Wednesday, February 3, 2010

HHR Signing Day Special: The Curious Case of Harrison Beck

(Regular HHR contributors Rusty and The Cynic are born-and-bred fans of the North Carolina State Wolfpack and the Nebraska Cornhuskers, respectively. The one thing they have in common is having been suckered into recruiting hype. In time for National Signing Day, we at HHR thought it might be good for them to provide some perspective. Enjoy.)

Ah, signing day—the pedophile’s national holiday. Seriously, isn’t it just a little disconcerting hearing a bunch of pasty middle-aged white dudes describing 17-year old boys as “physical specimens?” You know, the ones who drool over YouTube videos of high school game films and know just a little too much about his chosen school’s recruiting targets? While I understand wanting to get the top players for your team, with some of these guys there’s a very fine line between Rivals and kiddie porn.

Anyway, recruiting is, at best, an inexact science. Sure, getting a bunch of 5-star guys probably helps your team’s odds overall. But it’s certainly not uncommon to see those same guys leaving school or riding the pine a couple of years later while players with less talent but better work ethics run onto the field. Plus, it tends to be somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy (Recruit X has offers from Texas, Alabama and Florida, therefore he must be a top player, right?). So before you get too excited about where your favorite team’s recruiting class ranks on, let us give you a brief cautionary tale.

So much talent. Now what?

The Cynic: Harrison Beck was on everybody’s 2005 recruiting radar. Rated as the third-best pro-style QB recruit in the nation (behind Mark Sanchez and Jonathan Crompton; 12 spots ahead of Colt McCoy), he chose Nebraska over offers from Florida, Florida State, Miami, Michigan, Ole Miss and North Carolina State, among others. When he arrived in Lincoln, Beck was supposed to be the savior—the one who would take Bill Callahan’s West Coast Offense by the reins and resurrect a declining Nebraska program. But after a disappointing freshman year, in which he saw very limited action and finished just 1-10 for 21 yards and an INT, cracks in Beck’s seemingly invincible armor began to appear.

Fast forward to two-a-days in August 2006. Beck skipped a couple days worth of practice. Reports circulated that he was upset with his lack of playing time (having dropped to third on the depth chart) and was looking to transfer. However, he supposedly had second thoughts and had asked for (and received) Callahan’s permission to rejoin the team. Then it happened. And by “it,” I mean Harrison’s mom. A Lincoln paper quoted Evelyn Beck-Bothwell as saying that Harrison was being treated unfairly and that, if he was given a fair amount of repetitions in practice, he would be the starter.

While there were few positives about the Bill Callahan era at Nebraska, most Husker fans would agree starting QB Zac Taylor was one of the toughest SOB’s to ever put on the scarlet and cream. He was the unquestioned leader of that 2006 team, popular with both the fans and the players. So to say that Mrs. Beck-Bothwell’s comments badmouthing Taylor and #2 QB (and eventual starter) Joe Ganz were not well-received would be a massive understatement. Once the comments became public, too many bridges had been burned and Coach Callahan quietly told Beck that it would probably be in everybody’s best interest if he were to continue his career elsewhere.

My mommy says I'm special.

So Beck packed his bags and headed back east, eventually landing at North Carolina State.


Rusty: Harrison Beck’s tenure in Raleigh was as stable as an episode of MTV’s The Real World. Beck was mired in a post-Rivers stable of mediocre quarterbacks. After sitting the mandatory first year required by the NCAA, Beck was narrowly edged out by NC State legacy Daniel Evans for Tom O'Brien's debut as the Wolfpack coach. Evans' first game under O'Brien wasn't pretty, and Beck soon found himself with the starting job. However, his two touchdowns thrown in
relief of Evans would be his only ones of the season. Despite his Hulk Hogan arm and cocksure swagger, Beck helped the Wolfpack stumble to a basement dwelling 1-4 start by throwing 8 interceptions in 5 games. His only win as a starter that year came against lowly D1-AA Wofford.

In his second year in Raleigh, Beck would only get the starting nod once, having bee relegated to the backup role for soon-to-be-named ACC Offensive Player of the Year, Russell Wilson. His one start was certainly one for the record books--3 picks, no touchdowns, and a completion percentage of less than 30 percent. Much to the delight of Wolfpack nation, it would be the last action he saw in the regular season, though rumors circulated that his mother was fashioning vodoo dolls of Coach O'Brien. In fact, by that point relations had soured so much between the formerly heralded recruit that, when he did see action again in the Papa John's Bowl, he seemed to relish completing his only pass of the game . . . to the Rutgers secondary. The other players in red-n-white didn't find Beck's 16th interception to only 119 career completions nearly as funny. (For you math whizzes out there, that means he completed 13 percent of his passes to the guys wearing the other uniform over his career for the Wolfpack.)

Sadly, even after leaving NC State, Beck remained defiant, basically saying that his poor performance wasn't his fault and seemed to outright endorse the idea that he was more interested in throwing deep balls and making SportsCenter highlight reels than executing the coaches' game plan: "That's [deep passes] a little different than what I've ever had [at NC State]. It was always, 'Don't lose the game,' 'Don't throw that,' 'Check it down to the fullback, throw it short, take that stuff.'" Quite the team guy.

Action shot of Beck not checking down.


After washing out at two BCS conference schools, Beck accepted an offer to play for new coach Terry Bowden at Division II North Alabama. In fairness, he did have a solid senior season: Beck threw for 31 TDs, more than 3,800 yards and finished sixth in the voting for the Harlon Hill Trophy, the D-II equivalent of the Heisman. But, in typical Beck fashion, he managed to throw his former coaches and teammates under the bus, saying his success was due to having receivers and a coach who "understand who I am as a quarterback."

Beck taking one for the team. Or not.


Still, this one year of D-II success is a far cry from the lofty visions that Beck, his mom and the various recruitniks around the country had for him in 2005. Beck may have been talented, but his ego and inability to play the coach’s game that kept him on the sideline and ultimately on the bus to Alabama.

But don’t cry for Harrison Beck. He’ll always have a place in history—as the only player whose mommy ever got him kicked off the team.

Ticket out of town.

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Mr. Guesa said...

Gotta say thanks for this one boys. I was griping about how ridiculous kids are anymore and how it starts with their parents and I stumbled across your post and linked it.

Keep up the good work.

Jack said...

My son attended Beck's first QB camp at Nebraska, where his signing was announced with much fanfare. Harrison was the most arrogant jerk I've ever seen. What goes around, comes around.