More than a guess
Mack Brown lands another top Longhorn recruiting class: Now he needs to win thegames
Let's face it, rather than call it "recruiting," it might be better to call it guessing. These are high school kids after all with all the foibles, immaturity and hormones that come with teenagers. Trying to pick out the next superstar football player is less science and more a roll of the dice.
Still, they try. Mack Brown, and the other 130-some FBS college football coaches, along with their staffs, sit and watch days and weeks of tape and make phone calls to kids and their parnets. They visit homes, sit in living rooms, talk about their school and their team, and they hope to catch lightning in a bottle. Most of the time they're wrong.
This year there are 28 boys who are today Texas Longhorns. The folks paid to examine and pontificate say Texas had the second best recruiting class in the country (Alabama came in first). Maybe they did —Brown will wait to grade his work. "Everybody has a good recruiting class every year. The truth is, what will it look like in four years? What will it look like in five years? This is a starting point. This isn't the finishing."
"I’m more excited than I think I’ve ever been. I’m a competitor. I didn’t like what happened two years ago and last year wasn’t what we want either." — Mack Brown
As Brown described it in a chatty, upbeat, hour and a half long news conference, there are 1300 high schools in Texas with football teams, and every one of them has a kid to recommend. There are 375 student-athletes who will sign a letter of intent. Of those, there are 100 or so Mack Brown would love to have. He can't have them all. As Yoda would say, "choose carefully you will."
"It really hurts you when you take one that cannot play for you," explained Brown. "Because that means you turned down five that can. And those are the ones you’re playing against. Because most of them stayed close to home and they play against you. And they get angry and upset if you don’t take them. And then they want to beat you."
They only beat you if their guys are better than yours. This is when you make sure that doesn't happen.
The Longhorns have work to do, not the least of which is finding a quarterback. But quarterback is not the headline of this recruiting class, it's running back and a last minute change of heart.
Johnathan Gray is no real surprise to Longhorn fans but lets not take his 5-star commitment to Texas for granted. This is the second straight year for Brown to land the nation's best running back. Last year it was Malcolm Brown. He went on to lead the team in rushing this year. So big problem right? Too many great running backs, not enough plays.
You would be wrong. Listen to Brown: "[Gray's] got vision, he’s got power and he’s got great speed. He’s excited that there are more running backs here. He doesn’t want to be running it 35 or 40 times a game. He likes that we have guys coming in and staying fresh. He’s got a chance to score every time her touches the ball." And Gray will touch the ball. He holds nearly every national high school rushing record. The kid's as close as you get to a sure thing. It will be crazy fun watching Gray and Brown trade off running the ball.
On the other side, a 5-star defensive commitment, Malcolm Brown. No, not that Malcolm Brown. This Malcolm Brown is a big, strong, fast defensive lineman and an impact player.
There are two more headliners to mention here.
Conner Brewer is finally in school. The Arizona schoolboy quarterback was Texas' first 2012 recruit and he brings hope for the most important need on the team. While David Ash clearly played his best football winning the Holiday Bowl against Cal, Conner Brewer brings the competition Texas needs to make everyone better. He had a spectacular junior season in high school but came down to earth in this his senior season. Still, he's won three straight Arizona state championships and he runs an offense much like Texas. Best of all, he's already on campus and will be involved in spring practice.
Finally there's Torshiro Davis, a linebacker out of Louisiana. That's SEC country. Recruiting gurus had Davis locked in to LSU. Not so fast my friend. When Texas kept calling, Davis listened. He's a strong pass rusher and given the way the Big 12 throws the ball all over the field, and given the way the SEC, well, doesn't, Davis correctly thought his best chance to shine was as a Longhorn.
"He is excited about his ability to pass rush in this league. I think that is what made the difference. Since our league is known as a passing league, he thinks that gives him a chance to show his abilities more," said Brown. Sorry Les Miles.
So we have four headliners in this class. Chances are of course that one of these guys won't work out and some the other 24 guys will become stars. Still, as the science goes, this is a pretty stellar class. "We filled every position but tight end, and I think there are some guys we can look at that are athletic enough in those positions," said Brown. "We filled positions of need, and I feel like we took a huge step toward where we want to get with this class.
