Texas offers standout players for signing day

Lake Travis quarterback Garrett Gilbert runs with the ball against Killeen in a football game in Austin, Texas, Dec. 6. Larry Kolvoord, The Associated Press

AP

Lake Travis quarterback Garrett Gilbert runs with the ball against Killeen in a football game in Austin, Texas, Dec. 6. Larry Kolvoord, The Associated Press

By Schuyler Dixon

DALLAS – Cypress Ridge High School coach Gary Thiebaud can see it now.

Russell Shepard, his former quarterback, leads LSU into the national championship game against the Texas Longhorns and top Austin-area recruit Garrett Gilbert.

It’s unlikely to happen next season, but maybe in 2010. Or 2011.

“I would love to see that game,” Thiebaud said.

The football-crazy Lone Star State is set to dispatch another bumper crop of quarterbacks on national signing day Wednesday, just two months after a pair of Texas-bred QBs filled half the top four in Heisman Trophy voting.

The headliners are Shepard, a standout runner from the Houston area who had nearly 600 yards total offense in his team’s playoff loss this past season, and Gilbert, the son of former NFL quarterback Gale Gilbert and a two-time state champion at Lake Travis.

Garrett Gilbert will be on the Texas depth chart behind Heisman runner-up Colt McCoy the year after he broke the state high school record for yards passing held by former Ennis and Texas Tech standout Graham Harrell, the fourth-place Heisman finisher.

Harrell is now in pursuit of an NFL career along with Georgia’s Matt Stafford, a former Dallas-area high school star who will skip his senior season with the Bulldogs and could be the top pick in April’s draft.

In other words, as the older Texas-raised QB stars head toward the exits in college football, here come a few new ones.

“I think definitely this class has the potential to be a banner class,” said Chad Morris, Gilbert’s coach at Lake Travis. “Obviously time will tell in the next few years how good these kids really are, but I think that they’re not going to disappoint anybody.”

While Gilbert and Shepard are at the head of the incoming class, the rest could be feature players who grow up to be the next Chase Daniel, Brian Johnson or Todd Reesing. Those guys didn’t top the recruiting charts when they signed with Missouri, Utah and Kansas, respectively. But all become stars in college.

If things work out for both, there could be one more similarity to college football circa 2008. The SEC vs. Big 12 debate.

“You can’t ask for much better football than what’s being played in the Big 12 and SEC,” Morris said. “I’m just excited to watch ’em. To watch ’em all.”

Top 10 Recruits

The top 10 recruits, according to Rivals.com, with position, high school and hometown, and the player’s nonbinding verbal commitment. Wednesday is the first day of the national signing period for college football.

1) Bryce Brown, rb, Wichita (Kan.) East High School. Miami

2) Rueben Randle, wr, Bastrop (La.) High School. uncommitted.

3) D.J. Fluker, ol, Foley (Ala.) High School. Alabama.

4) Sheldon Richardson, dt, Gateway High School, St. Louis. Missouri.

5) Matt Barkley, qb, Mater Dei High School, Santa Ana, Calif. Southern California

6) Trent Richardson, rb, Escambia High School, Pensacola, Fla. Alabama.

7) Russell Shepard, qb, Cypress Ridge High School, Houston. LSU.

8) Devon Kennard, de, Desert Vista High School, Phoenix. Southern California.

9) Vontaze Burfict, lb, Centennial High School, Corona, Calif. Southern California.

10) Jelani Jenkins, lb, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Olney, Md. uncommitted.