With the arrival of new Texas Longhorns football coach Charlie Strong, there was the requisite concern over how well he would be able to hold together a 2014 recruiting class largely shaped by his predecessor, the legendary Mack Brown. The general consensus, today, a day after the Longhorns solidified their National Signing Day recruiting class for 2014, is Strong did an admirable job, and in the process, even pulled off a few unexpected surprises which could pay great dividends this fall.
There were several obvious areas of need for Texas, including defensive line, offensive line, and adding quarterback depth to prepare for spring practice. With the addition of walk-on Bram Kohlhausen and the rumored transfer of former USC Trojans back-up Max Wittek being the buzz around the Forty Acres, it appears the quarterback situation is shored up outside of the traditional recruiting process. On the contrary, Strong and his staff made a handful of additions yesterday which should address things, in the short-term, and allow the new coaches to start to craft the 2015 class in their own image based on their own systems and philosophy.
The commitments of four star Hilton Head, South Carolina DT Poona Ford was the icing on the cake of a day that started with the surprise commitment of three star Lakeland, Florida DT Chris Nelson. Both men had previous contact with Strong in the recruiting process, with Ford at one time being a Louisville Cardinals verbal commitment. Part of what attracted Athletic Director Steve Patterson and the Texas brass to Strong to begin with were his strong contacts in Florida — a state from which he has landed several blue-chippers over time — and the promise of a new pipeline to its talent going forward, and by default, also a generally stronger presence in the South.
If the commitments of Nelson and Ford are any signal, the hope of this pipeline could indeed turn into a consistent reality. Even though Strong has been staunch in his message that it is paramount Texas regains some lost traction on the recruiting trails in the Lone Star State, having the ability to realistically pursue talented players in the Sunshine State and the deep south certainly won’t hurt in a bind, or if there’s a rare gem that just can’t be ignored.
In all, the Longhorns earned commitments from 11 four star signees and 12 three star signees (according to the ESPN 300), which places them among the top classes in the Big 12 — most had the Oklahoma Sooners as the top class — and among the top classes nationally once again. I, for one, am a skeptic of the “stars” system of high school player evaluation and believe that the proof is in the pudding rather than what we are able to see on game tape, and the corresponding assumption that talent automatically translates to the Division I level.
That aside, the impressive aspect of this Texas class is one consistent factor: athleticism. When asked yesterday in his Signing Day press conference about the 2014 class, Strong mentioned athleticism and speed on several occasions. The notion here is those factors can be built around and developed in a system that demands individual player discipline and precision.
Guys like D’Onta Foreman, Lorenzo Joe and Kevin Shorter can play all over the field, giving Strong the tools he needs to fill in gaps in depth where necessary. This will be a necessity in a season of transition in 2014 where no one knows quite what to expect.
In short, the 2014 Texas recruiting class was a hybrid of those players Mack Brown and his staff felt were a fit for what Texas once was, an inkling of what Strong’s Texas plans to be in 2014, and a signal to programs across the state — and beyond — a new day is coming on the Forty Acres.
All of those, in their own way, are rather positive.
If you ask me.
Kris Hughes is a Senior Writer and the Hiring Manager for Rant Sports.