Why don't the Texas Longhorns recruit the state of California?
For fans of the program, that question has been a constant refrain in recent years, but under head coach Charlie Strong, that recruiting philosophy may start to change after the Horns offered only seven recruits from the state between 2012 and 2014.
Former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson thinks it will happen, at least, according to Scout.
Johnson brought his son, a highly-recruited 2017 wide receiver, and a host of other California prospects to campus over the weekend as part of a region-wide trip that included a handful of other stops.
The journey to Austin almost didn't happen, though -- Johnson is well aware of the fact that the Longhorns don't recruit the state much. Sure, Texas signed running back Kirk Johnson in the 2015 class and holds a commitment from his younger brother Collin, a highly-rated 2016 wide receiver, but other than that, the program hasn't pursued many prospects from the talent-rich state in recent years.
Aware of the upcoming trip, Strong reached out to Johnson to assure him of his interest in recruiting California, so Johnson and his contingent of prospects made their way to Austin.
As much as the current football facilities and upcoming renovation plans impressed the group, it was Strong himself who made a major impression on the former USC wide receiver.
"It was the first time I had the opportunity to meet the man and walked away from that place thinking, ‘You know what, not that I didn't like my coach, but I wish I could have played for him in college,'" Johnson told Scout. "I can drop my kid off with him and be fine."
So the Johnsons will make a return trip to Austin for the spring game in order to spend more time in the city and continue to build a relationship with the staff.
While Johnson has the ability to travel and helps take other prospects on trips, not every recruit possesses the same means. Still, Johnson doesn't think that should stop the Horns from recruiting California since a flight to Austin takes about the same amount of time as going up to Seattle, a common destination for recruits from the state.
And Oklahoma has had plenty of success luring California prospects to Norman.
"My message to him was look at Oklahoma when they were good and this history of their team with California kids," he said. "Imagine if you decide to do a little Florida, a little California, a little Louisiana, and a little Texas. You will be up and running in a hurry. He got it. He said it was all new to him because he wasn't at a Texas-type program before."
One of the recruiters who made it possible for the Sooners to land talent is on the Longhorns staff now -- wide receivers coach Jay Norvell, who was involved in the recruitments of eight California prospects who signed with Oklahoma, including Kenny Stills.
A potential issue for Texas is that since USC is no longer on probation and limited by scholarship restrictions, the Trojans are rapidly starting to lock down the state. Head coach Steve Sarkisian's program isn't the only ascendent school in Los Angeles, though -- head coach Jim Mora and the UCLA Bruins are also recruiting at a high level right now.
As a result, Oklahoma is now struggling to land as many recruits from the state because of the increased competition.
So it's not the ideal time to jump into the fray. Will that stop Strong? Surely not.
Several prospects from California could help fill needs in the recruiting class.
Since the state is deep at defensive tackle, looking outside the Texas borders may not be necessary. And there are enough in-state wide receivers Texas is in a strong position with, a fact that also holds true at quarterback and running back.
Linebacker is another deep position in the Lone Star State this year, as evidenced by the fact that Texas probably wouldn't even be able to take all the Houston-area linebackers with offers who were at the Junior Day in late February if they all wanted to commit together, though that's admittedly an unlikely scenario.
With the top two offensive tackles in Texas already committed to rival programs, offering a tackle like Jonah Williams would make sense. The No. 73 prospect overall has three predictions in his 247Sports Crystal Ball for Auburn, but that's hardly enough to represent a truly unanimous consensus across the industry.
Cornerback is another need position the Longhorns might not be able to fill with a high-level in-state prospect, so entering the recruitment of a Charlie Strong prototype like 6'3, 200-pound Lamar Jackson would be a smart move.
There's always the tight end position, too, a significant need in every class and one that recent history proves is tough to fill. Unfortunately, there aren't any pure tight ends ranked among the top prospects. Devin Assiasi is classified as an athlete, but could end up at tight end. After that, the two most highly-rated tight ends both weigh in at about 200 pounds, making them massive projects as in-line blockers.
Other than the Johnson brothers, Texas didn't have any success getting the handful of prospects offered in the 2015 class onto campus, but by continuing to build relationships with young prospects like those brought to Austin by Keyshawn Johnson, the Longhorns could become a serious player in the state with some hard work and a little bit of luck.
"Texas doesn't recruit California," Johnson told Scout. "I think that will change under Coach Strong."