Mack Brown has signed 13 recruiting classes at The University of Texas. Among those consistently impressive recruiting hauls was a group of prospects in 2002 that many feel is the best Texas has ever signed since the inception of scholarship limits.
That class may now have some competition.
On Wednesday, Brown and the entire Longhorn coaching staff put the wraps on a 25-man class that not only ranks among the country's best, it stacks up favorably with any collection of prospects that Texas has signed under Brown's watch.
Headlined by two five-star prospects and 19 four-star prospects, UT's 2010 class trails only Florida and USC in the Rivals.com team rankings. In terms of average stars per recruit, the Longhorns check in with a 3.92 average, trailing only USC's 4.22 mark. But the Trojans signed only 18 players compared to 25 for Texas.
"Texas' class is certainly right up there with any program in the country when you factor in how much talent the Longhorns are bringing in and how well they've filled their needs," said Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Jeremy Crabtree.
As they do every year, the Longhorns got off to a fast start, pulling in 19 commitments by the end of March. But it was the recruiting finish that really created a buzz. In the final two months before signing day, Texas picked up pledges from five players - four Rivals100 members (in chronological order, Mike Davis, Darius White, Jackson Jeffcoat and Jordan Hicks) and one special teams weapon (William Russ).
"Any other year, this would be the clear No. 1 class in the country," Crabtree said. "It just happens that Florida has put together an all-world class this year so that bumps Texas down to No. 2 on our overall team rankings."
The 2002 Longhorn recruiting class, the group given a good chunk of the credit for the 2005 national title, featured such high-impact talents as Vince Young, Justin Blalock, Aaron Ross, Lyle Sendlein, Kasey Studdard, David Thomas and Brian Robison. But that class also featured an inordinately high number (by UT's current standards) of players that flamed out due to academic casualties or injuries before ever making a mark on the program. One five-star prospect in the '02 class never made it to class and several other highly-ranked commitments played little more than one year.
It's impossible to project just how the Longhorns 2010 class will hold up over the course of five years, but Texas has taken a stricter approach in recruiting student athletes that are more likely to succeed in the classroom, so a case could be made that this year's class has potential to provide even more starpower than did the 2002 group.
Texas' class ranks as the country's best at two positions in which the Horns needed to bring in some young depth - wide receiver and defensive end. Those two units accounted for eight signees comprised of one five-star prospect and nine players that rank as four-star prospects.
The overall recruiting haul is impressive in its own right, but what's even more dramatic is the Texas staff's ability to bring in an extremely high ratio of its targets. Unlike a lot of schools that throw out offers to just about every highly-ranked prospect in the country, Texas achieved success once again by narrowing its focus and winning the overwhelming majority of its recruiting battles.
The Longhorns signed all but eight prospects that received scholarship offers (even more impressive when one factors in that Texas quit recruiting a few of the non-commits very early) and UT gained commitments from all 25 players that were brought in for official visits.
At quarterback, Texas secured two early commitments from players that rank among the state's best. Case McCoy and Connor Wood both gave the Longhorns early pledges over a number of other scholarship offers and both players have already begun their college careers.
"The two quarterback commitments are impressive, especially pulling that off one year after signing Garrett Gilbert," said Crabtree.
Texas took only one running back but the Horns were able to secure an early commitment from one of the most productive players in the history of Texas high school football. Army All-American Traylon Shead set the state's all-time record for TDs in a career with 146 and he finished his illustrious career second on the state's all-time rushing yards list (10,291). Texas also targeted Lache Seastrunk early in the recruiting process before withdrawing it's offer in June.
The Horns' five-man receiver class is loaded with the type of talent that should lend depth to the Texas receiver rotation from the moment the freshmen arrive on campus. Mike Davis, Darius White and Chris Jones all rank on the Rivals100, while Darius Terrell and John Harris both bring impressive skill sets. All five receivers received four-star status.
Texas didn't recruit any tight ends and kept a very narrow focus along the offensive line, but the Horns were able to bring two Army All-Americans in the trenches. Both Trey Hopkins and Dominic Espinosa are expected to play on the inside of the Longhorn offensive line and both are ranked among the top 115 prospects in America.
The Longhorns loaded up along the defensive line, inking three defensive tackles and three ends. At tackle, UT secured three very early commitments from Taylor Bible, DeAires Cotton and Ashton Dorsey. At defensive end, two of the Longhorns commitments were from among the three highest-rated players in the class (No. 12 Jeffcoat and No. 29 Reggie Wilson) and Greg Daniels chose Texas over early offers from Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Baylor.
The Horns' three-man linebacker class is highlighted by five-star prospect Hicks, who committed to Texas less than one week before signing day. In gaining the commitment from the West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West standout, the Longhorns won an intense recruiting battle over Ohio State and Florida. Hicks is the bell cow, but he's joined by two stellar four-star players in Tevin Jackson and Aaron Benson.
Two other players that could line up on either side of the ball, DeMarco Cobbs and Adrian Phillips, are among the Horns' most athletic signees. Cobbs, out of Tulsa Central, originally committed to Tennessee before calling Texas in October and switching his pledge to Texas. The player of the year in the state of Oklahoma, Cobbs is a versatile playmaker that will start at running back but could also play receiver, safety or even linebacker. Phillips was a jack of all trades for Garland, excelling on offense, defense and special teams. He's expected to begin his UT career in the defensive backfield, but he's also an extremely talented slot receiver.
The capper on the Longhorn class came from Shreveport Evangel Christian Academy kicker Russ, who visited Texas last weekend and gave the staff a commitment on Sunday. A versatile weapon in special teams, Russ has a strong leg as a punter and on kick-offs and he's a very capable place-kicker that can hit from long range.
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