In what is a growing theme in LSU recruiting for the 2010 class, the Tigers picked up another surprise commitment yesterday. Multi-talented athlete Spencer Ware of Princeton High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, committed to Les Miles and the Fightin' Tigers. I had actually heard of him, but considering he lives in Big 10 country and was being recruited by the likes of Michigan, Iowa, and other Big 10 schools, I really had not invested much if any effort in following him. One of the recruiting services has a picture of him wearing a Michigan cap on his profile page. I just wasn't expecting this at all.
Ware is a quarterback-wide receiver-defensive back for his high school team, but figures to play running back. He is listed at 5'11" and 215# on Scout, 5'11" 220# on Rivals, and word is that he is probably bigger than that. He has a surprisingly good arm for an "athlete playing quarterback," and it wouldn't surprise me if he ended up being a fill-in quarterback one day if we have a disastrous string of injuries at the position.
There is extensive free video of him available, posted after the jump:
This is over 12 minutes of video, starting with some defensive back footage, but mostly it is film of him running the ball from the quarterback position. I like him as a prospect; while the usual commentary has been about him being a power back, I see more of an "all-around" running back in him. He looks more like a cut-back runner with power than a power running back to me. I don't think he's going to be a Charles Scott-type runner. He has been compared to TJ Duckett, but I think that's a terrible comparison. He's been compared in style to Knowshon Moreno and Kevin Faulk, but I think I have a better comparison.
The running back he reminds me of is Justin Vincent. I know, I know. Justin Vincent has a real up-and-down career at LSU, but let's not forget that "up" is an integral part of the term "up-and-down". After Vincent's freshman year, we were hyping him as a potential Heisman candidate. When Justin Vincent was at his best, he had good vision to find the holes and the cut-back ability to get through them. He never quite had the break-away speed to burn out the 80 yard runs, but he was very productive his freshman year.
I see Spencer Ware the same way. In the film that is available for him, he seems to have a knack for seeing the avenue of escape and getting through it. He does not just try to outrun the defenders; he has an instinct and a vision for the best way to avoid them. He can also be very difficult to bring down with arms alone because of his strength, and yes he WILL run over someone.
For this reason, Ware looks to me like a perfect zone-blocking runner. Zone blocking is a little bit of a complex topic for the casual football watcher, but if you want a quick primer on how it works, check out this article by Joel from Rocky Top Talk. In brief, the idea behind zone blocking is not necessarily to power a hole into a defense, but rather to let the defender start moving in one direction and then use his momentum against him to get him out of position. You get the whole defense moving like that and the defense loses its shape and holes open up. The running back's job is to find the holes that are opening and get through them.
You need an intelligent runner with good vision and cut-back ability. You do not necessarily need top-end speed. Ware seems to have the intelligence, the vision, and the cut-back to do a job like this. He could also potentially move to the other side of the ball and play linebacker.
When I compare Ware to Justin Vincent, I think that it also applies to Justin Vincent's limitations. Vincent's productivity declined when his weight increased, and Spencer Ware reportedly has the kind of fluctuating weight that makes you worried. He could end up being TJ Duckett-like in size if he does not watch out. I don't have a problem if he ends up being a Charles Scott-like 230# if he can run like Scott, but Scott is not a cut-back runner. He is a straight-ahead runner. Only time will tell if Ware can run like Scott. If he can't, he should stay at more like 220# or lighter to keep his quickness. He seems like the kind of guy who could easily balloon to 260# however.
Word is that he chose LSU at least as much for an opportunity to play baseball as for football. That is probably why he was looking beyond his midwest home, as there are not very many good baseball programs near the Great Lakes, and certainly none as good as LSU's. In fact, we may end up losing him to the Major League Baseball draft.
If his word is to be believed, his academics are good enough not to have to worry about qualifying, though he may have to pick up his ACT a point or so, which is not a big deal.
This recruiting class has been full of multi-talented players who do not have one set position, players like Cameron Fordham, Sam Gibson, and Tharold Simon. This is also not the first multi-sport athlete in the class, as we also have baseball player Zach Lee and track runner Justin Hunter. Ware is the third commitment to this class of a player who is a quarterback for his high school team, and we are hot on the trail of a 4th in Louisiana wide receiver Trovon Reed. We are emphasizing football intelligence, then, even among players who will not be quarterbacks at the next level.
The question has been asked of what this might mean for other running backs on the recruiting board, like Storm Johnson. Sadly, I think Storm Johnson will not be a part of this class. If you have followed Georgia running back Storm Johnson's recruitment, you know that he supposedly committed to LSU before, but was told to hold off. We are definitely holding a spot open for a game-breaker like Lache Seastrunk, and we may hold a spot for an in-state guy like Alfred Blue, but there just isn't room in this class for a guy like Storm Johnson. I think he is a fine prospect who should do well wherever he goes, but for whatever reason the coaches have probably decided to move on here.