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Texas Longhorns now ready to fight until National Signing Day

Charlie Strong is rebuilding the Horns by redefining how the program approaches recruiting and it paid off in a big way on Wednesday.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports


Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong emphasized that trait on Wednesday when talking about recruiting during his press conference hours after it paid off in a big way as the Horns pulled off the biggest haul on the actual day prospects signed in modern Texas football history with the three commits.

By contrast, the only such pledge during the later years of the Mack Brown era came from defensive end Shiro Davis in 2012. The only such pledge from the early days of Rivals until Brown's last, tiny class in 2013.

It capped a week in which Texas added six pledges in the days and hours before prospects signed. During the same stretch from 2006 until 2011, Brown added only four such commits. Four in six years against six in days.


Last year, Strong set the tone for the 2015 class when he convinced defensive tackles Chris Nelson and Poona Ford to ink with the Horns after going down to the wire with both of them. The results was narrowly avoiding Texas going two classes without a single defensive tackle take.

This year, a team effort from Strong, his assistants, players in the program, and even professors helped make the difference.

"You go out and recruit and you get the players on campus, then our players are the ones who become the key sellers," Strong said. "Our guys did a great job of selling this program. What a lot of recruits want to know is basically how is Coach Strong? What's his personality like? What's Coach [Vance] Bedford's personality like? What's Coach BJ's [Brian Jean-Mary] personality like?"

"They did a great job of just getting them out, getting them around town, letting them see the city. Then on Saturdays when some of our professors here gave up their day to come out and talk about academics and just really sell this program. Not only from the athletics side, but a total university side. Everyone joined in knowing what we had to get accomplished during the recruiting season."

Once Strong and his staff gained commitments, they didn't stop. They didn't assume that those prospects would stick. Or assume that prospects committed elsewhere would remain so, allowing the Horns to flip nine pledges throughout the 2015 cycle.

"A lot of times within a program, we've seen it where a lot of these guys just already made their commitments and it's filled up, but it doesn't matter. There's a lot of different ways to do things," he said, drawing a sharp distinction with his predecessor, though probably not intentionally so.

"I like to continue to battle until the end. I know this, a lot of those guys made it exciting for you because you were able to write each and every day."

Indeed. Each and every day.

Where fear and anxiety characterized the end of Brown's tenure -- he was scared to death of everything -- Strong's nature is to remain tenacious and dogged until the end.

"If you just keep battling with them and sell your program and sell what you have, then that's really the only thing that you can do," Strong said.

It's about exhausting all possibilities. The old tired cliche of leaving it all on the field, with this particular field the proverbial battle field of recruiting.

"Our staff was just relentless. We had guys who just kept going and going, and they were not going to take no for an answer. You can't take no for an answer until the fax comes across your desk or it goes somewhere else. You can't take no. You just have to keep battling."

And so they did, never taking no for an answer until the ink was dry and the fax machines buzzing.

Here's the recap of what went down on the big day:

Two big flips and a big flip

The doggedness of Strong and his staff paid off in a big way with the National Signing Day flips of Aledo wide receiver Ryan Newsome from UCLA and Beaumont Central safety PJ Locke from Oregon.

When Newsome committed two weeks ago, the consensus until the final few minutes was that he would become a Longhorn. Strong even said on Wednesday that Newsome called him late the night before and told the Texas head coach that he would throw his horns up the next day.

But then Newsome had second thoughts and clearly struggled through one of the longer announcements that a recruit has made in recent memory and clearly looked conflicted. So Strong said that he gave Newsome a couple of days to think about it and then got back into contact with him.

In fact, the whole staff put on a full-court press and it was no surprise that Newsome listened -- running backs coach Tommie Robinson has known Newsome since he was a kid and the dynamic wide receiver also had a strong relationship with new wide receivers coach Jay Norvell from his time at Oklahoma.

Plus, he was always a kid who really liked Texas. And whose parents really liked Texas.

So it all culminated in Newsome calling Strong once again late on Tuesday night and telling him once again that he was going to become a Longhorn. Did Strong believe it? Well, he couldn't sleep and ended up at the football offices at 3:30 in the morning and then ran six miles on the treadmill, so maybe not.

"Last night he called me, and it was midnight," Strong said. "I said okay, now we're an hour and a half earlier. Are you sure this is what you want to do? He said yes, Coach. I said are you sure because don't wake up tomorrow morning and say Coach, I'm not sending you the paper, I'm sending it somewhere else."

Newsome followed through, but was still clearly laboring with the decision on Twitter hours after he made it:

Even with that being the case, the four-star wide receiver will head to Austin in June.

As for Locke, Texas wasn't starting from a terrible position when it offered him on Sunday evening around the time of the Super Bowl -- the staff evaluated him before securing a commitment from South Oak Cliff safety Jamile Johnson, whose decommitment on Sunday morning paved the way for Locke to belatedly pick up his offer.

Initially, Locke wasn't interested when Texas offered. As he said when he affirmed his pledge to the Ducks on Monday night, he wanted to stick with his "Day One." The fact that Oregon believed in him when Texas did not or could not to the extent to which the staff was forced to offer was big for him.

But defensive coordinator Vance Bedford hadn't forgotten about Locke throughout the recruiting process.

One could even say that he was relentless.

"The thing about this whole process, whenever Coach Bedford would go out recruiting in Beaumont, he'd go by and sell and say 'you never know what will happen.'"

At other times in the recent past, would a Texas assistant, much less a coordinator, make that effort?

The Horns had an advantage, too -- Locke grew up a Texas fan with a "Hook 'em" banner in his room. And Bedford had connections in Beaumont, where he played football for his father at Hebert. So Strong took a chance. It wasn't a big one, because the rewards far out-weighed risks.

