For months now critics of Strong have been saying this UT class was going to be very poorly rated and pointing to that as proof Strong should be gone.
"Baylor and TCU are killing Strong in recruiting! He's gotta go!"
Not so fast. While it is true Baylor and TCU are finally recruiting to their records, I have been saying for months it is too early to throw dirt on Strong.
Realignment reporters are buzzing about how Strong and his staff may pull out a major upset on national signing day.
Corbett Smith, Dallas Morning News ---
"Texas can go from fifth (!!!) in the Big 12 rankings according to Scout.com to 1st or 2nd if their bumper crop of kids come through. I think they are going to get slew of last-minute kids. A&M is going to be moving up too, if they can lock down Nac's Brandon Jones."
I'm not normally a fan of UT beat writer Wescott Eberts' work, but he is quite plugged in. He delivered a quality, reporterly piece predicting what additional targets UT might land.
Here are his list of UT targets:
1. Katy running back Kyle Porter
2. New Orleans (La.) Brother Martin tight end Irvin Smith
3. Silsbee offensive tackle Patrick Hudson
4. Cibolo Steele defensive end Mark Jackson
5. Manor defensive end Erick Fowler
6. Euless Trinity defensive tackle Chris Daniels
7. New Orleans (La.) defensive tackle D'Andre Christmas-Giles
8. Houston Westside defensive tackle Jordan Elliott
9. Duncanville defensive tackle Marcel Southall
10. New Orleans (La.) McDonogh 35 defensive tackle Stephon Taylor
11. Fort Worth All Saints defensive tackle Mike Williams
12. Aldine Davis linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch
13. Alief Elsik linebacker Dontavious Jackson
14. Manvel safety Deontay Anderson
15. Nacogdoches safety Brandon Jones
16. Alief Elsik safety Chris Brown*
17. Dallas Southlake WR Lil'Jordan Humphrey
In recruiting there are usually guys who like to wait until the last moment to committ. They might have an idea of playing with some local guys at some school. Usually when the best player in the lot breaks one way, some follow.
Last year, Malik Jefferson played that role for UT and Kyler Murray played that role for A&M.
Eberts asked The UT staff if there was that kind of guy out there and Longhorn Defensive Coordinator Vance Bedford said there were two or three guys.
Given that, the odds of UT landing one guy who starts the momentum for a strong UT finish are very favorable. UT seems to be the only school in the region that appears primed for a late surge of this sort.
Eberts also notes that UT WR committ Reggie Hemphill says there are about six guys who have already made up their minds to commit to UT. (Now you always take this stuff with a grain of salt as people change their minds or say things they don't mean, but it is there...)
Eberts noted that Dontavious Jackson had talked with a number of recruits about playing together somewhere in state.
It sounds kind of similar to last year where a cluster of players were trying to decide between UT and A&M, but it looks a little different in that the only home for six at this point maybe UT.
It's not hard to look at a map of Ebert's UT targets and see that, "Wow, six are from Houston or nearby! --- RB Porter, DT Elliot, LBs McCullough and Jackson, S Anderson and Brown."
|*Brown and Jackson played for the same school so I just put it under 13.|
It's likely that most of the six he knows are from Houston.
That suggests that UT strategically may be hoping to go say 50/50 on non-Houston targets---looking at them individually as flippable commits--- and land the six (or most of them) from Houston as a group.
(Future Headline? --- "Houston 6 fix UT Football!")
My take on the importance of the "several top dogs" comment is, in part, a Brandon Jones-thing. Jones is supposed to be the best safety in the lot. There is a perception (shared by Smith) that the quality of A&M's class will be dependent on whether Jones can fill that top dog driving recruits to them role.
UT seems of the mindset that while they would love a guy who most think is a ringer like Jones, they have other guys in the group who can start the landslide for UT.
This is pretty smart to just come out and say because it refocuses the question for Jones and the others to what it should be, "Who do you want to play for?"
The Longhorns seem confident in their position.
Eberts predicts that UT will land nine of it's late committ targets --- DTs Daniels, Christmas-Giles, Elliot, Taylor, LBs McCulloch, Jackson, Safeties Jones and Brown and RB (likely turned WR) Humphrey.
(As a fan that would be thrilling. I am not a scout. I have only seen some highlights, but I think most of those guys appear to be players. I would love to see those two linebackers in particular playing with Jefferson. If something like this occurs I think there is a great likelihood that UT has a defense in the top 3 of the Big 12 next year and wins about 8 games. Still, I am holding out hope for Patrick Hudson. I have my candle lit in vigil for you, Mr. Hudson, lol! UT needs all the quality OLs it can get.)
Eberts worked the math and says those 9 would give UT a class of 23 recruits with a class score of 261.39 which would put them 6th currently and again at the top of Big 12 recruiting.
Strictly due to all the implications such finish would do in the region, this may be THE national recruiting story on signing day--- outpacing Michigan's resurgance, Ohio State's #1 recruiting class, and Mississippi's recruiting violations.
And it would launch several interesting discussions...
Taking as many as 6 from East Texas and maybe a couple from Louisiana certainly would be at the expense of Texas A&M. There is no other way to spin it. It would amount to UT pushing the "Aggie curtain" east and re-establishing a strong position in Houston. It would gall Aggie boosters and may make Kevin Sumlin's rope even shorter --- something very good for UT long term.
Where is this eastern resurgence coming from? In part due to the fact LSU is so incredibly loaded with talent and in part that UT is pushing harder in the region. Per Smith, "...Hiring Gilmer's coach was a great bounce-back after Cedar Hill's Joey McGuire turned down the gig. Traylor's doing wonders [for recruiting] in east Texas for the Longhorns."
Then there is the story, what does that do to OU boosters? OU has been somewhat quiet in expansion terms as they bask in their playoff success, but how would seeing UT essentially take the A&M recruiting bounty OU may have thought was coming their way due to their strong season?
Surely some OU fans can see the loss for what it was --- A heavy weight bout where one team had much better talent in depth than the other. Clemson's front 7 depth killed OU's OL. It's the same reason OU lost to UT and the same reason I'd bet money today on UT to beat OU in that rivalry matchup again this year --- OU lacks title caliber depth of talent.
Plugged in OU fans who watched that game had to know that OU was the 3rd best team in the playoffs last year and would have lost to Alabama in exactly the same manner. As great as their offensive scheme was, OU was a pretender in the playoffs last year, not a contender....And this is the best they have been in years.
Something has to change.
It's why people in the know at OU have been pushing expansion for a recruiting edge. OU president David Boren has historically been a proponent of considering Tulane for the Big 12. Should UT land a 1-2 DTs who work out from that region maximizing the poke to the Aggie's eyes, it could help curry newfound UT support for the concept.
Pulling the focus back a bit, this would be the second time in two years Strong has rallied for a top 10 recruiting finish. (He missed his first year. As with any coach, the first year of recruiting is usually skunked by the coaching change. It is an exception when it isn't.)
Remember, only one team has played in the national title game in the last 12 years that hasn't been in the group of top 12 recruiting schools.
Strong is rebuilding Texas into a program that actually can play in the title game and win national titles.
Be patient Longhorn fans and you will be rewarded.
It's going to be an interesting week.