Among major programs around the country, the Texas Longhorns are a bit of an anomaly in terms of early recruiting, as head coach Charlie Strong and his assistants prefer to wait to evaluate prospects for as long as possible until extending an offers.
On Wednesday, defensive coordinator Vance Bedford addressed some of the reasoning behind those beliefs.
"(Football recruiting has become) like basketball," Bedford said Wednesday. "You can make a lot of mistakes when you try to commit guys three guys two years out, because sometimes, they don't get any better. If you have to make a decision to let them go, we're at the University of Texas, if we offer a kid who's a sophomore, we can't pull out in this state, because we're the satellite school."
As a result, when Texas does extend early offers, the coaches don't push hard for commitments. Additionally, there are other reasons beyond being unwilling to deal with the ramifications of alienating Texas high school football coaches, but the need to have access to every high school in the state remains the most compelling.
"If I was from out of state, you come in, offer you, don't like you as a senior, pull the offer and don't have to go back to your school," Bedford said. "Here at the University of Texas, we can't do that. Because of that, we are slower to offer. We're going to have a slower process, to do a better job evaluating to get the right guys in here."
In the 2016 class, the strategy paid off, as the Longhorns were able to close with seven commitments on National Signing Day. Just as importantly, the staff was able to secure several late pledges from recruits who were evaluated late in the process, including defensive end Andrew Fitzgerald of Flower Mound Marcus, who was labeled as the potential "dark horse" of the class by Strong. Throw Baton Rouge (La.) Madison Prep linebacker Malcolm Roach into that group, too, along with Euless Trinity defensive tackle Chris Daniels, who didn't receive his offer until just before Christmas.
Elsewhere in the country, however, other schools were taking a different approach to the process. At Michigan, for example, head coach Jim Harbaugh pulled the scholarship of offensive tackle Erik Swenson, who had been committed to the Wolverines since late 2013. Harbaugh may not need to recruit that high school in suburban Chicago again, and may not be welcome there in any case.
But Strong and his staff can't afford to make decisions like that in Texas, as Bedford mentioned, especially since coaches in the state tend to band together and have been slow to warm up to the Longhorns head coach.
The lessons from the end of the Mack Brown era also stand as a stark reminder -- he was reticent to offer the top prospects early before Junior Days, took too many questionable prospects at Junior Days, and was unwilling to continue recruiting plays up to National Signing Day.
As a result, Texas missed out on talented players late and ended up with too many prospects who peaked too early. In the 2015 class, when Strong and his staff arrived, they had to go through the delicate process of parting ways with a handful of commits who weren't in their plans. Two of those players ended up at Louisiana Tech and Sam Houston State, illustrating just how far off those early evaluations were by Brown and his staff.
Bedford can't guarantee that the Longhorns will completely avoid those situations in the future, but the staff will do everything in its power to accomplish that feat.
"Are we going to make mistakes? Of course we are," Bedford said. "But hopefully, we cut the mistakes down, where the majority of guys we get here are right for this program."