The sky is not falling. Texas Longhorns football will be just fine.
News of Hays offensive lineman Connor Lanfear switching his commitment from Texas to the Texas A&M Aggies has left some fans distraught. Lanfear is the third 2015 offensive lineman to switch his commitment. Keller high school lineman Maea Teuhema went from a lock at Texas to a solid commit for the LSU Tigers. Rockwall offensive tackle Trevor Elbert has flipped from Texas to Texas A&M.
The news gets worse. Six recruits – excluding Lanfear and Elbert – have switched from Texas to hated former in-state rival Texas A&M. Suddenly A&M, tucked away in the bustling metropolis of College Station, is winning the recruiting battle for Texas high school athletes.
As the legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi once said, “what the [expletive] is going on out here?”
2014 has been challenging, to say the least. To pinpoint the cause of recruit defections, one only needs to look at the 2013 season. Texas fans had high aspirations for 2013. This team could win the Big 12. Maybe even go undefeated. But a crushing loss to the BYU Cougars was followed by a dismal home performance against the Ole Miss Rebels. Cracks in the foundation began to grow. Even a six-game winning streak was not enough to repair the damage.
Mack Brown was forced out in a poorly-handled public relations snafu following a loss to the Baylor Bears to close the regular season. Rather than hire a new coaching staff, Texas allowed Brown to coach in the Valero Alamo Bowl played almost a month after his ousting.
Following the bowl game, the university had to act quickly to find Brown’s successor. Charlie Strong was hired shortly before the recruiting dead period ended. Strong hired his staff and promptly dispatched them to high schools across the state to visit recruits. Players began to flip their commitments to other schools. Not everyone embraces change. Texas fans wondered how many recruits would end up on the Forty Acres.
In the end, the Longhorns finished with a top-20 recruiting class. Strong did a remarkable job considering the challenges put before him.
Texas fans have not had to experience the upheaval of an entire coaching staff since 1997. In that era, Texas was not a national power and most of the top recruits left the state anyways. Brown changed that culture. Texas became the state university most four- and five-star recruits wanted to attend. This program will return to that level of prominence, but it’s going to take time and patience.
The 2014 class took some hits. The same will happen with this year’s class. What will stop the hemorrhaging? Winning and swagger. The swagger will only return when Texas starts winning on the football field. Programs like the Alabama Crimson Tide, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oregon Ducks and Florida State Seminoles all expect to win.
Strong is instilling a new attitude. He is changing the atmosphere. Frankly, it was long overdue. The Longhorns will start winning on Saturdays. Recruits will take notice. Commitments will come.
The sky is not falling. Fans are just experiencing the darkness before dawn, and this dawn will bring a different hue of burnt orange not seen in these parts in years.