Despite a reputation for being DBU, the Texas Longhorns have had trouble landing in-state defensive backs in the 2014 recruiting class, a narrative that took a turn for the positive on Thursday evening as Houston (Texas) Lamar safety John Bonney pledged to the Longhorns, as broken by ESPN's Sam Khan, Jr.
The 6'0, 180-pounder had long talked about making a decision before or around the start of his senior season, but there was little warning that a commitment to Texas was nearing. And no guarantees that his pick would be the Horns either after his 247Sports predictions trended dead even with Baylor in the summer before the pendulum of industry consensus swung slightly in favor of Texas in previous days.
The Bears remained in the mix in part because of his strong relationship with Art Briles from his days at Houston, a relationship aided by the fact that Bonney's father played basketball at Houston.
A consensus four-star prospect, Bonney is rated as the No 194 player in the country by the 247Sports Composite rankings, as well as the No. 14 safety and No. 22 player in the state of Texas, though 247Sports has him significantly higher across the board. More than 30 offers came in for Bonney during the course of his recruitment, from schools like Auburn, California, LSU, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Stanford, TCU and UCLA, among others.
He took visits during July to LSU, Northwestern and Ohio State, as well as an early August trip up to Norman to visit Oklahoma, prior to making his decision.
Here's the scouting report on Bonney, who doesn't have blazing speed (4.62 in the 40), but is known as a tough, smart, instinctive player:
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.
John Bonney - Class of 2014 - Houston Texas (via utrhighlightvideos)
Now sitting at 24 pledges, the 2014 Texas class is rapidly filling up on spots. It ranks at the top of the Big 12 and No. 7 nationally. Bonney is the third-highest rated pledge by 247Sports in the class and the highest-rated of the three defensive back commits, a list that also includes Jermaine Roberts of New Orleans St. Augustine and Jason Hall of South Grand Prairie (Texas).
The top remaining target at the position for Texas is Lewisville (Texas) Hebron's Jamal Adams, though the Horns are also recruiting Arlington (Texas) Bowie's Edwin Freeman as a safety despite the fact that he is rapidly approaching linebacker size. There's Beaumont (Texas) Ozen star cornerback Tony Brown, too, but that has always felt like a longshot for Texas.