The Thursday night game starring Denton Guyer’s QB Jerrod Heard, a 2014 Texas commit, and Colleyville Heritage’s QB Cody Thomas, a 2013 Oklahoma commit, was an exciting contest to watch. We’ve already covered the broad storyline in last week’s Scoop but here we’ll dig a little deeper as this is was one of those games that’s hard to explain in just a few sentences.
This game was all offense, the defense was easily picked apart by the two talented quarterbacks on both team. Guyer jump out to an early 14-0 lead, led by the legs of Heard scoring two touchdowns on the ground while only completing three passes for 34 yards. After two bad series, Heritage finally responded with a rushing touchdown that was set up by a few good throws from Thomas, who made four completions for 50 yards. After a great 67-yard kickoff return, Guyer quickly setup Heard for his third rushing touchdown from 11 yards out. Heritage came out with some quick throws from Thomas before throwing over the top for a 20-yard pass that scared the Guyer coaches into putting another defender into coverage, allowing Thomas to scramble for a 23-yard touchdown, making the score 21-14.
Heard came out the next series ready to throw and hit DJ Breedlove (WR/RB) for a 24 -yard gain and then hit a 26-yarder that fell right over his wideout’s shoulder to the six yard line. Coach gave Breedlove a chance to run it in and he didn’t disappoint, getting three yards in each of his two carries for the touchdown (this could have easily been another Heard touchdown). The game looked like it was getting out of hand for Heritage. They just couldn’t stop Guyer, who seemed to have everything clicking for them. (Note: It was at this time that an OU reporter I ran into on the sidelines left because he thought he was wasting his time) But Thomas once again pulled the rabbit out of his hat and hit a quick slant for nine yards, took a hit for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty, and then answered by nailing a go route for 36 yards with a perfect pass. That left five yards still to be conquered, which Thomas handled himself.
With 1:36 to go in the half, Heard had a great two minute drill with his best receiver, Ellis Jefferson (an early 2013 UT target and current Arizona State commit). Heard hit Jefferson in the chest from seven yards out, then ran for four yards and the first down. Next Heard threw a not so pretty pass for about 15 yards, but Jefferson hauled it in (his best play of the day) and got another seven yards after the catch. With Ellis now double-teamed by the cornerback and strong safety, Heard hit his third receiver on a nine-yard curl, and then a quick slant to his fourth receiver for three yards and the first down. No longer double teamed, Ellis broke free of the man coverage and Heard hit him for a quick 20. Then they went for the end zone as Heard threw a great floater in a perfect position for Ellis to come down with it, but it slipped right out of his hands like a bar of wet soap. They tried a short route, hoping Ellis would break free but he didn’t, and another incompletion later they kicked a field goal and headed to the lockers for halftime up 31-21.
I’m not sure what Heritage does at halftime, but whatever it was, they need to do it again. As I said in the Scoop, Thomas came out on fire, and nailed a 35-yard touchdown pass in the first few minutes of the second half, and then just kept rolling right along: six passes for 62 yards ending in a 17-yard touchdown pass, four passes for nearly 58 yards ending with a 19-yard touchdown pass (after a Guyer running back fumble), a five-yard touchdown pass (off a Heard interception), and a 44-yard touchdown run.
Heard tried to keep up with Thomas and even scored a fourth rushing touchdown on a 75-yard run just minutes after Thomas’ first touchdown pass of the half, but nothing seemed to go right for him. His offense just couldn’t keep it together. The O-line look exhausted, and while it wasn’t that great to begin with it became downright porous, forcing Heard to scramble on nearly every play, leading to multiple sacks and tackles for loss. As I noted above, Heard threw a pick while trying to hit a crossing route but seemed to rush his throw in an attempt to hit that small window and really under threw the ball, allowing a linebacker to snag an easy pick.
Although Heritage started slow and lost a fumble, giving Guyer an extra series to score, Guyer returned that favor three times in the second half as Heritage scored on all but one drive while Guyer turned the ball over four times (Heard interception, a running back fumble, and twice on downs). Heard didn’t respond too well when he was in a must pass situation (as opposed to the two minute drill he ran at the end of the first half when he had the lead) and became flustered as his receiver dropped multiple balls for first downs and big gains while his offense kept pushing them back with penalty after penalty (around 40 yards in the second half).
In the end the Heritage Panthers led by Thomas won the game 54-38, and OU fans around the recruiting world went ahead and wrote in W’s for the 2015, 2016, and 2017 Red River Shootouts.
QB-Cody Thomas (2013 Oklahoma) With seven total touchdowns, he was not only the player of the game, but also the DFW player of the week. Thomas went 30/41 passing (73% completion rate) for 363 yards and five touchdowns, and had 71 yards on the ground and another two touchdowns. There’s not much to say here, he’s very good. He has above average arm strength and excellent pocket presence/footwork and knows when to scramble. I came away very impressed by his running ability, which I hadn’t seen that much of on his film. While he doesn’t have a single attribute that just jumps off the charts and screams future NFL star, he is the complete package, which is hard to find in a high school quarterback. That said, Thomas has some things to work on. He tries to force the ball into tight windows and against a better defense that will get him in trouble. His timing on short routes (when he just gets rid of it quick) and long routes (when he has plenty of time to set up his throw) are excellent but he often missed his mark on the wideouts running curls or slants about 7-13 yards out. But all that is fixable so let’s all hope that he gets drafted in the first round of the MLB draft and decides to go straight to the pros.
