For all the criticisms Charlie Strong has been on the receiving end of during his brief time as head coach of the Texas Longhorns, his process appears to be working according to plan. For the second straight season, Texas will land the Big 12’s top-rated recruiting class, including one of the two five-star players in the Big 12’s Class of 2016.
Despite a late signing day addition of five-star linebacker Caleb Kelly by Oklahoma, Texas still had a strong hold on the top recruiting class in the Big 12, according to the Rivals rankings, with 10 four-star players and a five-star of their own. Baylor has nine four-star players and Oklahoma has eight. TCU has six and no other program in the conference has more than two.
When Strong took over in Austin, he had a significant rebuilding job to get started, but this being Texas meant pressure to turn things around as if he were making instant oatmeal. The problem is Texas boosters want prime rib but with microwave dinner speed. It just does not work that way, even for a program that should have no problem recruiting like Texas. The truth is, compared to its Big 12 peers, the Longhorns have not struggled to keep up in the recruiting rankings. The problem has more been in the development process and staying healthy. For the past decade, Texas and Oklahoma have come in the top two spots of the Big 12 recruiting rankings in one order or another. The overall talent level of the Big 12 may have dipped over that time, but when it comes to the Big 12 the talent is still managing to find its way to Austin. The results on the field, however, have been a different story.
As noted earlier today, seeing Texas land four stud recruits on national signing day was an oddity for the program, but it may have been a sign that things are indeed changing. Texas generated signing day buzz, which can be a stepping stone to building the program moving forward. Strong is trying to move the Longhorns back to the top of the state of Texas, and this latest recruiting class was a giant step forward in that master plan.
For the first time since Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC, the Longhorns finished ranked ahead of the Aggies in the Rivals team rankings (texas actually finished ahead of A&M in the Class of 2012; Texas A&M began play in the SEC later that year). That is significant, as it shows the Longhorns are starting to reclaim their standing in the state. Now it will be about developing the talent Strong is acquiring to mold the team even more to his liking to take the next step. First it must climb the Big 12 standings in the fall. Then it can focus on the next goal of returning to national prominence.