The finish we all saw Texas football have on National Signing Day was one we hadn't ever seen Texas have before and likely won't ever see again; at least not to that magnitude. And come to think of it, I don't remember any school in recent history having a National Signing Day where that many highly coveted recruits (7 if I counted correctly) all announced and committed to the school on that same day. Add in the fact that Texas was also coming off a disappointing 5-7 season and it makes the finish even more impressive. It was a feat that rallied supporters and exposed the doubters. And it was a finish Charlie Strong absolutely needed.
- The finish Strong and his staff pulled together was fun to watch, no doubt about that. But I doubt we will ever see anything like it again. The circumstances and situation likely won't be the same in any other year. Right now, Strong is still able to sell a dream without needing a winning record to back it up. And this was the last offseason he could do that.
Moving forward, I'm not saying anyone should expect Strong's style of recruiting to be overhauled. He still likely will be a guy that prefers to wait to see senior tape on a handful of recruits before offering them or allowing them to commit. But we likely won't see another NSD where that many recruits hadn't announced their decision to commit to Texas until that day. And there's no doubt that other schools will also let this year's NSD be a reminder for when recruits they are targeting visit Texas late in the cycle.
On top of that, there will be some buzz from this 2016 class and signing day that carries over to 2017 recruits in the spring and summer. It's not like we'll see Texas nearly fill its class during the spring like we saw with Mack Brown running the show. But don't be surprised to see a few more recruits than normal commit to Strong and Texas early in the 2017 process.
- The two obvious positives about this class are 1) Strong and his staff addressed and loaded up at their "need" positions. Aside from quarterback, the two areas that definitely still needed bolstering were the offensive and defensive lines. And once the dust settled from NSD, the class of 24 consisted of 12 linemen (offensive & defensive) total (13 if you want to count blocking TE Peyton Aucoin). That's how you address a need... The other positive was that 2) Strong not only addressed those needs with many bodies, but he did so by adding talented, highly recruited players. It would have been one thing to settle for recruits committed to smaller schools or lesser programs. Instead, Strong kept his sights set high and it paid off.
- Texas got at least one 4-star (by Rivals' ratings) at every position except tight end and kicker/punter.
QB - Shane Buechele
RB - Kyle Porter
WR - Collin Johnson
OL - Denzel Okafor
OL - Jean Delance
DL - Chris Daniels
DL - D'andre Christmas-Giles
DE/OLB - Erick Fowler (5-star)
LB - Jeffrey McCulloch
LB - DeMarco Boyd
DB - Brandon Jones
Again, Strong and his staff did a nice job of keeping their sights set high and acquiring a good variety of talented recruits that fit their needs and how they want to continue to build this Texas team.
- Though Texas did not add any 4 or 5 star defensive ends (based off Rivals ratings), they did add two big defensive ends that have 6'4" frames that Texas will be able to beef up. Malcolm Roach and Andrew Fitzgerald, both rated as 3-stars, will provide much needed depth early on at defensive end. And many believe Fitzgerald, who was a late-bloomer with a big motor in high school, can be developed into an all-conference type of player down the road.
- The addition of Brandon Jones to the class was huge. Obviously, he was a highly touted recruit and safety. And it's always great when Texas can pluck away a recruit from another in-state (rival) school like Texas A&M. But paired with DeShon Elliott, Texas has the potential to field a very athletic, hard-hitting safety duo in the years to come. That's something Texas hasn't had in too long.
- Also, on the note of DeShon Elliott, I have to imagine his involvement and leadership in helping put together this 2016 class with Charles Omenihu and Malik Jefferson (to name the main "player-recruiters" that come to mind) will sit well with Strong in regards to playing time in 2016. There's no question Strong always values his players that show leadership and commitment on and off the field.
- As much as I would have liked 6'2" cornerback Obi Eboh (chose Stanford) to be a Longhorn, 5'11" cornerback Eric Cuffee is no consolation prize. Like Eboh, Cuffee has a bigger frame that Strong and his staff seem to covet at the cornerback position.
- From the moment he steps onto campus, I expect Jeffrey McCulloch to be brought under the wing of Malik Jefferson. Though he isn't quite the specimen Jefferson was out of high school, McCulloch is still an athletic linebacker with good size at 6'2". Along with McCulloch, adding DeMarco Boyd (brother of current Longhorn DB Kris Boyd) gives Texas a more than solid group of linebackers entering into the 2016 season.
- Well look at that, Texas did add a running back in 2016 after all. I wouldn't define Kyle Porter as the lighting that will go along with the thunder of D'Onta Foreman and Chris Warren. But Porter does have better lateral movement and speed that will bring different elements to the offense when he steps onto the field. And with the way injuries go these days at running back, you really can never have too many running backs.
- We all get to say "Christmas-Giles" and "Lil'Jordan" for the next four years. That'll be fun.
- It's pretty incredible to think Texas added four more wide receivers (C Johnson, Hemphill-Mapps, Curtis, Humphrey) to its already crowded wide receiver position. But the players added to the group actually all bring skills sets that aren't necessarily common among the current receivers. Both Johnson and Humphrey bring big 6'4"/6'5" frames. Sure, John Burt has good size at 6'2". But he isn't in that bigger mold of Roy Williams or Limas Sweed like Johnson and Humphrey are. And Hemphill-Mapps and Curtis bring speed that, along with current Longhorn Ryan Newsome, will be coveted in the new offensive scheme Gilbert is installing. And it's speed that will need to be utilized to help replace Daje Johnson's departure.
And yes, it is expected that Lil'Jordan Humphrey (who played a lot of running back in high school) will play wide receiver at the college level.
Unfortunately, there likely will be some attrition at the wide receiver position before the 2016 starts. But Texas fans should feel good about all the receivers brought on board in the 2016 class.
- Since he was committed for so long and was already on campus as an early enrollee, Shane Buechele didn't receive quite the attention on signing day that a 4-star quarterback normally would. But make no mistake about it, not only landing Buechele but landing him as early as Texas did only helped pull together this recruiting class. It's always a plus when a recruiting class has a highly rated quarterback committed early on. We're already seeing the positives in this with 2017 4-star quarterback Sam Ehlinger, and we'll continue to see this during the spring and summer.
If he develops to the point where many fans are hoping he will, Buechele could very well remind us all of former Longhorn great Colt McCoy. Both Buechele and McCoy have similar frames, similar athleticism, and display similar leadership with their teams. Though he may not win the starting job this season (he very well could), the true freshman has many tools that will allow new Offensive Coordinator Sterlin Gilbert to develop him into a stable answer at the quarterback position down the road if all goes according to plan.
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When you look back at this class and what Charlie Strong and his staff were able to pull off, it really is very impressive. Especially since Texas was coming off another losing season at 5-7. But despite all the doubt from media outside of Austin and opposing fan bases, Texas wound up with the best recruiting class in the big-12 again this year. And if the 2015 class tells us anything, it's that "Charlie's guys" are players that come hungry to compete and are guys that have the skill sets to be molded into impact players early on.
Success on signing day is important for future success on the field. In most cases, the best teams in the country are always the teams that also recruited well. But "winning" on NSD didn't change anything in the current win/loss column for Strong and Texas. And it doesn't guarantee any future wins either. Charlie Strong now has to coach up his team and get the most out of these players. He can't afford to have another slow start or losing season. Otherwise, he could have just recruited well for Texas' next head coach.