- May 29, 2001
Twenty-two years ago, the top quarterback recruit in the country rolled into Austin with the wildest recruiting buzz in the history of this town.
Ricky Williams had just won the Heisman, and Mack Brown's arsenal as a recruiter was just starting to be fully weaponized with the arrival of Chris Simms.
You Applewhite cultists might have heard of him.
It's hard to quantify the buzz that Simms brought. Some folks would have you believe that this was pre-Internet, but the truth is it was the Internet that gave birth to his legend. He was the golden boy, and an actual subject of an NFL Films documentary back when that felt like a really big deal. A one-time Tennessee commitment, it was the Internet that kept the dream alive with whispers of hope.
And then it happened. He flipped to Texas, and it felt like the entire burnt orange world changed. Texas mattered again. Simms WAS going to win a national title for the Longhorns... period. Full stop. That was the bar.
That the man showed up (by accident) in a damn limo only added to his hype before he'd ever played in a game.
Poor Major Applewhite. All he'd ever done since entering the starting line-up back in 1998 (with Williams in the backfield) was win games. The dude won in Lincoln, beat Oklahoma and won the Cotton Bowl as a redshirt freshman, and it didn't really matter. The sense was that he was only a place-holder for the really great quarterback that had arrived from New Jersey. It didn't matter that it wasn't all that fair.
CHRIS. MOTHER****ING. SIMMS. Y'ALL.
In the history of modern recruiting rankings (the dawn of Rivals.com in 1999), UT has signed three five-star quarterbacks. Simms in 1999. Vince Young in 2002. Garrett Gilbert in 2009.
Each arrived with a tsunami of hype in this town. Each has his own unique story.
In the quarter-century of recruiting classes that I've been a part of since my initial set of personal rankings in 1997, there's only one other quarterback that Texas has signed that I gave a five-star grade... current redshirt freshman Hudson Card.
I had the kid as a five-star talent from the very first moment I laid eyes on him. There was just no doubt about it in my mind. That kid's arm talent was and continues to be different. Throughout the entire recruiting process, I looked at every recruiting service like it had a damn third eyeball.
Rivals ranked him at 108 overall nationally. 247 ranked him at No. 70 overall. ESPN ranked him at No. 40. Frankly, I thought they were all bat-shit crazy in the wrong way for not being able to see what seemed clear to me when the kid signed with the Longhorns.
Of course, as I write this, fate hasn't yet decided which side of this discussion is actually the batshit crazy side, but as we prepare for an off-season decision that will potentially define the way the Steve Sarkisian Era is ultimately remembered, I want you to do two things.
First read these two quotes.
“I love the guy. Love his accuracy. Hudson can really drive the football. His footwork and ability to throw from any platform. He’s a very intelligent kid. I think Aaron Rodgers is the most talented quarterback ever in terms of skill set. This kid reminds me a lot of Aaron Rodgers in how he can move within the pocket and throw from different arm angles and make off-platform throws, and he’s got really good agility. He’s like a 4.5 (40) guy. I’m not bullshitting you. He’s really that talented.”
"Hudson is just a special player. There's really no other way to put it. He came out of the womb spinning the football. I know that's not the only thing he can do. Obviously, played receiver as a sophomore and got scholarship offers as an athlete at receiver. That's a testament to his athletic ability as well. You watch Hudson throw the ball and you're like, man. There were often times during our practice I was watching him throw like, gosh darn it, why can't I do that? Why can't I spin the way that he can? "
For reference points, the first quote was provided by a former Texas assistant coach in a February piece for The Athletic, while the second came from none other than Sam Ehlinger a few months ago.
The second thing that I'm going to ask of you is to do that thing that Matthew McConaughey did to the jury in A Time to Kill.
I want to tell you a story. I'm gonna ask y'all to close your eyes while I tell you this story. I want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to yourselves.
This is a story about a little quarterback from Austin preparing for a job battle one blazing summer.
Everyone has an opinion about it. Two men argue on Orangebloods about it and threaten each other. They threaten to Wachovia each other if each isn't careful. One of them is from Austin and claims that this is the most talented quarterback to ever come out of this area. His arm has people making Aaron Rodgers references, which sounds about as wild as someone comparing a mere mortal to Vince Young in the open field.
Can you see him? The kid is so good that former coaches dismissed Casey Thompson's performance in the Alamo Bowl, partly because they don't believe he's remotely on the level of the kid from Austin.