"Who knows, what do we have to lose? We've been told no before," said the Texas head coach. "We made a swing at him. At first he wasn't interested. That's why you just keep recruiting and recruit until the ninth hour."

After Locke thought about it, he changed his mind, opting to go with his childhood allegiance and play where his family can make the drive and watch him in the burnt orange that once or still adorns his room.

As for Chris Warren, the four-star Rockwall running back waited until Wednesday to commit anywhere, in part because of how difficult the decision became for him. Though Texas long looked like the prohibitive favorite, a visit to Washington last weekend went well for the Huskies and head coach Chris Petersen.

So much so that it came down to the narrowest of margins -- pure, unadulterated luck. At least that's how the story goes.

"He was undecided, so he actually flipped a coin during his ceremony, and it came out heads, so he chose Texas," said Max Olson on Longhorn Network, recounting the observances of those on the scene, including Horns247 recruiting analyst Colt Barber and Horns Digest's William Wilkerson.

Some may continue to doubt whether it was a stunt or not, but Warren is hardly a showman -- he's thoughtful and deliberate. Steady. It doesn't take long talking to him to realize those traits.

Call it luck, but with a little less relentlessness from the staff, perhaps it doesn't end up being a coin flip. Of the literal kind.

No late flips go against the Horns (literal or otherwise)

There weren't any Texas commitments making decisions on National Signing Day like Newsome or Georgia cornerback commit Deandre Baker, who stuck with the Bulldogs despite considering the Horns. But anyone who felt comfortable when Gilmer cornerback Kris Boyd was one of the last to sign during the day is probably lying to themselves.

Fortunately, Boyd stuck to the pledge that he gave on Friday on followed through on his affirmation on Monday night. It doesn't seem like it was an easy decision, even with his younger brother committed as a member of the 2016 class:

To delve deeper into his sentiments on Wednesday, here's what he told

"It's a huge relief," Boyd, dressed in a long sleeve Longhorn shirt and camo pants, said after faxing his letter in. "But then you get kind of a weird type feeling in your stomach thinking about all the other opportunities that you had with other schools. It wasn't really an easy decision for me choosing UT over A&M.

"I still think about it now, even when I was in there signing the papers. It was just a hard decision. A&M was still in the back of my head, but I'm pretty sure when you make a decision and choose something over something else there's always going to be a thought of the other outcome."

As he said on Monday night when he affirmed his commitment to Texas, people on the outside looking in don't understand what a difficult decision it is for a young person to make. To let so many people down. Friends, coaches, maybe even some family.

And the All Access video from the Longhorn Network showed how the staff felt when Miami (Fla.) Booker T Washington cornerback Davante Davis sent his National Letter of Intent to the football offices.

Another one that drew a big cheer? Getting the fax from Baltimore (Mary.) Gilman quarterback Kai Locksley sparked some major relief, too.

A few misses as well

At the risk of dwelling on what didn't happen, it's worth looking out at the prospects that the Horns didn't land on Wednesday, as there were an unusual numbers of those players, too.

The biggest loss was five-star Gladewater defensive tackle Daylon Mack, who would have become the best true defensive tackle to sign with Texas since Malcom Brown in 2012. To hear the Aggies tell it, Mack is even better than Brown, but everyone knows how that type of thing goes.

What makes the Mack decision rather difficult to take is the fact that he was telling people close to the Texas program as recently as Friday evening that he was going to sign with the Horns on Wednesday, then completely changed his mind when he woke up on Saturday morning.

He told an A&M writer that he was a silent commit to the Aggies since his official visit in the middle of January, but there are enough people who heard the same story about Mack saying he was going to be a Longhorn that it's hard to believe he wasn't saying he was all Texas just a few short days ago.

With a guy like Cedar Hill wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge, who committed to Ole Miss, landing the recommitment from John Burt recently decreased the need for a big outside receiver. Same for junior college prospect Dominique Reed.

In the defensive backfield, keeping Davis and Boyd and adding Locke reduced the need for Baker and for Locksley's friend Marcus Lewis, now a Florida State signee.

The favorable coin flip by Chris Warren helped offset the misses on five-star Plano West prospect Soso Jamabo and four-star Baton Rouge (La.) University Lab recruit Nick Brossette, who stuck with the home-town Tigers.

So Texas missed on some prospects and didn't fill up all the available spots, but other than adding a high-level defensive tackle like Mack, there weren't other holes that the staff clearly needed to fill.

Relentlessness creates forward momentum, even with misses

The big takeaway from the misses? And from the entire day as a whole, the class as a whole?

Strong isn't afraid of missing. National Signing Day misses don't bother him because he knows that he and his staff and the players and the professors can sell the school well enough to fill needs at the end of the cycle.

A player like Ryan Perrilloux, an impressionable young person prone to major changes in direction, will never leave Strong injured and reeling for years. Never. Ever.

Strong knows that the worst thing that a recruit can say is no and if you work hard enough and sell the program the right way, then the numbers of times a prospect will say yes will outweigh the number of times that a prospect will say no.

Strong knows that being told no is better than never trying. Each and every time. Because when it happens, there's nothing to sulk about, no thin, punctured skin weeping blood. There's the forward momentum borne of relentlessness.

Strong knows that trying is the only thing you can do -- that trying is the way only way to assert control over the ultimately uncontrollable actions of young people being pulled in so many different directions.

In other words, Horns fans should get ready for some more wild days when the first Wednesday of February rolls around.

Relentlessness tends to make for that. And maybe even a resurgent football program. Probably a resurgent football program.

Let's. #@%**&%. Ride.

let's ride