It's a brave new world -- the Texas Longhorns have changed their philosophy by beginning to officially offer 2014 prospects, with the early returns including the addition of Abilene Cooper wide receiver Lorenzo Joe, who confirmed his commitment minutes after it was broken by Hookem.com.
The Longhorns may have set the curve for early recruiting at the beginning of theera by offering players before their senior season, but the timetable has now accelerated, with other major programs offering sophomores during the spring evaluation period.
As a result, the Longhorns have finally responded, with other offers out to Arlington Bowie safety Edwin Freeman, Dallas Bishop Dunne cornerback, Denton Guyer quarterback Jerrod Heard, Aldine Eisenhower running back Donald Catalon, Fort Worth All Saints offensive tackle Demetrius Knox, Fort Worth All Saints running back/fullback Daniel Gresham and Lewisville Hebron safety Jamal Adams, as well as others sure to break soon. All the prospects who had been "approved" for offers likely have one now.
As for Joe, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound receiver will play quarterback for Abilene Cooper this fall with the departure of former quarterback Clayton Nicholas, who is about ready to start fall practice with the Texas Tech Red Raiders after spending some time in the Wildcat last season, as well as at wide receiver, which will be his collegiate position.
There's a fairly significant list of guys who have played at least some quarterback in high school before moving to other positions in college, including John Harris, Miles Onyegbule, Orlando Thomas, and guys like Kendall Sanders who spent some time behind center in addition to performing in other roles.
Like a lot of guys Joe's height, the easiest way to describe the way that he moves is to say he's "fluid." At the high-school level, he can disrupt some angles with his speed, though he's probably more in the low 4.6 range than a burner -- it would probably be better to characterize him as a really strong athlete, rather than an exceptional one, which is hardly a knock on Joe. The extra gear just isn't quite there most of the time when defenders do have an angle and Joe wants to take the edge.
As a receiver, Joe certainly benefited from having a good quarterback in Nicholas, who could put the ball in spots that would let Joe go get it, even if he didn't create much separation. For his part, Joe adjusted to the balls thrown by Nicholas and seemed to track the ball well in the air, in addition to showcasing some spatial understanding and a knowledge of where the sideline is, so that he could stay in bounds.
So while Joe made his share of contested grabs last season, he also showed some legit shake and first-step quickness both with some of his route-running and with the ball in his hands. There's some elusiveness there that suggests good flexibility, which is a bit reminiscent of someone like John Harris, who also played quarterback late in his high- school career at Garland Naaman Forest before heading to Texas.
Clearly, Joe played well enough at the Texas camp against a good group of defensive backs to earn an offer, but it was interesting to go back and look at Cooper's schedule, notice Mansfield Timberview as the final opponent in the regional round of the playoffs, and see that Joe only had one catch for 22 yards and no carries against a defense that featured stud 2014 recruits Brandon Simmons and Ed Paris.
A small sample size, no doubt, and there may not be much to make of it, other than Joe not having his strongest performance of the season -- but it is noteworthy.
At the Fox Sports Southwest 7-on-7 State Championship, Joe said that he's been working some this summer to keep on top of his receiving skills.
"I've been to some camps this summer to keep my hands sharp and I've been working at to keep my hands ready and run some routes," he said. "I like the quarterback position, but receiver is where I like it the best. But it's really wherever the coach needs me."
According to ESPN's Horns Nation, Joe was a silent commitment ($) after pledging at the Texas camp, but was told to hold off on making the public announcement until February. With the change in recruiting strategy that took effect on Thursday, Joe was informed that he could let the world know that he's going to be a Longhorn.
Of that June 10 camp, Joe said that he enjoyed the competition against some of the top defensive backs in attendance. In what was perhaps an early tip-off about his pledge, it was the only camp that he attended.
"I got to talk with some of the coaches afterward, including wide receivers coach Darrell Wyatt, and they told me to keep in touch with them and stuff, so I've made a couple phone calls with him. Coach Bo Davis, he's actually recruiting in our area, I talk to him a lot, too," Joe said several weeks ago, providing the public story about his private commitment.
Asked what the coaches told him about where he was on the Texas wide-receiver board for 2014, Joe was coy.
"Oh, they said to keep working, that I've got a lot of potential. Just keep working, and you never know what happens. If something comes in, that would be great," he said, smiling, perhaps about his big secret.
It was clearly an easy decision for Joe -- he said that he grew up a Longhorn fan and didn't wait to take time to think about his decision when he committed after being approved for his offer.
"To finally get to talk to the coaches and stuff, it was crazy, just to meet them in person and stuff," he said.
I asked Joe point-blank what a Texas offer would do for him and he laughed again before providing his response.
"You might see a verbal commitment, but it's whatever. I still have two more years, so it's all good." he said, before maintaining that he was open-minded.
Joe held an offer from the Red Raiders prior to his commitment, an offer that he said was "surprising" and made him happy just to get that first one out of the way. He took an unofficial visit to Lubbock back in the middle of June, despite his silent commitment.
But Joe was already committed, even if it wasn't known publicly, and he got a chance on Thursday to make his pledge public, which most likely took a weight off his shoulders, as suggested by his apology to Horns Nation for having to lie to everyone.
He was the first major beneficiary of Mack Brown's change in recruiting philosophy, saving him from having to keep the secret all the way until February. It's probably safe to say that he's happy not to have to keep it for roughly six and a half more months.