For Charlie Strong, "Errrrbody" turned into a National Signing Day reality, not just an entertaining meme. The Longhorns advanced nearly 30 spots in the rankings in less than a week and 20 spots in less than 24 hours, closing out like me at a Amarillo hairdresser's convention with a rented Camaro, a gram of blow, a neck tattoo and a suite at Best Western.
TEXAS Final Recruiting Rankings:
The Longhorns finished with a Top 10ish (10.5 average) class, exceeding my pre-NSD prediction of 12th. Obviously, the evaluators at Scout are perceptive (Texas ranked 8th) and Rivals largely comprises serial masturbators (Texas ranked 13th). I may be slightly biased in that assessment.
Rankings are highly predictive in large numbers and in aggregate, but less so at the individual or class level. The type of 3 star (the cathedral ceiling project vs. high floor/low ceiling system product) is as important as the ranking designation and the early radar 4 star junior camp creation whose senior year disappointed is a different asset in kind than a late-breaking monster who dominated as a senior and abused his All-American peers during all-star practices.
I'm impressed by the staff's ability to assess talent, keep their powder dry, keep their own counsel over chasing early rankings, foster key relationships and close hard late. Strong's system isn't perfect and it comes at a cost - namely the loss of a few can't-miss juniors who don't have the requisite psychology for late switching - damn their loyalty! - but the positive trade-offs are fairly obvious. More data is better than less. Projecting a 18 year old with two or three full years of film, grades and off field citizenship is better than projecting the same athlete at 16. It's still a crapshoot, but at least now you're betting on 6 and 8 instead of tossing out random chips and hoping for the best. Strong also mentioned his desire to play the stalking horse to minimize consolidated negative recruiting against our on-field results. Smart.
When evaluating a recruiting class, you have to balance total talent acquisition with addressed need. These are not two competing poles, but complementary inputs. Ideally, we want to infuse high levels of talent to areas of need, but you never pass up an intriguing talent, no matter the depth chart. Similarly, throwing a bunch of bodies at a need doesn't address it. You need only review several Longhorn "Class of Beef" OL or DL classes of yore to see what early commitment inflated rankings, bad development and low ceiling prospects do for your needs. That sort of thinking also touches on my False Depth Theory (fan/journalist peruses a depth chart, sees three deep of lettermen scrubs, pronounces the team to have "good depth").
The good news is that Texas grades out well in terms of total talent acquisition and addressed need. The class was one elite TE away from hitting every need.
Peer comparators consensus average
Baylor closed out with arguably the best single OL prospect in the state and arguably the best CB and WR prospect. No one doubts Art's eye for talent or his hairline for Propecia and Baylor's developmental capabilities in the OL, at QB and WR are well-established. This is the highest ranked Briles' recruiting class yet. If Kazakhstani JUCO transfer Boltok the Rapist works out, the Bears won't be denied. On or off the field.
Texas A&M- 19
This year was much like any Aggie year in that it began with inflated expectations and ended in repetitive groin strikes. In early October of 2015, Texas A&M was 5-0 on the field and Texas was soiling the bed in a dysentery fugue state. The Aggies were loaded with early commitments and positive indications from many of the elite prospects in the state and, in a fit of spectacular overconfidence, their internet propaganda arm was making a documentary about the state's top DB prospect who would headline their inevitable Top 5 class. Then things occurred. Aggie-type things. Transfers, drama, implosion, coups, losses, firings, bad bull, self-immolation, pagan collie worship, weird overalls.
Aggies dare to boldly dream and wake only to realize that Bill Cosby was the reason.
Only Aggies could so inexpertly dispatch a Texas program this depleted. They're the pedantic movie villain who, rather than efficiently plunge a sword into the fallen hero supine at their feet, monologues for ten minutes about their plans, explains where the secret base is, what the nuclear codes are and describes in detail how they're going to dismember the hero and crush his legacy. The lecture is related with fists clenched and arms thrust high, standing at the edge of a grand vista facing away from the weakened hero who...finally stumbles to his feet and kicks him mid-monologue over the cliff.
It's only within this context that a Top 20 class with some very good headliners could be considered a crushing disappointment. That written, A&M didn't address need in the front 7 in a year where Texas and Louisiana had abundant offerings and their QB depth chart still looks like Steven Avery's Match.com inbox.
OU's move away from Texas talent to a national recruiting model isn't a recent development. I was pointing this out back in 2012. OU was largely shut out of Texas, but they made hay in California - signing three fantastic prospects on defense. They also hit the JUCOs hard and recruited nationally for other pieces that suit their philosophy. It's a hard class to properly evaluate unless you have insight into how the JUCOs and some journeyman OL prospects pan out, but their ability to land the California mercenary elite irritates me. It's a smallish Sooner class and I won't vouch for its bottom half, but I'm impressed with some of the headliners.
This is Patterson's highest ranked class at TCU. Is that because their on-field success gave them access to recruiting more highly touted players or have rankings finally adjusted to the fact that Patterson knows what he's doing? Probably both. Bottom line: TCU gonna TCU. They'll position switch themselves into talent. Tip your hat to the Frogs and their dyspeptic leader.
The Big 12
The blunt assessment is that only four teams in the league recruited well. That's Texas, Baylor, OU and TCU. The gap between those schools and the next tier of Texas Tech, West Virginia and Oklahoma State is considerable. Texas Tech recruited OK early and floundered late, West Virginia will rely heavily on JUCOs, under appreciated system fits and a few outlaw miscreants, and Oklahoma State had its most disappointing recruiting effort in the last few years.
The Longhorn late close and TCU and Baylor's strong classes have been the post-signing day story, but I think the most interesting development has been OSU's recruiting decline despite a long track record of on-field success, excellent facilities and a proven head coach. They've never been NSD darlings, but I've evaluated many of their less publicized classes with envy. Cowboy fans may justify to themselves that a #44 national ranking isn't cause for alarm for a program that spent the prior five years ranked in the 20s and low 30s, but when I watch the current crop I'm not finding Dez Bryant, much less Shaun Lewis, Josh Stewart, Emmanuel Ogbah, James Castleman and Justin Gilbert. Oklahoma State is losing out on high ceiling three stars to TCU, Baylor, Texas (!) and various interlopers. I don't think it bodes well for the Pokes.
Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State form the bottom tier. I'm not suffering through that film. So I can only assume they're properly rated. Or not.
The next edition breaks down the Texas class by position and player....stay tuned.