Signing day has come and passed, and like the good Longhorn fans that we are, we waved our pom poms all day yesterday while sitting dutifully on the edges of our seats as we awaited "official confirmation" that all these 17 year olds would, in fact, attend our favorite university. For his part, Mack Brown's taken all the drama out of national signing day, making an already melodramatic national day of (mostly) needless teeth gnashing even more like watching an episode of MacGyver: no matter what happens - dude, you know it's gonna be fine.
In thinking through the big picture of Texas Longhorn recruiting, I found myself trying to think critically about Mack Brown's strategy of hyper-controlling the process as much as is humanly possible - like he's Adrian Monk at a high school pep rally, petrified of all the filthy germs, the chaos, the natural variance in a universe as orderless as the adolescent one. Not that I really blame him. Mack's had a few signing days like this one - one too many, in fact - to the point where getting the right class has become more about getting the right kinds of kids, as opposed to going after all the best players.
Now, yeah, I'm not kididng myself - there's a lot of overlap. Mack's still going after many of the most highly regarded football players in the state of Texas. But he's undeniably shifted his priorities away from being in the mix for every stud in pads toward simply making sure all his studs are guys who also fit his mold: No kids who want a circus recruiting saga. No kids with grade issues. No kids who might embarrass the coaches and university.
When we're honest about things, we have to admit that, for some of these kids, yesterday was the peak of their athletic lives - right there, at the fax machine, with camera bulbs popping, and the high school spirit team cheering with adoration. As of today, they're officially yesterday's news until they score a touchdown, record a sack, or block a punt. And the reality is that some of these guys will never even see a snap of live collegiate football.
That's why, when you really think about signing day, it pays to temper your expecations with a large dose of reality. Signing kids with talent is important, but turning them into great football players is far more critical to meeting the lofty goals we all set for our favorite teams. Player development, acceptable academic performance, and adequate discipline to avoid the countless pitfalls that await these kids will wind up going a lot further toward determining Texas' won-loss records over the next four years than any accumulation of grading stars ever could.
Recruiting is important, and it can even be fun, but try not to be a determinist about it all. It's simply one step in a long and complicated formula for collegiate football success. Teams don't win and lose games on signing day. Amidst a sea of uncertainty, that's one thing we can be sure of.