FootballFootball Recruiting

Inside the Gameplan: The Four Bears

Patrick Hudson. (courtesy of Hudson)
Patrick Hudson. (courtesy of Hudson)

Now that Texas has finally completed the 2016 class with some of the better Baylor recruits (that back in the day would have already been Longhorns), it’s time to talk impact. The first bit of impact that bears mentioning (see what I did there) is what this does to the Baylor program moving forward.

While the Briles offensive system has always made it easier for the Bears to field great offenses, talent acquisition is still an important part of the formula. What’s more, the kind of talent that makes this offense hum is no longer undervalued in the wake of 50-12 with two Big 12 title rings over five years.

Briles’ innovative offense took over the world of college football. It added excitement to Waco not seen since the Grant Teaff days. Now that offense is in Austin led by new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert and OL coach Matt Mattox. And the players are coming with it.

Here’s a glimpse into the most talented offensive depth chart that Briles ever put on the field in Big 12 play, the 2011 Bears:

2011 Baylor Bears

The OL was both massive and filled with NFL-level talents while the WR corps running downfield for Robert Griffin III consisted of a 4.52 sprinter (Terrance Williams), two 4.46 guys (Lanear Sampson and Tevin Reese), and a 4.61 guy (Kendall Wright). It was impossible to keep all of these guys under wraps as there was too much speed in too much space.

The answer to Baylor’s spread has increasingly been man coverage from opponents and opposing DBs are learning how to sit on the limited routes in the Baylor offense. The Bears’ answer has necessarily been to get their WR roster back up to 2011 standards. You can’t get away with playing man coverage on a team with multiple developed, sub 4.6 WRs on the field.

RG3 was the only player of the whole 2011 lot rated higher than three stars, but these days the service rankings, rival teams, and a greater investment in recruiting defenders hasn’t allowed Baylor to fill out its roster so easily. Instead they’ve been transitioning to translating their success into winning battles for blue-chip talent.

This class was particularly loaded. Five of the seven departing recruits were rated as four stars and Devin Duvernay and Patrick Hudson (consensus 5-stars) in particular are uniquely brilliant physical talents that really demonstrated how much of a recruiting giant the Bears were becoming.

By luring four of these guys from Waco, Texas has done serious damage to Baylor’s ability to put indefensible veer and shoot teams on the field in the future. Just for the fact that Texas no longer has to face J.P. Urquidez (the next Spencer Drango?), Hudson (the next Jason Smith?), Donovan Duvernay (the next Levi Norwood?) or Devin Duvernay (the next Corey Coleman?) in BU uniforms is a major plus.

Now let’s talk about what these guys can contribute to Texas’ efforts in 2016.

Donovan Duvernay. (courtesy of Duvernay)
Donovan Duvernay. (courtesy of Duvernay)

Donovan Duvernay

Somehow Devin got more of the size and speed genes out of this pair of athletic twins, but that doesn’t mean Donovan has nothing to offer. Donovan didn’t run at the NFTC that Devin participated in but with my powers of internet research and the usage of IBF estimates (Ian Boyd film 40), I’ve got him pegged at about the following:

5-foot-9, 180, 4.7 40, 4.2 shuttle.

Donovan ran a 11.47 100m dash and he doesn’t have the same long speed as his brother but he is twitchy in short areas as you can see from his film. Take a peek at his senior highlights.

If that doesn’t seem too exciting you might consider that Houston’s DeMarcus Ayers just put up nearly identical height/weight/speed numbers at the NFL combine and he had over 1200 receiving yards last year, including 82 against Florida State. Donovan has a similar type of quickness and is more impressive in the first 10 yards of the 40 than in the last 10.

As an offensive player he has three strengths worth mentioning; his ability to change gears in the open field, his hands, and his route running which is already solid and could become great. If the latter two traits grow strong enough, he’ll be a guy worth putting on the field in the veer and shoot. In another variety of spread that emphasized more West Coast quick routes he’d be even more valuable.

On defense he doesn’t project well to corner due to that (estimated) 4.7 40, which is simply too little recovery speed to survive without safety help and it’d be hard to see him ever breaking to the top of a perpetually loaded CB depth chart.

His quickness would play better at nickel or strong safety, where’d he be dangerous to throw on thanks to his ability to break on routes from zone and his flypaper hands. His defensive film shows exactly that, plus a guy who’s a willing tackler who can handle space but lacks the kind of explosiveness and size that results in big, intimidating hits. If he took well to film study, he’d basically be a shorter Dylan Haines in the secondary.

In 2016, he factors in as a redshirt and useful scout team player while the coaches work out whether he’s a better hedge bet as a slot receiver or safety. In either instance he could be a valuable role player in the future.

Devin Duvernay. (Justin Wells/IT)
Devin Duvernay. (Justin Wells/IT)

Devin Duvernay

I’ve taken to calling Devin “Corey Coleman 2.0” because that’s basically exactly who he is. His 10.2 100m track time combined with his Sparq numbers of a 4.32 40, 4.24 shuttle, 37.7” vertical, and 37’ power ball toss tell the story of an elite all-around athlete with “all-spark” suddenness moving in any direction over short distances and breakaway speed to boot.

Obviously the plan at Texas is to slide him into a slot position and flank him with Armanti Foreman/Collin Johnson and John Burt on the outside and then either Caleb Bluiett or DeAndre McNeal inside.

