Wow! Did that just happen?
That’s what Texas Longhorns fans were saying for about 24 hours starting on the Tuesday before National Signing Day. Texas was sitting at 15 total commitments and ranked no higher than #30 in any of the recruiting rankings when the day started on Tuesday.
Then the first domino fell.
Running back Kyle Porter made the call to Coach Strong Tuesday afternoon, in what was a bit of a surprise. Then D’Andre Christmas-Giles decided to announce his verbal commitment to Texas on a New Orleans TV station (where he is from) that night. It was those two moments that we could feel a little momentum building.
It was one-after-another-after-another when it comes to verbal commitments, and eventual Letters of Intent being signed on National Signing Day itself. Strong pulled in an astonishing eight 4-star prospects in a 24-hour span. It was enough to make him start trending on Twitter by mid-morning.
Texas jumped 22 spots in ESPN’s class rankings to finish #10 with 24 total signees. No other recruiting service had them ranked any lower than #10. And this is a team that went 5-7 last year and 6-7 the year before.
Charlie Strong’s recruiting strategy was extremely gutsy. He went all-in with confidence that he was going to get the players that he wanted. There were a few that he didn’t get on signing day, but signing eight of his twelve targets in a 24-hour period wasn’t a bad showing.
Most coaches want players to commit to their school early. Not Strong. He told recruits to commit to him, but don’t announce it. Why? Because that makes them an easy target for negative recruiting by other schools. If other schools don’t know that they are committed to Texas, then they can’t talk as bad about them to persuade them to back out of their commitment.
That was the secret to Strong and the Longhorns winning signing day.
It wasn’t a surprise to him, even though it may have shocked the country. He knew what was going to happen. But even he admitted he had a couple of surprises that fell in his favor.
One of those pleasant surprises was landing one of the best safeties in the country in Brandon Jones. Jones picked Texas over Texas A&M and Baylor. If you’ve watched any college football over the past few years, you know that both of those programs have had better results on the field than Texas.
Chris Daniels is a defensive lineman that was once committed to Oklahoma.
Christmas-Giles was considering TCU and LSU.
Jeffery McCullouch was considering A&M, Notre Dame and Stanford.
The one thing in common that all those other programs have is that they’ve been better than Texas on the field recently. So how can a Texas team get these players when they’re coming off of a 5-7 season and a 6-7 season the year before?
The answer is trust.
It’s evident that these players trust that Strong will turn around Texas. They want to be a part of something special. Many of the players that Strong signed yesterday could have gone to a dozen or more schools, but they chose Texas.
So what does that all mean for Charlie Strong and the Longhorns?
Nothing if they don’t develop those players and start winning games.
Mack Brown was known as Mr. February during the later part of his career at Texas, since he was able to consistently bring in top-5 recruiting classes. But once the results started becoming non-existent on the field, he found his way out of the program.
This year’s big recruiting class or last year’s won’t matter either if they can’t find a competent quarterback to lead the team. Shane Buechele could be that guy, or someone else could step up.
On paper, this class could be more important than last year’s because it gives the Longhorns depth at just about every position. It will be shocking if more than 4-5 upperclassmen are starting for Texas next year. Because of the 50 or so players that Strong has brought in over the last two seasons, the excuses for losing are becoming few and far between. These are his players now and this is his team.
If Strong doesn’t start winning soon, then he could just be stockpiling the cupboard with talent for another coach to come in and win with his players. We’ve seen it happen with other programs. One thing for certain is that the players will play hard for Strong and will go to war with him any day of the week.
Texas may not be back at the top in 2016, but when Strong’s first two classes at Texas become sophomores and juniors, look out.