July 15, 2014

Fischer talks Stidham, Fehoko at the Opening

Both the Elite 11 and the Opening were the biggest event going on in the high school recruiting world in early July, and media members. both regional and national, flocked to the camp to get a better look at some of the premium talent competing at the Oregon-based event.

One such media member was Bryan Fischer, who covers both the Pac-12 and Big 12 for College Football 24/7 of NFL.com. Fischer took in both portions of the event, and he got a good long look at the crop of elite quarterbacks that took part, including Stephenville (Texas) dual threat quarterback and Texas Tech commit Jarrett Stidham.

The national writer was impressed with the metroplex signal caller, and he one of many in the media who was impressed with Stidham's showing, especially during the Elite 11.

"I think the big storyline going in was all these California quarterbacks, how good the Southern California class was. The Texas guys, led by Stidham, they held their own. Everybody came in knowing he was more of a dual-threat guy. It wasn't the kind of competition that showcases his skills, but he was in there, and he was throwing darts. He looked really good, had a nice, smooth release, got the ball out quick. I think he flashed a lot of things in 7-on-7, made good decisions in the later days, but really the first two days were when he really shined. I think, not only going through the questions and all that, but the drills and all the things that were required those first two days."

Fischer believes that many walked away with a heightened opinion of Stidham, and he believes that Red Raider fans will be very happy with the QB they've landed.

"He jumped out to a big lead compared to everybody else, and I think a lot of people walked away from that competition saying, 'You know what? That was the best dual-threat quarterback in the country,' based on what he was able to do," he said. "Texas Tech is getting a good one. It seems like they're getting a top flight quarterback every year, and Kliff Kingsbury is certainly happy with what he's getting in Jarrett Stidham."

In fact, the College Football 24/7 scribe thinks the Stephenville native may very well be on the same talent plane as five-star UCLA commit Josh Rosen and four-star USC commit Ricky Town.

"I think he's right up there. I don't think there's a huge gap. I think they are certainly different styles. I think the California guys are much more of a pro style attack. They're much more of handoff and dropback, five step drop and get it out, but from what I saw from just the quarterbacking aspect out at the Elite 11, I think he's right there. I think fans have the right to get excited. He's one of the better ones to come out of Texas that can both run and throw equally as well. I think I would be excited, and I think he did a pretty good job at the Elite 11, and we'll see how it translates into his senior season."

While Stidham's success may have come at a surprise to some, Fischer believes that head coach Kliff Kinsgbury is a great talent evaluator, and he's even better at knowing what to do with that talent once he's got it. The biggest examples? Obviously Johnny Manziel and Davis Webb.

"Kliff knows what he's looking for at quarterback. He knows how to get the most talent out of them. I think that's one of his real strengths," he said. "He knows how to design plays for them, knows how to get the best out of them. That certainly was the case with a young freshman like Davis Webb was last year, or with an incoming guy like Stidham will be. He's terrific in adapting his offense to their talents, and we saw that especially at A&M," he said. "You didn't really see a lot of dual threat guys, much more of the pocket passers operating things, and he adapted it to make sure to take those concepts and mesh them with what a guy like Johnny Manziel can do."

As Fischer points out, you can see a paradigm shift with the style of quarterback now playing in many "air raid" offenses, both at places such as Texas Tech and A&M. The pocket passers are being replaced by balanced players who can both run and throw, and it's added another dimension to an already potent attack. Stidham just happens to fit that mold perfectly.

"I think he sees that as kind of the future, taking that air raid and putting his little spin on it as compared to a lot of his predecessors did. Not just throwing the ball all the time, he wants to run it, wants to make sure there's a threat for the quarterback to run it. I think it fits Stidham perfectly, and certainly we've seen how he's adapted it to what Davis Webb has done. I was really impressed with seeing him throw this year, how much bigger he is, and how much more weight he's added to his frame. That's going to be a big thing going into the season. I think that's one of the reasons that Texas Tech could surprise this season in the Big 12."

But, Stidham obviously wasn't the only Red Raider commit to be on hand up in the Northwest last week. Hawaiian defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko made plenty of noise in the trenches, and the NFL.com writer shared his thoughts on the future Tech lineman.

"I saw a guy that is strong. That's the first thing that stood out is how strong he was, how big his arms were. He was totally able to just manhandle some of the offensive linemen at the Opening. This is a huge step up in competition for him, and he handled it. I think that was the big thing. Some of those Hawaii kids don't see the top flight guys, especially on the offensive and defensive lines, but he was able to handle it and look like it was nothing. I think that, not only on top of the strength that everybody was talking about with how well he did on the bench press spreading around, he was athletic, too. You saw that he was able to move around pretty lightly, and so I think he's another top flight defensive lineman that's going to be headed out East."

With two top tier recruits participating in the Opening, Texas Tech's presence on the national recruiting scene has certainly been bumped up a bit this year. Fischer believes that, while his age certainly plays a factor, Kingsbury's personality and selling points on the Tech program have both been big, as well.

"Kilff relates so well with the recruits. He has the age factor, yes, but just as a person and a head coach, he knows how to relate well with the kids, the parents. He knows how to say, 'Hey, we're going to put you in a good situation at Texas Tech," and I think that's one of the reasons he has had success. I think also that he offers an appealing system, especially to the offensive guys around the country, whether they be quarterbacks or wide receivers. They're going to be able to put up big numbers, and he's going to be able to send them to the NFL because he's got some of those guys that he's recruited or coached or played with that have moved on to the NFL, and he's able to lean on that as well."

He doesn't see things slowing down soon, either.

"Overall, I just think it's an attractive situation. Recruiting is definitely different from where it was five, six, or seven years ago. A program like Texas Tech, they certainly might not be getting as many top flight guys as a Texas or an Oklahoma or something like that of that nature, but they can get enough to where they can compete and find other ones that can complement them. It really does speak to Kilff that he's trying to build this program, he's going after the right guys talent-wise, and that's going to pay off down the road."



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