Can you see him? I want you to picture that little freshman, the one that a senior that was discussed in Texas quarterback Mount Rushmore terms going into last season gushed over in a way that makes you wonder if he has pictures of him hanging up in his NFL locker room.
Now imagine he's a five-star.
Perhaps the most fascinating component of the quarterback battle that's taking place is the fact that for the first time in my lifetime, I think the collective Texas fanbase doesn't quite know what it has on its hands. He arrived without that shiny ranking next to his name that would have the entire city acting like the UK any time there's a Gallagher brother in the headlines.
The gift that Card has going for him is that he hasn't yet had to deal with the pressure that comes with being a five-star quarterback. Ask Limo. Ask V.Y. Ask Squints.
Five-stars face a pressure sharp enough to cut a diamond, but the only person that really seems to treat Card like a damn five-star is my crazy ass.
All of this madness of the past that I've described would be exactly what this situation would look like if Card had been rated by the national services exactly as I had seen him.
Such an arbitrary thing on paper... these recruiting rankings. I suppose we can argue about the importance of the rankings, but what can't be disputed is the way that they shape public opinion and perceptions. No matter how much praise I lob Card's way, it simply can't influence the Texas fanbase the way five of these can - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐.
It just didn't go down like that, which is why I often find myself living in a parallel universe to the one inhabited by most of you. In my mind, you guys will eventually come around. The enlightenment will arrive, sooner rather than later.
Unless, I'm just crazy, which will remain a possibility that cannot be discounted.
No. 2 - Speaking of five-stars...
I can't help but wonder if every tight end on the Texas roster didn't waste a chance to put a little distance between themselves and incoming freshman Ja'Tavian Sanders.
Don't get me wrong, I love me some Jared Wiley. I've mentioned that I believe he has NFL upside. Braydon Liebrock is another guy that I think has immense upside. The tight ends on campus have some talent.
Yet, none of these dudes are remotely as freaky as Sanders.
When we talk about the Texas offense in 2021, it's important to note that it's pretty tough to conceptualize what Sanders could possibly add to the offense because, in reality, we've never really seen it around these parts. Once upon a time before he blew out his knee in the state championship game of his senior year, Bo Scaife had this kind of talent.
(Side-note: I wish you guys could have seen Scaife before the knee injury. He would have been special.)
As much as this defense needs all hands on deck with regards to pass-rushing, I just have a hard time believing that Sarkisian is ever going to let Sanders live on the other side of the ball. Hell, maybe it's the reason he's allowed the defense to have almost every single transfer possible.
"Want five linebackers in the portal? Sure, just keep your hands off my five-star," I can imagine Sarkisian saying in his head.
When it's all said and done, the kid that is showing up on campus this week might just be the thing that makes this offense jump the rail in the best way possible and there might not be a single thing that the current Texas tight ends or Pete Kwiatkowski can do about it.
No. 3 - In addition to Sanders...
These are the three freshmen that arrive this week that I believe could have a major impact on the 2021 season.
a. Xavier Worthy - I'm not sure who keeps him off the field. There's not a like for like talent blocking his pathway to playing time.
b. Jordan Thomas - If he can bring pressure off the edge, something he has shown flashes of as a high school player, there's going to be playing time. Maybe a lot of it.
c. David Abiara - I've always been a little higher on the former Notre Dame commitment than most. His size as a true freshman gives him a chance. Like Thomas, if he can display skill off the edge, there's an opening.
No. 4 - Let the season-defining weekends begin ...
No offense to the Big 12 Baseball Tournament, but when your history is as rich as the Texas Baseball program, the event can feel more like a pain in the ass than anything else.
I'm sure it feels different to others with less history, just like it did when the Texas Basketball team celebrated its Big 12 Tournament win back in March (that actually happened!), but win or lose - the real season in Austin begins this week.
Bring on the NCAA postseason. How this team will ultimately be remembered hasn't even started to be written, so there's no reason to say anything more, other than perhaps these three words for a team favored to return to Omaha.
Bring it on.
No. 5 - A man of the people...
First, it was a day of chickenshit bingo at The Little Longhorn Saloon.
This weekend, Beard was barnstorming the Mean-eyed Cat.
Beard appears determined to sell out his home arena by making connections at every prominent watering hole in the city.
And I ain't mad at him at all.
Next up: Time to go two-stepping at the Spoke.
No. 6a - A season comes to an end...
