The only commit on watch for the Texas Longhorns on National Signing Day was Houston Lamar safety John Bonney, but new head coach Charlie Strong and his staff were able to hold on to the highest-rated defensive back in the class.
The 6'0, 182-pound safety was supposed to be one of the first pledges to send in his National Letter of Intent, but did not do so at the expected time, drawing out the drama surrounding his recruitment. Then ESPN broke the following news:
It wasn't until nearly an hour later that Bonney actually sent in the paperwork to become a Longhorn.
According to a local Houston writer, Bonney was up all night thinking about his decision and then went to church in the morning to pray about his choice, explaining by he was slow to officially become a member of the Texas class.
Bonney's father had revealed that his son was still considering his options on Tuesday after having visited Auburn and Baylor in the previous weeks leading up to Signing Day before an unofficial trip to Texas supposedly solidified Bonney's pledge.
At least according to a recruit in attendance that weekend who said Bonney told him he was going to stick with the Longhorns.
Following Bonney's visit to Baylor a week and a half ago, multiple predictions came in for the Bears in the 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions for Bonney, but the general belief had been that the Longhorns survived the most critical period during which the Lamar product was likely to switch his commitment and getting Bonney around the new coaching staff and other committed prospects last weekend in Austin was easy to view in the same vein.
Bonney is ranked as the No. 19 safety nationally, the No. 31 prospect in Texas and the No. 249 prospect in the country. He also holds offers from a number of top programs, including Cal, LSU, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Stanford, TCU and UCLA.
And though Bonney was hardly the highest-rated defensive back in the state, after the Longhorns missed out on an incredible number of other prospects at the position, landing the Houston Lamar defender increasingly became a priority.
Here's the scouting report on Bonney:
Considered a safety by the services, Bonney possesses the type of pure defensive back or cornerback skills that provide some extra value as a prospect.
Lamar uses him a lot in one-on-one coverage on the outside, so he's not a guy who spends most of his time in deep center field coming downhill to make plays or supporting cornerbacks in coverage -- he's the player in coverage.
It can be hard to tell from views that show the quarterback throwing the football, but from the results, Bonney is able to sit in the hip pocket of his receivers consistently, either doing a strong job of working in press coverage and uses his hands to re-route receivers or flipping his hips well to transition with them. Further investigation of the film reveals that he can do both.
Either way, when the ball is in the air, Bonney displays strong ball skills. He doesn't appear to come up with a great deal of interceptions -- three in 2012 -- so the hope is that as he continues to mature and improve as a player, he will turn a few more of those PBUs into INTs, because during his junior season, Bonney got his hands on a number of balls that were possible, if difficult, interceptions.
Some young defensive backs experience struggles knowing when to turn their head to find the football and some then have issues tracking it. Bonney seems to have a natural knack for when to look back and can generally find the ball quickly, then make sure that the receiver doesn't come up with the catch, probably his most elite ability based on his junior film.
In terms of playing the pure safety position, there's not a lot of evidence on film, but Bonney does flash some open-field tackling ability, even if he does get a little bit high there some times, can break down to deal with opposing ball carriers, and can deliver some hits when the opportunity is there. Bonney is not, however, a natural striker who can sink his hips and explode through opponents -- but that's not really a knock on his abilities, just to say that he's not elite in that regard.
There may be a bit of a learning curve for him in college if he's asked to take on a center-field role, though there's no question that he could find a home at field corner or nickel corner.
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