The plan was put in place 13 months ago and only the people involved could have messed it up.
In terms of the early signing period, consider the plan executed to near perfection by the Texas Longhorns.
Head coach Tom Herman and his staff signed eight of the top 12 prospects in the state, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, including each of the top five prospects.
The massive haul, which is not yet complete, represented a sharp turnaround from the transitional 2017 class — the highest-rated in-state signee was quarterback Sam Ehlinger at No. 19.
With a limited time to build relationships with prospects, Herman opted to save some scholarships for the 2018 class, which could count early enrollees against the 2017 number to avoid oversigning rules.
Given time to build relationships in this cycle, Herman and his staff had one key goal in mind.
“We had to make sure that these players stopped leaving the state,” Herman said on Wednesday. “That going out of state wasn't more attractive to them.”
Significant renovations to the football facilities, including a brand-new locker room, helped the staff, but it was the relationships that made the difference.
“I think it is just unbelievable proof at the power of relationships in recruiting and that parents and kids don't want to go places where they don't trust their coaches.,” he said. “They don't want to go places where they don't trust their position coach or head coach or strength coach or academic coach or nutrition coach. It takes time to develop that trust. It takes time to develop that connection. It takes time to develop those relationships.”
Herman didn’t compromise in building those relationships — he walked away from some talented players he considered academic, character, or culture risks. There were no promises about playing time or lowering the staff’s high standards. No promises of removing consequences for not achieving to those high standards.
“When you're allowed that much time to then foster those relationships, this is one of the top 25 public institutions in the country and the number one city in America to live in, with a rich tradition-laden program that I think everybody can see is headed in the right direction,” Herman said.
The coaching staff got some help from a number of different areas.
Assistant Director of Player Personnel Bryan Carrington, who followed Herman from Houston, was a key to the class, as he was present on visits to build relationships. Based on the outpouring of respect for him from signees, the former caregiver and bartender is a rising star in the industry who will soon have plenty of opportunities around the country.
Then there’s quality control assistant Michael Huff, the former Thorpe Award winner who still looks the part — Huff was critical in helping convince the talented defensive backs to join the class and resurrect DBU in Austin.
Of course, Herman also took time to thank Texas high school football coaches who helped make the transition easy.
The parents helped, too. Natalia Vaughns, the mother of Byron Hobbs, took on an active role in recruiting.
“Does it get better than mUTha hustla? She's like the lynchpin in this whole outfit, right? She might be our best recruiter,” Herman said.
She was quick to deflect the credit:
He meant King pin. I am really a king pin, urban dictionary definition! Ok, not really. Y'all, I am just a mama, who wanted to get to know the parents of whom my son would be around and it turned into this. This class of parents is a force, together. #revolUTion18 https://t.co/FQz68K9sgN— mUTha hustla (@NNVaughns) December 21, 2017
One of the other parents who was a force in the class, according to Herman, was Yolanda Royston, the mother of the nation’s No. 1 safety, BJ Foster.
“I mean, just unbelievable communication with some of these kids that were uncommitted at the time and their parents,” Herman gushed.
Not only did those two mothers, and every other parent in the class, help recruit for Texas, they provided what Herman called an “unbelievable” support system for their sons.
Even the parents of current players helped out — Herman cited the parents of Connor Williams and Malik Jefferson, as well as Malcolm Roach’s father, a Louisiana high school football coach, as integral to the process.
Getting the parents on board took the efforts of the coaching staff to build relationships with them and earn their trust.
“These coaches love their recruits just like they do their own players they have earned the trust of the key decision makers in that person's family,” Herman said. “Not just the young men, but the parents, and the coaches, and the grad parents and the uncles and the people that raised them and everybody. You've got to have time to get your tentacles around all those different people and get them to trust you. And we were able to do that and plan to continue to do that.”
Arguably the most important group, however, were the current players. Despite all the talk about Herman’s prickly attitude behind the scenes turning players off, they were critical to helping land a group that currently ranks No. 3 nationally.
“Our players are unbelievable recruiters for us,” Herman said.
“When you get around our players, and this is true in any program, in any program, when you talk to the players, they're going to tell you the truth. They're going to tell you the truth as a recruit and as a parent. And our players were off the charts in terms of their glowing remarks for our program with these recruits.”
The players were invested in adding more competition across the board and constantly pestered Herman about how high the class was ranked.
“They know that the only way for them to achieve the results they want on the field is if they have great players around them, and I can't thank them enough,” Herman said.
The result was exactly what the program needed given the extent to which injuries revealed the lack of quality depth during the 2017 regular season. More than just a needed accomplishment, however, Herman said that the group represents a look into the program’s future.
“This needs to be the new normal, and I'm committed to making sure that it is.”