If Duvernay can reliably run four routes from the inside receiver spot, he’ll be worth his weight in gold to Texas in 2016.

The first is your standard bubble screen, and I think we can be confident that Devin will be a killer on the bubble if opposing teams don’t respect it and if Texas’ QBs are able to throw it. This route alone could prohibit most opponents from using their nickel to cheat Texas’ run game.

The second route is your typical speed out/slant combination, which he already runs effectively at the high school level. These can be tricky if facing press coverage but in the slot Texas should usually be able to get Devin a free release.

The third route is your standard go route in which he’d just be looking to win deep in order to either take the top off or clear out space underneath for the shallow cross route we’ve discussed in the past. The key with this concept is that he actually be capable of threatening to run past a man coverage defender and necessitating some kind of cover 2 response.

Duvernay shallow-go

You get Devin in the “Y” receiver spot running the go route with Burt running the shallow, McNeal (H) running the dig, and Collin Johnson or Army Foreman (X) running the post and you’re cooking with gas. If the defense doesn’t have a nickel or safety that can turn and run with Devin (and they probably won’t), then they’ll have to play a safety over the top and you’re working the dig/post or running the ball.

It’d be pretty hard to blitz Shane Buechele with Devin running go routes on this play.

The fourth route is the seam-read or bender, which is how you burn teams when playing in the spread-I sets with Bluiett blocking out of the backfield.

Duvernay bender

What Devin Duvernay needs to learn to do here is to run a standard go route if he sees a single deep safety sitting in the middle of the field and a post route if he sees two deep safeties and the middle of the field open. He ran this route in high school and was quite adept at using head fakes to get inside of two-deep safeties.

If Devin can reliably run those four types of routes with his 4.38 speed that takes the Texas offense to an entirely different level.

If he isn’t ready to be a regular part of the passing game, he could still have value as a sweeper in a wildcat package for Swoopes or Heard. Texas should utilize him on some jet sweeps next season whether he’s regularly on the field or not because he has a real knack for both winning the corner and exploiting over pursuit with cut backs.

JP Urquidez at UTL. (Justin Wells/IT)
JP Urquidez at UTL. (Justin Wells/IT)

J.P. Urquidez

Urquidez, 6-foot-6, 305, has a lot of mixed reviews and whatever you think of him, he’s not going to be having an impact in 2016 unless something goes terribly wrong. You have to assume Kent Perkins, Connor Williams, Tristan Nickelson and probably Buck Major, Jean Delance, Hudson, and Garrett Thomas are all safely ahead of him either due to greater experience or greater physical development.

On tape he’s clearly much more comfortable at this stage as a run blocker than a pass protector, which is typical, and he has a lot of promising stuff on film in this realm. Urquidez is already good at pulling from the tackle spot, which is a very popular tactic these days for spread offenses including the veer and shoot, and he has little trouble reaching DEs on zone and controlling them.

Urquidez has really quick feet and a clear love of the bullying aspects of OL play, it’s simply a matter of beefing up his overall strength and base to be able to parry Big 12-caliber edge rushers and learning greater technique. I don’t think he’ll move inside to guard given his feet and reach and the fact that getting low and driving big defenders is already the weakest part of his game. Tackle is becoming a loaded position at Texas but if he spends 2016 with a shirt on then Urquidez will have a good chance of winning either tackle spot down the line as a junior or senior.

Pat Hudson

Patrick Hudson. (Hudl)
Patrick Hudson. (Hudl)

Determining the better prospect between Hudson and Devin Duvernay is a tough call as both are already elite in regards to physical attributes but Hudson’s physical traits are slightly more rare and valuable.

If he takes the field as a true freshman, Hudson will already be a superior run-blocker to the vast majority of the Big 12 conference. At 6-foot-6, 325, he’s bigger than most OL (don’t believe every listed height and weight), he’s more athletic, and most importantly he’s more flexible. His tape features example after example where he’s working with bent knees and a straight back while using his footwork to get fit on a guy and consequently driving them off the ballwith shocking ease.

There’s not much sense redshirting him as there will be at least instances in 2016 where he’s actually an upgrade over the current projected starters, particularly in short-yardage situations. The big question is what he’s ready for in terms of pass protection and assignments.

If Hudson is ready to play but he needs to be featured primarily in the running game and not tasked with situations where he’s working on the edge against blitzes and premier edge rushers then he figures in best at right guard.

The risk here is that Texas would now have true freshmen working side by side in Hudson and Shackelford and the interior would become a magnet for every kind of blitz and stunt ever designed to confuse a young guard or center.

The better scenario would be if Hudson was solid enough in pass protection to allow Perkins to move inside to guard and turn the interior OL into a solid wall in which targeting Shackelford would become exceptionally difficult for opposing DCs. After all, how do you get after the young center if he’s usually working in conjunction with double team help from either Vahe or Perkins?

This could be made even more plausible by leaning on Williams and sending extra help in the form of a TE/H-back or RB over to Hudson’s side. Since we’re talking about the veer and shoot here where the ball usually gets out quick or else protection is aided by play-action it’s very feasible that an inexperienced RT could be kept out of harm’s way more often than not. It’s really just a matter of whether Hudson can download enough of the playbook in fall camp to be able to play without making a dozen assignment errors every game.

If all that happens, then the total impact for Texas from signing these four players could be massive both in 2016 and several years down the line.

History major, football theorist.