"I’m more excited than I think I’ve ever been. I’m a competitor. I didn’t like what happened two years ago and last year wasn’t what we want either. I’m excited about getting back to spring practice. There have been years I’ve been so tired, but this year I wish we were starting tomorrow."
So do we Mack, so do we. Texas other sports season, spring football starts Feb. 23rd.
Caleb Bluett – 240 lbs. He's long, quick, and likes end better than linebacker. He really wanted to come to Texas.
Paul Boyette – A 300 lb nose tackle. We want to get bigger and stronger in the middle on both sides of the ball, he helps us do that.
Conner Brewer – He won three state championships in a row. He's 6’2”, he will be here for spring practice. His sister swims at Texas.
Malcolm Brown – Defensive tackle. He's 290 lbs and really fast. He runs a 4.7 40 yard dash and can be a real impact player.
Adrian Colbert – Safety. He was also recruited by the track team, he's also really fast.
Tim Cole – Linebacker and also tailback and fullback in high school. He grew up as best friends with Malcolm Brown. [The second, not the running back, this will be crazy.]
Bryce Catrell – Started as a safety and moved to defensive end this year. He's got really good feet and the speed to run people down. He can be a factor as a pass rusher off the edge and we’ve got to have that.
Torshiro Davis – He's an impact player off the edge. 6' 3", 230 lbs, runs a 4.5 40 yeard dash. He's one of two out-of-state players.
Alex de la Torre – Linebacker. The team has been impressed with his athletic ability in workouts.
Bryson Echols – A defensive back who's fast with good hands. He can intercept the ball which is something we need more of.
Kennedy Estelle – 6' 7", 310lbs. He's one of the best offensive lineman in the country.
Johnathan Gray – 204lbs. He's really durable. He broke almost every state and national high school rushing record. He’s got vision, he’s got power and he’s got great speed. His Dad, James, was a running back at Texas Tech. The most amazing thing is how durable he's been because he's carried the ball so many times. He’s excited that there are more backs here, he doesn’t want to be running it 35 or 40 times a game. He likes that we have guys coming in and staying fresh. He’s got a chance to score every time he touches the ball.
Donald Hawkins - A junior college transfer meant to shore up the offensive line.
Camrhon Hughes – A 320 lb offensive lineman.
Peter Jinkens – He's fast and an emotional player. He could play some nickel. He's a great blitzer and really good at making plays in space. He was the last one to get his fax [letter of intent] in.
Daje Johnson – Cornerback, safety, wide receiver, running back, kick returner — he’s a guy we’d like to have returning punts and kickoffs and playing a little in the slot. He's another guy who can score any time he touches the ball, he’s really powerful. He really loves Texas, he came to every game last season.
Marcus Johnson – He's got really good hands which is important. He separates well from the defensive backs and has good body control. We’ve got to get more depth at receiver.
Cayleb Jones – A wide receiver who's tall, fast and strong. He's from here in town [Austin High School] so he can come to spring practice and watch.
Nick Jordan – He's one of the best kickers in the country and has a really strong leg.
Brandon Moore – He's a junior college defensive lineman. He won two junior college national championships.
Alex Norman – A defensive tackle. His grandfather is Pettis Norman who played for Cowboys.
Jalen Overstreet – A quarterback with tremendous ability and leadership. We believe he has a chance to be a great quarterback. When we lost Garrett [Gilbert] and Conner Wood we felt we needed another quarterback.
Hassan Ridgeway – 6' 5", 255 lbs. A defensive end. He's a great pass rusher and dominates the line of scrimmage.
Curtis Riser – 290 lb offensive guard. He has really good feet for a big man.
Kendall Sanders – He was a star basketball player too. Plays wide receiver but was the MVP at defensive back. He and Marcus [Johnson] and Caleb [Jones] and Daje [Johnson] will play.
Dalton Santos – He's a lifelong TX fan. 6' 2", 252 lb middle linebacker. An aggressive, passionate player who can really hit.
Orlando Thomas – A quarterback and defensive back. He's fast. He'll play cornerback and return punts and kick-offs.
Kevin Vaccaro – Hard hitting defensive back, just like his brother Kenny.