In the 2011 recruiting class, no debate raged more heatedly than the question of which running backs to take in a loaded class that appeared to include four exceptional talents in Malcolm Brown, Brandon Williams, Aaron Green, and Herschel Sims.
With the rumored dismissal of Oklahoma State running back Hershel Sims after he supposedly stole from a teammate gaining steam on Tuesday evening, the result of such a move by the Pokes would mean that three of those top four backs would no longer be at the school to which they signed less than 16 months ago. For the record, Oklahoma State did not have any announcements regarding Sims, so it's important to point out that all of this still remains a rumor.
But the overall trend is real enough to point out pending these rumors resolving themselves in some manner. Brandon Williams was the first to depart, leaving Oklahoma, with Aaron Green following him out the door at Nebraska. The latter landed at TCU, while the former transferred to Texas A&M.
Keep in mind as well when looking back on those decision in 2010 that Major Applewhite had moved into the position of running backs coach with his return to Austin, as Ken Rucker moved into an administrative role. A large and vocal segment of the fanbase didn't believe that the former quarterback could both the position or recruit the position. In some cases believing both, even though Applewhite is notably charismatic, hardworking, and the running back position is the easier to coach on either side of the ball.
In the end, Brown was the main target, as the staff opted not to invite Sims to the first Junior Day, then essentially indicated that an offer would not be forthcoming at the second, resulting in Sims opting not to make the trip in from Abilene as a result. Williams surfaced on the radar relatively late compared to the other three and committed to Baylor before ever visiting Austin. As for Green, he received an offer along with Brown, but never seemed as interested in Texas and despite some talk of the San Antonio twosome forming a Thunder-and-Lightning combination.
The surface-level analysis is that the Longhorns clearly made the right decision, and there's no reason to argue with that, even though the context influences that exercise in hindsight. After all, had Brandon Williams been closer to home at Texas, he might not have left Austin to be closer to his daughter, the purported reason why he left Norman. Perhaps Aaron Green would have been more successful closer to home, though it's likely that Brown ended up being a better fit in the new-look Texas offense.
Of course, there's also the possibility of character issues with Herschel Sims given the rumors, but he was always shorter than what the Texas staff probably preferred, so he doesn't factor into this informed equation nearly as much as the other two.
From an evaluation perspective in terms of raw talent and the transfer of it to college football, the Brown-Wiliams-Green debate (or, as it boiled down for me, the Brown-Williams debate), the true test will come from the remainder of the three players' careers, but from a fit standpoint, it's impossible to argue that Texas didn't make the right decision, as it appears that Malcolm Brown is close to becoming the last man standing at his original school from that group.
And he ended up being the best fit in the Harsinwhite offense, which was somewhat presaged by the decision in the spring of 2010 to attempt the offensive revamp that contributed to the issues in 2010 -- Mack Brown knew at that point what he wanted offensively moving forward and ended up recruiting a back that fit that offense, even though Brown the head coach didn't know that his preferred offense would soon end up taking the form of that run at Boise State by Bryan Harsin.
Brown may never break off a 60-yard run at Texas, but Williams and Green never did that for Oklahoma or Nebraska, either. Brown at least still has a chance. Apparently that's worth more than anyone could have known just a few short months ago.