Somehow, the euphoria from the February Junior Days just didn't last long. Perhaps it was the fact that top-end prospects in the state like Jackson Jeffcoat, Jake Matthews, Corey Nelson, and Darius White had not yet made commitments by late spring/early summer. Perhaps it was the fact that Darius White's expected commitment never came, as stories emerged about the perceived ill-treatment of his friends at the spring game, then OU's emergence as the seeming leader. Perhaps it was the fact that Nelson and Matthews both committed to A&M -- in the last several years it has been rare for Texas to lose such recruiting battles to the Aggies. Perhaps it was the de-commitments of Ross Apo and Ahmad Dixon. Perhaps it was just human nature -- just Longhorns fans wanting more more more more.
No more. The dog days of summer are now long in the rear-view mirror, receding into the distance, leaving only the lingering disappointment of Matthews' commitment to A&M as the obsessive worriers among us, well, obsess over the offensive line in 2011, which may suffer from a, well, worrying lack of depth. The Texas recruiting machine is now humming along at a February pace as fall has turned to winter and National Signing Day looms on the horizon, a little larger every day.
The overall recruiting class now ranks among the best ever at Texas and though it does not have a crown jewel like Vince Young was for the 2002 class, the main competition for best class in the modern era, that's only because the Longhorns already secured their quarterback of the future in Garrett Gilbert last season, instead further solidifying it this year with the talented Connor Wood and little bro, Case McCoy. This class was about the defense, until Davis and Cobbs and White all gave their verbal commitments, pushing the offensive class into the stratosphere as well.
More than just the bright future of the program with all these supremely talented players, the recent commitments represent a major change in the recruiting narrative for Texas. For the last several years, Texas fans have bemoaned the recruiting losses late in the process. Last season, it was Jamarkus McFarland, Devon Kennard, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Jarvis Jones who all spurned the Longhorns in December, January, and February. The year before it was Darrell Scott. If the kids didn't commit early, it seemed, Texas had no shot with them and many observers and critics and cynics started to wonder if some of it had to do with Mack Brown's recruiting tactics and his emphasis on treating all the kids relatively similarly, not going out of his way to cater to the star players, feeling that if they wanted to be at Texas, they could show their interest, make it to campus, and be treated like all the other players. If they didn't want to be at Texas, then they didn't need to be at Texas.
All that talk, all that complaining can be put to rest for now, at least for another year. At least until things start to go poorly with Malcolm Brown, Aaron Green, and Herschel Sims or some combination thereof. Then the sky will be falling again. But there's probably a grace period now, even if Texas loses out with Jackson Jeffcoat and, the two main targets left on the board. Probably. Such is life as the head coach at Texas. You're gonna love that part, Boom.
For now, the focus should be on the recent commitments, the players who have put this class over the top. DeMarco Cobbs. Mike Davis, Darius White. The common thread among those players is that all of their recruitments appeared either be over, as in the case of Cobbs and Davis, who were committed to Tennessee and LSU, respectively, before changing their minds, or all but over like White. In the summer when it looked like White was going to become a Sooner at any moment, many fans, including yours truly, began to imagine life without White in a Texas uniform, rationalizing why it wouldn't matter if Texas didn't secure his services.
Both Cobbs and Davis took it upon themselves to establish contact with the staff, either wanting to stay closer to home or just because they realized that their heart had been with Texas all along. Maybe they simply saw the success the Longhorns were having on the field and wanted to become a part of it. Whatever the case, their stories demonstrated just how easy it can be for Texas to recruit at times -- the kid basically recruit themselves. Dominic Espinosa, one of the top centers in the country, practically had to beg for an offer before he finally received one.
In fact, as Darius White spent the week of practice hanging out with the other Texas commits at the Under Armour game --, Taylor Bible, DeMarco Cobbs, Ashton Dorsey, Aaron Benson, and Mike Davis -- the on-field success of Texas this season, combined with the current strength of the class, could have been what convinced White to pick up the burnt orange Texas hat on national television and place it on his head. Apparently, the family atmosphere preached by Mack Brown extends to the recruits as well, as White was seen eating with his future teammates and clearly enjoyed the camaraderie. It's hard to say if that eventually was a factor in his decision, but it certainly didn't hurt.
