Texas A&M put together one of the top recruiting classes in the country, but new Texas head coach Charlie Strong is making a bold statement on his first national signing day as the head coach of the Longhorns.
“We’re still the University of Texas,” Strong said according to the Austin American Statesman. “We will always be the flagship university of this state.”
The Texas Class of 2o14 was ranked second in the Big 12 and 20th overall by Rivals. Those rankings are not all that bad, but the standard is set high for the Longhorns program given the luxuries and benefits found within the program. With Oklahoma taking the top Big 12 class and storied rival Texas A&M hauling in a top ten class (A&M is ranked sixth overall by Rivals), the tone is being set by Strong right now that Texas needs to get back to the top. Despite being able to lure away one Louisville target on signing day (defensive tackle Poona Ford), Texas saw nine of the state’s top recruits and 19 of the top 25 go to other programs. That includes defensive end Myles Garrett, the state’s top recruit who committed to Texas A&M.
“It’s hard to try to keep guys in, but you have to go recruit them and not be afraid,” Strong said. “You’ve got to go battle those Southeastern Conference teams, whomever they may be.”
SEC schools claimed 18 of the top 50 players in Texas, including a large number of players heading to Texas A&M. Strong realizes what he is up against at Texas. With fertile recruiting grounds all over the state, the SEC, Pac 12 and Big 12 are thriving on talent found in the state of Texas. Texas A&M helped to open the doors to the SEC when they joined the conference a couple of years ago, but the Aggies have also seen a spark in recruiting due to a successful transition from the Big 12 to the SEC as well. At the same time Texas has fallen behind Baylor in the Big 12, Texas Tech and TCU have started to benefit from a struggling Longhorns program and Oklahoma continues to take charge in the Big 12 pecking order when it comes to recruiting.
“What’s going to be key is we have to control this state,” Strong said. “If we do decide to go out-of-state, we will go out-of-state for a specific need. You can’t make a living in those other states. You’ve got to take care of this state.”
Fortunate;y for Texas, Strong has experience with getting his program to the top of the state in football. Strong previously took over a deflated Louisville program that was picked to finish last in the Big East in his first year on the job. Under Strong’s leadership Louisville quickly became the top team in the Big East and became the top program in the state of Kentucky. The goal is similar at Texas, but Texas A&M is no Kentucky. The objective is simple for Texas; keep the best talent close to home.
“Everyone’s coming here,” Strong stated. “If you think about it, if everyone’s coming to pluck your state, why are you going to venture out?”