When it was all said and done on Sunday afternoon in a 2-0 season-ending loss in Stillwater, it felt like Mike White had taken the Texas softball team about as far as it was going to go.
The 2021 Longhorns were very good, but never quite elite.
All one had to do was look at the results against Oklahoma State to realize there was simply another gear that OSU had that this year's Longhorns didn't.
Seven times these teams played each other this season and six times the Longhorns came away on the losing side. At some point you just have to tip your cap to the better team and acknowledge you simply weren't good enough against a team that stood in the way of accomplishing your goals.
In five of those games, the Longhorns failed to score more than two runs, and in four of them, they failed to score more than one. Texas could hit, but they couldn't hit like those teams north of the state border, which is why its season is over.
No. 6b - Another 2021 natty...
Everything I know about Texas rowing, @BlakeSkaggs taught me over the weekend.
2017: 4th (nationally)
After huffing and puffing for three consecutive seasons, the Texas rowing team finally blew the damn door down. Much respect.
No. 7 – BUY or SELL …
B/S: With Ohio St, Clemson, & Alabama having to replace multi-year starting 1st round draft picks at QB, the CFB playoffs will not have any undefeated teams? Furthering the discussion of an extended playoffs as multiple 1-2 loss teams get left out.
(Sell) I think we'll see an undefeated team emerge from some place, but the quarterback situations across the country certainly have opened up some doors, at least potentially. This has the looks of a year where the subjectiveness of it all is going to likely be front and center. You can close your eyes and hear the national media asking if a two-loss SEC team should get in over a one-loss Big 12 champion, clear as day.
Professional rugby is taking off and will be bigger than soccer in the US in 20 years.....
(Sell) Only if they televise the after-party drinking.
B/S: we don’t stink this year?
(Buy) Texas didn't stink last year. It just wasn't elite. Those last couple of steps are often the hardest to take. Just ask Mack Brown.
We either have the best or 2nd best defense in the Big 12? I think everyone outside of the program is underestimating our DC
(Sell) I still have some concerns about where the pass rush and turnovers come from.
B/S Keaontay Ingram rushes for more than 500 yards this season at USC.
(Buy) Maybe not much more than that, but 500 feels like it might be about right.
B/S NIL will largely be a dud for players.
(Sell) Maybe in some states like Georgia, but not in all states. Certainly not in Texas.
B/S We enter the season without one of Card or Thompson.
(Sell) Deep down I think the answer might be a buy, but Sarkisian might run the clock down on an announcement so late in the month of August that the season starts with both.
We know after game 1 that these coaches are for real or all hype.
(Sell) That feels a little flimsy to me. Even Saban struggled in year one to a degree.
Jonathan Brooks is moved to defensive back because he's too talented to wait his turn on offense.
(Sell) I don't see that happening.
B/S special teams will be responsible for points (in our favor, lol), in at least half the games. You decide what “responsible” means as it relates to special teams... Blocked punt, blocked field goal, punt return, kick off return...is there another Special Teams opportunity? I ask because it seems we have the return skill players, and with the Special Teams Guru Coach ($1mm bucks, right?), should this happen?
(Sell) I feel like I buy this every off-season, and it never quite happens. You'll forgive me for not taking it for granted with a new staff just because.
B/S By season end...
Card has more minutes and rushing yards than Casey. Jamison has two special teams TDs. Bijan has an 80+ run. AND Dicker has a game winner.
(Buy) Sure. Give me all of it.
B/S 10-2 is possible
(Buy) It being possible isn't the issue. How realistic it is feels like the ultimate question.
B/S: If we run through the month of June and still haven't recruited any big offensive hogs to block for our RB's and protect our QB's, it's damn near panic time.
(Sell) If it hasn't happened by September 1, it'll be time to panic. Maybe even August if commits start flying off the board by then, as expected.
B/S: Sark needs to come up with some new recruiting gimmick that makes more kids want to come to Austin for a visit. Herman had the pool parties. Sark needs something that really takes advantage of what Austin has to offer, or possibly something that takes advantage of the new law passed by the legislature to allow kids to make money on their name and likeness. Something that shows UT already has all that figured out and we're ahead of the curve on this front. Just getting them here is often half the battle.
(Sell) Recruits are tired of gimmicks. They don't want the next upgraded version of the pool party. They want to win championships and get developed into NFL players. The elite dudes aren't falling for the banana in the tailpipe pool party. Ask the Brockermeyers.