For Jordan Hicks and Jackson Jeffcoat, the top two players in the country according to ESPN, along with Eric Humphrey, for whom there may now be room with the transfer of Marcus Davis and the dismissal of Brandon Collins, their decision may ultimately come down to one simple Bushism -- you're either with us or against us. At this point, it's probably not a particularly good idea to be against the Texas juggernaut, whether it's competing for recruits or a recruit choosing to play for other teams. With the group that is currently assembled, Hicks and Jeffcoat may decide that since their ultimate goal in college is to win, there is no better guarantee of success than to become a Longhorn.
Hicks, especially, may have been swayed by being able to spend time at linebacker playing with Benson and seeing the success of White and Davis, who combined for three touchdowns in the game, including a spectacular leaping catch over five-star Florida State commit Lamarcus Joyner, who had just been jawing with Davis when the Black quarterback threw the ball away on a previous play, and a sensational punt return by Darius White, an incredible feat for a receiver of his size. A decision from Hicks may not come until close to Signing Day.
The fact that his mother has known Jeff Madden for years and that she appears to like Austin -- she will move with her son wherever he goes to school -- are probably factors that help the Longhorns as much as Hicks having spent the week with the other Longhorns commits. Another factor that helps Texas is not only Hicks' strong relationship with Will Muschamp, but also the fact that Hicks' high school, Lakota West, runs essentially the same scheme as the Longhorns, so it would be an easy transition for Hicks and allow him to play much earlier than other players who would have to make bigger adjustments to the scheme.
Any possible impact from time spent with fellow Texas recruits will happen for Jeffcoat this week, as he heads to San Antonio to participate in the Army game with a number of Texas recuits, including Reggie Wilson and Tevin Jackson. Jeffcoat still has his visit to Florida to take, at which point Urban Meyer will have to convince the star prospect that there is more stability at the school than there appears to be from the outside with Meyer's resignation and subsequent return. Jeffcoat's decision will probably rest in part on what happens with his father, a defensive line coach for Houston. Sumlin's star has faded a bit with Houston's less than spectacular finish to the season, but another job could certainly still be in the offing, or the elder Jeffcoat could find himself with offers from bigger programs for a similar gig.
One extremely outside possibility involves Texas -- there are some rumors floating around that defensive tackles coach Mike Tolleson could be nearing retirement and Jim Jeffcoat would seem like an excellent fit for Texas. Not only because of how much it would help Texas in recruiting his son, it would be a strong move for the Longhorns even if Jackson elected to attend school somewhere else just because Jackson is an obvious example of Jim's coaching prowess and because the Longhorns could use someone with NFL connections as a former player as a recruiter. Think the Texas version of Ken Norton, Jr., though without quite the same level of NFL acclaim.
This week will be an important one for recruiting, as national analysts will descend on San Antonio to scout players at practice and watch some of the top junior prospects in the state at the combine, as well as watch the game next Saturday. It's a time for recruits to make their last impression in the rankings and gain valuable experience against equally talented players.
As for the Under Armour game, White and Davis were certainly impressive with their big plays and showcased the ability that made them high school stars. Davis in particular lived up to his billing as an excellent route runner and deep threat, scoring on the long touchdown pass on a broken play when he saw his quarterback in trouble and broke for the end zone, catching the ball at the highest point and showing his strong hands in the process, as Joyner got his fingertips on the ball as he jumped. Darius White proved that he has the ability to contribute on special teams with his 35-yard punt return touchdown.
Adrian White was solid in coverage and didn't give up much on the day, breaking up several passes headed in his direction and doing a better job of turning and playing the ball. Of all the recruits, Taylor Bible was probably the most disappointing, as he was extremely slow off the ball in the second half, seemingly a half second or so behind every other defensive player on the line. Given his reputation for being explosive, it's a wonder what happened, but the culprit may be his conditioning, as Bible appeared to be carrying some bad weight in his midsection and just generally looked like he needs to lose some weight. Jeff Howe reports that Cobbs, who did not play in the game with a calf injury sustained during the playoffs, may end up at running back ($) when he gets to Texas, not a particularly big surprise given his incredible feet.
Apologies for the brief review of the game, as my new Tivo is not quite up and running at this time, but it should be working for the Army game next weekend, so expect a more detailed analysis from that game.
But remember -- you're either with us or against us, Jackson and Jordan. Much love always, but choose wisely.