Big-time prospect Russell Shepard out of Houston-Cypress Ridge committed to LSU last night. He is listed at 6'2" and 180#, but you have to be a little suspicious of those numbers, but also must realize he will get bigger before he leaves high school.
If you don't know this kid, get to know this kid right now. He's a 5-star quarterback, and the #4 2009 recruit in the country, one of the best players at the most important position on the field. His commitment to LSU is the biggest so far in a year with several big commitments already.
You want my breakdown of this kid, do you? Okay, here's what I have:
Strengths: He's a tremendous running quarterback, a true speed-burner with running instincts. Also, and I think this is almost as important, he seems like he really has his head on straight. He'll be a December graduate and a Spring enrollee, meaning he'll be at the 2009 Spring Practice. He projects to qualify with ease. He is a very well-spoken kid who seems like a natural leader as well. He's athletic enough that if he does not make it as a quarterback, he could still end up being an All-Conference or All-American performer at cornerback, wide receiver, or maybe running back.
He could also end up helping us get other high-profile Texas recruits like defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland (a kid with a name like this has to go to LSU), defensive back Craig Loston (Shepard's cousin, actually), and teammate Hasan Lipscomb, who will be a Tiger if he gets his grades in order.
Weaknesses: His videos don't show a heck of a lot of passing, and the passing they show doesn't stand out as being spectacular. He's also a little small to be taking the huge hits at quarterback you have to take if you want to be a run-first guy. That said, his videos on Rivals aren't highlights. They're sophomore highlights, and the kid is destroying everyone.
If you want some comparisons to former players, he looks an awful lot like former Colorado Buffalo and Pittsburgh Steeler Cordell Stewart, a.k.a. "Slash". He's also reminiscent of Tommie Frazier. If he's not a quarterback, he's like a taller Percy Harvin.
The only reason we were in it with Shepard is because Texas coach Mack Brown was recruiting him strictly as a wide receiver. Shepard has said he does not mind switching positions but wants to get a shot at quarterback, and will switch positions if he doesn't earn playing time at QB.
That's fine with me. Les Miles has said he's a quarterback and that's where he wants Shepard. I actually give Mack Brown some credit here. He didn't just tell Shepard what he wanted to hear. He told him the truth, which is that Texas wasn't going to give him a shot at quarterback. LSU will.
Here's what I'd do with him. I'd tell him, if you don't get into the two-deep at quarterback as a freshman (which is realistically unlikely, if you ask me) you will redshirt, and during your redshirt year you will work exclusively at quarterback. During your second year, continue working him at quarterback while installing some specialty sets to utilize his skills as a ball-carrier or receiver. In his redshirt sophomore year, make the final evaluation on whether or not Shepard is the quarterback of the future, and if he is not, make a permanent move. If he is, leave him at quarterback even if he is not the starter yet, but continue to leave in specialized plays for him at other positions while you wait.
I don't know if he's a future QB, or if his future is at another position, but I'm happy to give him a fair shot at quarterback. He'll have to come in and compete with Jarrett Lee (who will be 2 years ahead of him), Jordan Jefferson (one year ahead), and possibly Ryan Perrilloux who will overlap him by one year if he is still here for his senior year and who will not be beaten out if he stays, and then he'll have to compete with whoever we sign in the 2010 class. There are also rumors that we will sign another 2009 quarterback, but considering another QB could scare Shepard away and further considering the small class we have this year, I'm not sure it's a good idea to recruit another quarterback. I'd rather use that slot for another position. I'm not the coach though, and Les Miles has long since earned my trust.
With us getting a non-binding verbal commitment from a high-profile out of state kid that everyone in the world wants, you have to be concerned about the possibility of him changing his mind. Even though he says he's finished, and even though he seems like a real high-character kid (more on that tomorrow), you can't help but be worried. It helps that he's a mid-term graduate who will be enrolled by the time the pressure gets enormous in January. it also helps that he's a quarterback, and coaches aren't going to wait around to get their QB commitments.
It's an exciting day to be a Tiger fan.