No. 8 - Scattershooting on the sports weekend...
... Julio Jones to the Seahawks? The idea set up the Tweet of the Weekend as far as I'm concerned.
... There's a part of me that kind of wants to see Chris Paul make it out of the West this season. How ironic would that be?
... Good week for the Sixers. Really glad we're avoiding the Bucks in the second round, though. I'm totally content with letting the Nets and Bucks kill each other before the conference finals.
... New York was actually on fire over this Knicks team, and Trae Young and Co. might bounce them in five. lol.
... My Phillies have a -23 run differential. That's so depressing.
... I know Astros fans are kind of on tilt about Fernando Tatis Jr., but this home run over the weekend with the Padres down three runs with two outs in the top of the ninth inning was pretty dope to this observer. I wish I had seen it in person.
... After starting her career with the Dallas Wings with a double-double against Los Angeles, Charli Collier has posted the following points/rebounds combos in the last four games: 2/0, 5/5, 3/0 and 6/4. Welcome to the Association, kid.
... I literally paid zero attention to the Indianapolis 500 this weekend.
... I want to get excited about the US national team and then I remember that our coach is just a guy and there's a pace of play that we just never seem to quite catch up to.
... A number of random thoughts from Saturday's Champions League Final...
a. As a Liverpool fan, I found myself not quite caring that Chelsea won, as long as Manchester City remained trophy-less in the competition. Weirdly, Chelsea winning just didn't feel as threatening as seeing Man City win this particular double. It feels a little Aggy-ish, but it is what it is.
b. Props to Chelsea. I have no passive-aggressive shade to dish out. When it was all said and done, Chelsea went through the Spanish champions (Atletico), the Spanish runner-up and the English champion to get over the line. Nothing but respect. Liverpool didn't have that kind of run in them this season.
c. N'Golo Kante is an all-time great player that rarely seems to get ranked like one by the media, even though he's as lovable as a damn teddy bear. His ability to stand up to anyone in the sport in a phone booth is remarkable. You go in with your keys and wallet, and when you leave you have neither.
d. I felt horrible for Kevin de Bruyne that his season basically ended with a broken face, but it also needs to be said that he had not been able to get his grip on the game in any capacity before departing the game. It always felt like he was on the cusp of creating something, but Kante would take it away from him. Forgive me if I stop just short of the Steven Gerrard comparisons.
e. I hope that loss crushes City's spirit going into next season. It's going to be hard for that group of guys to come out of the Euros ready for the grind after the demands of the last four seasons.
f. I say that and City might just spend 500 million this year. Grealish. Kane. Pele. Johan Cruyff from the grave. All of them.
No. 9 - My Top 10 List of Bands that I've Never Done a Deep Dive on But Probably Need To...
So, I don't know if you know this or not, but I started a bit of an online riot with this thread on the band Oasis.
The truth of the matter is that I asked a question about the group because outside of the stuff they are best known for in the mid to late 90s, I've just never given the group more than a sideways glance.
Hey, I'm guessing we all have an occasional blind spot or two and I'm willing to give some benefit of the doubt to the idea that there's more to this group than freaking "Wonderwall".
In fact, I plan on doing a deep dive on the band and doing a Top 10 list next Sunday.
For now I'll give you my list of the top 10 bands/singers that I probably need to do a deep dive on. Consider them potential blind spots. It's not that I don't dig some of the music created by this list of 10, it's just that I've never quite gotten the fuss, beyond the obvious.
10. Jane's Addiction
9. Green Day
6. Elvis Costello
5. James Taylor
4. Nine Inch Nails
3. Lil Wayne
1. Simon and Garfunkel
No. 10 - And Finally ...
20 years ago on Saturday, a little website called The-University.com sprung up from the Rivals.com ashes of bankruptcy to become the place that I have called home for most of my adult years.
From the 2001 Big 12 Championship game to the Vince Young recruitment to the Vince Young era to blue drinks to Garrett Gilbert predictions to the Big 12 Missile Crisis to It's Austin to 85-percent and to a decade of mostly nothing but disappointment, this place has seen more than I can almost comprehend.
A number of you have been with me every step of the way or close to it, and I just wanted to take a moment to thank those of you that have been the hardest of the hardcores.
I know I can be kind of a pain in the ass from time to time. You riding shotgun with me during nearly the entire emergence of the Internet's explosion has never been taken for granted.
Here's to another 20 years, this time with more championships to celebrate.