Whether the Texas Longhorns are able to complete the rebuild under head coach Charlie Strong could come down to one factor -- Strong and his assistants finishing the 2016 recruiting class with a top-15 group.
"I'm missing one year of recruiting," Strong told USA TODAY Sports. "I need one more class, then I'll know. If we mess around and have a really good year this year, it'll really be on. I need to have a good class with 2016 to match this class I just had. If I can do that, I'll have me something. Some guys are committed but I still need to get some more guys on board because the thing about freshmen, this class, it's hungry. They're really hungry."
Attrition from numerous other classes over the last several years have left the Longhorns struggling both to find quality depth and develop enough top-tier talent to return to national prominence -- as Bleacher Report's Damon Sayles points out, only two other programs (Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh) are currently in the top 75 of the 247Sports Composite team rankings with less than 10 commits.
So the pressure is on and right now, the results aren't in line with other major programs. Or even some non-major programs. In taking a look at the rankings, the Horns sit at No. 53 nationally with only eight commits. Some not-so-notable programs that currently have higher-ranked classes include Western Michigan, Rutgers, Wake Forest, Houston, and Duke.
Of course, the major caveat there is that having such a small class at the moment makes it impossible to rank highly, even though the average is respectable -- at 89.04, Texas ranks behind only 10 other teams nationally, so the quality is there, Strong just doesn't have enough of it yet.
As the 2015 class proved, the Longhorns head coach doesn't need to have his entire class assembled by August and that's clearly not his preference. However, the issue is that even if Strong doesn't push for early commitments, other staffs are doing so and landing top-tier Texas prospects as a result. No matter what happened in the last recruiting cycle, counting on numerous late flips isn't a long-term recipe for success.
Regardless of how it comes together, the Horns need to add as many as 15 prospects to the current recruiting class, with major remaining needs at defensive tackle, defensive end, running back, tight end, and offensive tackle. In fact, since there's only one pure defensive prospect currently committed in Louisiana defensive tackle Gerald Wilbon, Strong still needs to add essentially his entire defensive recruiting class between now and next February.
It's a major task sitting in front of Strong and his coaching staff with the program's future hanging in the balance.