Former Texas commit Ricky Seals-Jones at the Army Bowl - Wescott Eberts (SB Nation)
What looked like a Dream Team back in the spring is now a class that has lost five former commits and missed on some other big-time targets.
The Dream Team 2013.
That was the early moniker for the Texas recruiting class in this cycle as it sought to differentiate itself from the Texas Gang Or Die group in 2012.
At one point, it fit. The class was small, so the only offers going out were to the elite or near-elite prospects in the state. No more class filler to generate some positive momentum at a Junior Day to help compel some commitments, just an incredible stretch through February and early March that saw many of the top players in the state join #DT2013.
Turns out, too many weren't actually Texas Gang Or Die, version 2.0.
And so the Dream Team began to crumble, one big piece at a time. First it was Ricky Seals-Jones jumping ship. Then it was Daeshon Hall. Then Kyle Hicks and Durham Smythe. Finally, a blow matched only in stature by the loss of Seals-Jones last weekend when A'was put under one of Nick Saban's wicked spells. Or offered an actually legitimate shot at a national championship. One of those two.
The positional rankings for those players, by the 247Sports composite? No. 2 athlete, no. 4 weakside defensive end, no. 14 running back, no. 8 tight end, and no. 2 offensive tackle. Yeah, those are some big losses.
Suddenly, the Longhorns are sitting on the eve of Signing Day with only defensive tackle Andrew Billings left on the board to help save the defensive line class, which currently features zero true defensive ends or defensive tackles. Sure, Jake Raulerson is going to start there, but that decision is increasingly coming under scrutiny since the eventual projection for Raulerson is universally on the offensive line.
So, Texas is left with gaping holes at some major positions -- defensive end, defensive tackle, pass-catching tight end, and running back. Holes that could impact program depth in those areas down the line, placing even more pressure on the 2014 class to come up with some solutions there, even though the tight end group is especially weak and the defensive tackle prospects only now emerging.
And those holes impact future depth. The 'Horns lost both Smythe and Hicks in early December, but haven't been able to find replacements for either of them, choosing not to pursue another tight end and missing on various running back targets, though Little Elm running back Ke'aun Kinner could eventually reach a post-Signing Day.
The late misses have perhaps been just as defining.
The coaching staff missed the opportunity to have a true late shot with Dontre Wilson because former co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin stubbornly insisted on not using his three fastest players for long stretches of the season, leaving Wilson feeling once again that the 'Horns had nothing more than empty promises to sell him.
New playcaller Major Applewhite's featuring of Marquise Goodwin wasn't enough to turn things around -- Wilson had heard similar promises before the season that never came through and didn't believe them then. What would change his mind now?
Texas couldn't even get any other targeted running backs on campus. Not even any of the in-state backs committed to schools that the 'Horns can normally out-recruit when the players are uncommitted.
For LSU commit Frank Herron, the five-star defensive end, it was merely too little, too late. Perhaps, had his mother made the visit down, things might have been different. But the fact that Texas even had a late chance, albeit mostly tied to Herron's long relationship with new running back coach Larry Porter, suggests that the 'Horns perhaps should have gone after more national prospects earlier in the cycle, but between the brief Dajaun Drennon flirtation last summer and Herron, there were months were nothing happened.
Even Duane Akina's little fiefdom, DBU, missed on some big targets -- eventual Notre Dame commit Cole Luke, Florida legacy Marcell Harris, Alabama commit Maurice Smith. Instead, the Longhorns seemingly had to settle a bit for in-state players Chevoski Collins and Erik Huhn. Both solid players, but not national recruits like Luke, Harris, and Smith. The Huhn take is even more odd because he's a few pounds away from being a hybrid safety/linebacker, which makes him not of the mold typically preferred by Akina.
Overall, it's tough to draw many conclusions other than that Texas simply had a great deal of back luck in this class. Daeshon Hall wanted to be closer to home. Ricky Seals-Jones is related to Eric Dickerson, who hates Texas. Kyle Hicks ended up wanting to play with his friend. Who knows what happened with Durham Smythe, other than deciding he didn't want to be at Texas. Nick Saban happened to A'Shawn Robinson.
Perhaps the major takeaway is that the coaches have to stay on top of committed prospects to either keep building those relationships and strengthening them every day or simply monitor to make sure that they aren't wavering. And if they are, have a back-up plan in case. Stay in contact with other prospects, even if the holes currently appear to be filled. Don't get stuck late in the process with no options.
Once upon a time, the Texas recruiting class was a Dream Team. Now it's just a solid group with some major holes, defined by misses and decommitments.
Normally it takes a while for that to be true at Texas, just substituting attrition for decommits.