. He recovered in time to participate in spring practice, and during the summer he attended camps at six different schools, plus the regional Elite 11 event in Arlington (where he received some praise from Gerry Hamilton after his performance). But his spring and summer efforts haven't borne the fruit of scholarship offers just yet, and Wood believes the injury kept Bowen from building up more momentum on the recruiting front.
Update: A few hours after this story posted Collin Bowen's father emailed me and said he believed his son's injury a year ago may have lead some programs to view him as injury-prone. Mr. Bowen wishes to reassure coaches and anyone who may read this that Collin does not have a history of injuries, and he states that the broken collarbone "was his first injury that caused him to miss any practice or games" in his football career.
Collin Bowen's junior highlights:
As a sophomore, Bowen started primarily at linebacker but did get in three starts at quarterback (all wins) for a 10-3 Randall squad that advanced three rounds deep in the playoffs. As a junior, Bowen took over QB duties full-time and Randall won its first eight games by an average margin of 23 points. He ran for 154 yards and a touchdown and passed for 50 yards and another touchdown in a key week 9 district battle vs. then-undefeated Wolfforth Frenship, before leaving the game after suffering the aforementioned collarbone injury late in the 3rd quarter. At the time of Bowen's injury, Randall led Frenship by 11 points, but after he exited the game Randall fell apart, losing three fumbles (two of which lead to Frenship touchdowns), and missing a last-second field goal attempt to lose 29-28. (Worth noting: Frenship's quarterback was Tucker Tuberville, son of Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville. He graduated this spring and is reportedly a walk-on at Tech.) Frenship's coach was quoted after the game as stating, "If Bowen doesn’t get hurt right there we don’t win this football game. I really feel that way."
Randall bounced back the next week to drub Hereford 41-3 in their regular season finale, then won their first two playoff games by 14 and 42 points before falling 42-14 to eventual Class 4A Division II state champion Aledo in a game in which Johnathan Gray ran for 303 yards and 3 touchdowns. Whether the result would have been different with Bowen healthy is impossible to say. His backup at quarterback ran for over 100 yards against Aledo, but as a team Randall completed only 1 of 11 pass attempts in the game. Considering Bowen completed well over 60% of his passes on the year, it's likely that stat would have been much better with him under center.
We can assume that had Bowen not broken his collarbone in week 9, his team would almost certainly have been 12-0 going into the Aledo game, and a strong performance against the (then and now) defending state champions - even in a loss, but especially if in an upset win - would have helped raise his recruiting stock tremendously. Colleges will be watching him this season and hopefully he'll pick up where he left off in 2011 and remain healthy come playoff time.
When I asked Coach Wood if any schools had shown significant interest in Bowen, he named some 20 schools from which Bowen "has received a significant amount of written correspondence". These included six Big 12 schools (Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, TCU, and Texas Tech), all three service academies, three of the state's best Division II programs, "and of late a significant number of Ivy League schools".
Bowen has had a level of communication Wood described as "recent and direct" from Kansas, Kansas State, Texas Tech, North Texas, Louisiana Tech, Colorado State, Arkansas State, and Texas State. All have serious interest but are being cautious with Bowen, given his recent injury history, and are waiting and watching to see how he performs on Friday nights this fall.
On film he looks like a very fast and decisive runner when keeping the ball on zone read plays, and shows a willingness to take on defenders downfield. Most of his passes are long distance bombs targeted at receivers on posts, slants and fly routes, with occasional fades and outs. Arm strength shouldn't be a problem for him in college.
Size-wise he's a carbon copy of another quarterback named Collin: Kansas State's Klein. Collin Klein was ranked by Rivals as the #21 pro-style quarterback in the class of 2008, but he played more like a Manhattan, Kansas version of Tim Tebow when he became Kansas State's starting QB in 2011. Bowen is similar to Klein at the same age in his drop back steps and how he holds the football shoulder-high before going into his throwing motion. He throws the ball less often than Klein did in high school but looks significantly faster as a runner, and Bowen doesn't run as upright as Klein did in his senior highlights. As big a fan I am of Bowen, I hope Bill Snyder doesn't reel him in and develop him into a Collin Klein 2.0.
Among his fellow senior quarterbacks, Bowen has some similarities with Temple's Zach Allen. Seth C at Double-T Nation made this same comparison in April, a month after I first mentioned Allen and Bowen on this site. Allen committed to Syracuse before his performance at the Elite 11 regional camp in Arlington got him invited to the Elite 11 final camp, resulting in his stock going much higher. I like Allen better than Bowen as a passer right now, but Bowen is the stronger runner. In any case, the difference between them shouldn't be so great that one is given three stars and ranked 21st among the class's dual-threat quarterbacks, while the other has not even been graded by Rivals or any of the other major recruiting sites.
After National Signing Day I'll do a recap of these Unheralded Players of the Week and update how they did in their senior seasons and what colleges they signed with. I am expecting Collin Bowen to put up video game numbers in his senior year, get offered by at least a handful of FBS colleges, and make me glad I picked him to kick off this series.
For those interested in seeing Bowen and his Canyon Randall teammates on the field this season, I've posted their schedule below. (Friendly tip: if you don't live in the panhandle, you're probably better off waiting until Randall inevitably makes the 2nd or 3rd round of the playoffs, as those games would be held much closer to the more civilized areas of the state.)
August 31 - vs. Plainview
September 7 - @ Hereford
September 14 - @ Monahans
September 20 - vs. Lubbock Monterrey
September 28 - vs. Borger
October 12 - @ Canyon
October 19 - vs. Amarillo Palo Duro
October 25 - @ Amarillo
November 2 - @ Dumas
November 9 - vs. Amarillo Caprock
Note: If you were unable to clearly view the highlight video embedded above, you can also see Collin Bowen's junior highlights on Hudl, YouTube, and NCSA.Recruiting. You can also check out his sophomore highlights, which show some of his snaps at outside linebacker, where he started for most of that season.