In 2013 and 2014, the Texas Longhorns signed just four of the state's top 25 prospects.
Let that sink in for a moment.
As recently as two years ago, Texas was king of the hill when it came to in-state recruiting. That year, the 'Horns brought in 10 of the state's top 25 prospects, including the #1 and #2 players in the region (DT Malcom Brown and RB Johnathan Gray). But those days are long gone.
Trouble in Texas
A lot has changed since that 8-5 season. Continued mediocrity from the Longhorns, combined with the RG3-led resurgence of Baylor and the Heisman campaign of Manziel, meant that high school players suddenly had many more competitive in-state teams and programs to choose from. For the 2014 recruiting class, the Longhorns drew very heavily from their own state (as usual). But this time, they saw nearly all of the top Texas prospects sign elsewhere.
The #1 in-state prospect of the 2014 class, defensive end Myles Garrett, signed with Texas A&M, a school long accustomed to playing second fiddle when it came to in-state recruiting. More concerning was the lack of attention Garrett payed to UT-Austin - in his words, the 'Horns were "never in the running" for his talents. The #1 and #2 defensive tackle prospects in the state, Zaycoven Henderson and Trey Lealaimatafao, signed with A&M and LSU respectively, after considering and ultimately rejecting UT as a viable destination. And former UT commit Otaro Alaka, the state's second-ranked outside linebacker prospect, ultimately decided to become an Aggie after a personal meeting with A&M coach Kevin Sumlin. Were it not for Charlie Strong using his Louisville ties to pull in out-of-state talent - most notably, 4-star DT Poona Ford (South Carolina) and 3-star DT Chris Nelson (Florida), Texas' defensive recruiting class would have shaped up as the worst in decades.
2015 and Beyond
What lies in store for Texas recruiting? Charlie Strong now faces a unique problem, the likes of which he has never faced before - the problem of locking down and protecting one of the nation's largest states, a state where football has become an integral part of the area's sporting culture. Strong is used to doing more with less - his recruiting classes at Louisville never cracked the Top 30 nationally, yet he led those teams to consistent success in the Big East (now the American Athletic Conference). However, classes outside the Top 30 won't cut it at UT - the talent levels Strong will be facing at Oklahoma, OK State, Baylor, and TCU will ultimately be too much overcome without top-notch players and leaders.
Currently, the 2015 class is in a state of flux. When 3-star defensive end Sione Teuhema decommitted from Texas and signed with LSU, he took with him 4-star junior recruit Maea Teuhema - a former UT commit considered one of the nation's premier offensive lineman headed into the 2015 class. Following the announcement, 4-star junior offensive guard Patrick Vahe, another early Longhorns commit, announced his intention to visit LSU as well. The loss of these two players would force Texas to start from scratch at the offensive line heading into 2015. It will be interesting to see how Charlie Strong, after a full year at Texas, approaches recruiting for next year's class.
As we all know, former coach Mack Brown was known for his highly ranked recruiting classes. The downfall of the previous coaching staff was the inability to transform these classes into successful teams. How Strong brings toughness back to Austin, develops talent, and adjusts to the high-speed offenses of the Big XII will be key to his success as the head coach of the 'Horns. Rather than judging the Longhorns' recruiting class for what it is or isn't, Texas fans must look at what Strong does moving forward.