Forget about the eyes of Texas -- the eyes of the entire nation were upon the Texas Longhorns on Wednesday, as head coach Charlie Strong and his staff pulled off the incredible feat of finishing 5-7 last season on the field, but closing out the 2016 recruiting class by landing seven huge National Signing Day commitments to vault into the top 10 of the 247Sports Composite team rankings.
In fact, the Longhorns up more National Signing Day pledges in one class than Texas secured in the entire Internet era of recruiting. Since 1999, there were only six total -- Shiro Davis in 2012 for former head coach Mack Brown, Poona Ford and Chris Nelson in 2014 for Strong, and Chris Warren, Ryan Newsome, and PJ Locke last year.
But it wasn't only about the finish on Wednesday, as Texas also added four other pledges over the last week -- cornerback Eric Cuffee, athlete Lil'Jordan Humphrey, running back Kyle Porter, and defensive tackle D'Andre Christmas-Giles.
In doing so, the Longhorns went from an object of national derision to the darlings of National Signing Day, as Strong and his staff answered questions about whether they could add a class good enough to allow Texas to contend again and sent off a string of exploding heads in College Station. Clean-up crews are expected to be busy there for weeks.
Before 11 a.m. CT, Texas went from 31st nationally in the ESPN class ranking just before 8:00 a.m. CT to 25 an hour later to 18 and then to 11, all in the space of three hours, a jump of 21 spots that eventually concluded with a move past two more programs. With the group likely finished with 24 signees, the Longhorns now have the No. 9 class nationally in the 247Sports Composite team rankings.
That's what happens when a class adds five of the six highest-rated commits in the entire class in a matter of hours.
Here's the timeline of what went down.
7:47 a.m. CT -- Duncanville's Marcel Southall commits to Texas
DT | 6'2, 285 pounds | 3 stars | No. 489 overall | No. 42 DT | No. 74 in Texas
In landing Southall, Texas not only added some more defensive tackle depth to the class and stole a prospect away from Oklahoma, but also generated some serious momentum early on the day. It didn't ultimately help in landing linebacker Dontavious Jackson, but if Brandon Jones was wondering about what type of day the Longhorns were set to have, he didn't have to wonder after Southall got it all going.
8:03 a.m. CT -- Euless Trinity's Chris Daniels commits to Texas
DT | 6'4, 300 pounds | 4 stars | No. 183 prospect | No. 20 DT | No. 27 in Texas
After committing, Daniels offered one of the day's best soundbites about Strong's ability as a closer:
Daniels on UT's Charlie Strong: "All I've got to say is that if you don't want to go to Texas, don't let him get on your couch."— Corbett Smith (@corbettsmithDMN) February 3, 2016
To be sure, Texas didn't even officially enter his recruitment until the middle of December, but were able to surge past Oklahoma and Texas A&M to take a substantial lead in the final moments.
8:33 a.m. CT Nacogdoches' Brandon Jones commits to Texas
S | 5'11, 193 pounds | No. 40 overall | No. 1 S | No. 6 player in Texas
One of the most significant decisions of the day came from the nation's No. 1 safety, who happens to hail from a part of the state that isn't always easy to recruit in for Texas, especially with the recent rise of Texas A&M. Fortunately, Longhorns ace recruiter Jeff Traylor was on the scene:
One of the best things about the decision? Check out Traylor's reaction when Jones announced his commitment:
Equally capable in zone coverage and run support, Jones is the best and most well-rounded safety the Longhorns have recruited in years.
8:55 a.m. CT -- Manor's Erick Fowler flips from LSU to Texas
DE/OLB | 6'1, 226 pounds | 4 stars | No. 75 player | No. 7 OLB | No. 12 player in Texas
Most of the time, mama gets what she wants and that was the case with the 2016 US Army All-American -- LSU was his dream school, but he ultimately decided that keeping her happy and playing close to home was the best decision for him.
How excited was Strong about the news? He indulged a group of Texas players who were begging him to dab on them folks in celebration:
After missing on Mark Jackson to Oklahoma on Monday, Texas was still looking for a Fox end in the class and Fowler was the only remaining target, so there's a reason why Strong was happy enough to dab for his players after the big flip.
9:30 a.m. CT -- Alief Elsik's Chris Brown commits to Texas
S | 5'11, 183 pounds | 3 stars | No. 430 player | No. 26 S | No. 68 player in Texas
Even though the Longhorns missed on the more highly-rated half of the Elsik duo, landing a versatile defensive back who can operate in coverage and in run support could end up being a key addition for Texas, especially since Strong and defensive back Vance Bedford like to use their defensive backs in a number of different roles.
10:30 a.m. CT -- Aldine Davis' Jeffrey McCulloch commits to Texas
OLB | 6'3, 230 pounds | 4 stars | No. 59 player | No. 4 OLB | No. 11 player in Texas
The Shark and the Predator. Just sounds like a good combination doesn't it? And though McCulloch was a lifelong Texas fan, the Longhorns still had to hold off the Aggies, Fighting Irish, and the Cardinal to land his services, so from the standpoint of closing with guys the program really needs moving forward, this was an excellent effort by Strong and his staff. And by Malik Jefferson.
Primarily an edge rusher in high school because of his quickness to the football and physicality in defeating blocks and limiting yards after contact, McCulloch will either have to learn how to operate as a traditional linebacker or battle players like Fowler for time at Fox end.
1:09 p.m. CT -- Houston Westside's Jordan Elliott commits to Texas
DT | 6'4, 306 pounds | 4 stars | No. 115 player | No. 14 DT | No. 18 player in Texas
Not counting the silent commitment to Texas during the late part of the summer/early part of the fall, this was Elliott's fourth pledge during his recruitment, but for one that took so many twists and turns, his announcement was low key and without any drama, as there was no doubt he would pick the Longhorns.
Of all the defensive tackle pledges in the class, Elliott probably has the most upside because he has elite quickness, especially laterally -- he ran a 4.35 shuttle time at the Dallas The Opening regional camp last spring, a solid number for a skill-position player.