RB-Connor Davis (2013) I came away from this game with Connor’s name stuck in my head. He was pretty much the only way Heritage could keep the defense honest. He rushed 22 times for 106 yards (4.8 yard per carry) and a touchdown, but 45 of those yards came in garbage time when Guyer had already admitted defeat by not calling time outs in the final minutes.
WRs- Nathan Crouch, Daniel Farrington, Jonathan Joe (2013s) Thomas’ top two wide outs Crouch and Farrington each racked up seven catches 115 yards and a touchdown, while his slot guy Johnson was money in the red zone, racking up two touchdowns on only five receptions for 63 yards. A scout I talked to really likes Crouch, but I just didn’t see it. Thomas basically was creating his own opportunities all night and had very little help from anyone. Out of these three I like Farrington the most, he seems to have the size and speed that you need in D1 ball but it’s hard to tell these things after just one viewing and none of them have any online recruiting profiles/film.
QB-Jerrod Heard (2014 Texas) The official stat line for Heard was 15/27 (55.6% competition rate) for 217 yards with no touchdowns and an interception, and 15 rushes for 150 yards (10 yards per rush and that includes six sacks/TFL) for four touchdowns (could have easily been five). Let me put this in perspective, last year Heard only scored six rushing touchdowns all year. Heritage obviously was more worried about his arm than his legs. The 55.6% competition rate is similar to the 58% he put up last year and 14.5 yards per completion is in the ball park of the 17.6 he had last year. So all in all this wasn’t a horrible outing for Heard, but it could have been a lot better. Here’s what I said about Heard after his commitment “he keeps everything (his throwing motion) so compact that his release isn’t exactly straight up and down, ideally we want a straighter/higher release to increase power and elevate the ball…” This is very true and is probably one of the biggest issues I have with his throwing motion. I also said “…he keeps everything tight but doesn’t sacrifice any power.” This was not true on Thursday as many of his balls were underthrown and the intermediate routes lacked the zip that he needed to make many of those tight windows. On longer routes he occasionally opened up his motion a bit and made some great throws but for most of the night he short armed them and didn’t give his receivers a ton of help. Still I think his coach was a little discouraged by the less than stellar passing game early (five incompletions in a row) and hoped to just win the game on the ground, which obviously doesn’t help a young quarterback’s confidence. I’m still happy with Heard’s performance overall and let me just remind everyone here that he is only a high school junior with two games under his belt.
WR-Ellis Jefferson (2013 Arizona State) He had seven receptions for 92 yards, which is about 13 yards per catch (by the way, his yards per catch is the second worse in this game, beating only the fifth receiver, who had one catch). When I saw Ellis in warm-ups, I noticed how much he looked like a big time receiver and I was really looking for him to do something for most of the first half but he stayed quiet. When I made a point to watch him I noticed that he didn’t block well (unless he knew Heard was running his way), he didn’t separate from the defensive backs at all, he barely put any effort into his “distraction routes”, and he didn’t catch the ball. But then I saw him come alive and look every bit as good as he was on his hudl film in the last series of the half. He broke a weak jam at the line for an easy seven yards, then pulled in a wobbly ball for 15 and got seven yards after the catch in traffic. Ellis ran two great distraction routes in a row, forcing his double team away from the play so Heard could pick apart the single coverage, before grabbing an easy 20-yard reception that he would have broken for a touchdown if he didn’t get tripped up. That pretty much was the best I saw of him. He had two more solid grabs late in the game, but it was mostly Heard’s arm making the throws, rather than Ellis making the catches. Overall I could see the talent that Texas saw in Ellis that got him a JD2 invite, but I also saw the negatives that keep him from being a top 50 recruit in the state.
RB-Richard Whitaker (2013) Whitaker quietly racked up 91 yards on only eight carries. I recall a handful of those carries that made me write down his name, including a 20-yard run in the first half, but when the coach allowed him to carry the rock in order the run down the clock (while Guyer was still briefly in the lead) he had four carries for 36 yards before fumbling the ball when hit in the backfield. Still I saw a lot of good things in Whitaker but it looks like his future may be in track and not football.
RB/WR D.J. Breedlove (2014) I came home thinking Breedlove had a big night but when I looked over my notes (and later the box score) he only had eight carries for 23 yards with a touchdown and two receptions for 34 yards. The catches were big time receptions that helped setup two touchdowns, one of which he carried over the goal line himself. I’m not exactly sure what to think of him, but he’s a guy I’ll be keeping an eye on as the season progresses.
OL Patrick Morris (2013 TCU) I came into this game hoping to see a lot from Morris, who I had pegged as a top 10 offensive lineman is the state (on the back end) and he turned out to be my biggest disappointment of the game. As I’ve said before, it’s hard to spot a good offensive lineman live, but it’s easy to see a bad one. Let me start this by saying I have no idea if he or someone else was hurt, or if he was playing a new position (Texas liked him as a center but he was playing offensive tackle) but he struggled. The first half seemed to go okay, meaning I didn’t notice the line much if at all (they rushed for four touchdowns, so…) but in the second half it just fell apart. Yes it was hot, but the defensive line was playing in the same heat and they were blowing Morris off the ball on running plays and pushing him into the pocket or out of the way on passing downs. I know this isn’t that constructive (like I said you have to watch film on linemen) but if Texas strikes out on Benenoch and Billings I don’t think that spot should fall to Morris by default. Besides, he’s apparently very firm to TCU.