Recruiting future bright for Longhorns

David Leffler

Wednesday will mark a milestone in Texas football when the Longhorns partake in college football’s National Signing Day without Mack Brown for the first time since the late 1990s. With the nation’s most talented high school players set to declare their destinations for this fall, the eyes of Texas will be fixed sharply upon head coach Charlie Strong’s first Longhorn recruiting class. 

Strong has big shoes to fill as he takes over a Texas program that has been among the nation’s recruiting elite with Brown at the helm, garnering seven top-five ranking classes and 20 five-star recruits since 2002. The Longhorns did experience a major dip in recruiting last year, though, dropping to 24th nationally and failing to land a five-star player for just the third time in the past 15 years.  

When Strong took the Texas head coaching position, the first thing discussed was how his presence in Austin would affect recruiting, especially with out-of-state players. Thanks to his ties to Florida and other Southeastern states, popular sentiment is that he will bring in a far greater distribution of players from outside of Texas than Brown did.

During his time at Florida, he was part of a staff that had four top-five recruiting classes, including consecutive top-three classes from 2006-2008 that paved the way for two national championships. The Gators failed to land a five-star player on just one occasion in Strong’s time there, a mark of the program’s consistent ability to bring in top players, most of whom were from the Sunshine State. 

After taking over the head coaching position for a historically weak Louisville program that ranked 77th in recruiting prior to his arrival, Strong turned in three straight top-50 classes from 2010-2012, including the 29th-ranked class in 2011 — the school’s highest in more than 15 years. Although he did not land a five-star recruit during his time with the Cardinals, Strong vastly improved the school’s national reputation and fielded the nation’s top defense last year.

No matter the outcome of Strong’s first recruiting class, he has had little time to gain an in-state foothold for recruiting up to this point. The future looks bright for Texas’ new coach, though. With deep ties to football-rich Florida, combined with the prestige the Longhorn brand carries throughout the Lone Star State, Strong has an opportunity to cement this program’s presence in two of the country’s most talent-heavy pools. With 29 players in the 2015 Rivals Top 100 being from Texas or Florida, Strong will strive to use this opportunity.