The hiring of Charlie Strong at Texas changes things from a recruiting perspective for the Longhorns.
Charlie Strong wants to take care of recruiting inside the state Texas first and foremost.
There is always momentum when a new coach takes over a major program. The “uncertainty” about the future is resolved and hope springs eternal. That helps land players. There is little doubt that for the remainder of the 2014 and into the 2015 cycle, Texas will recruit at least as well as it has been from a class rank standpoint (talent level is best judged in time as we all know), perhaps better.
But one thing is certain- it will have a different look and feel.
The major recruiting topic on Strong’s hire that has been the expansion of the Longhorns’ recruiting base. Despite being one of the most recognizable brands in all of college athletics, Texas has by and large recruited primarily from within the borders of the Lone Star State for the past decade and a half under former head coach Mack Brown.
There’s nothing wrong with that when you are annually landing the best-of-the-best. As a state, Texas is a top three talent producer and the high school football is tops in the country across the board. “Our staff will recruit with fire and passion,” Strong said during his introductory press conference on Monday. “We want to close the borders of this great state.”
But it’s not like it used to be where Texas can just select who it wants in-state and be just fine. It’s a different world and we are living in an era where the country is getting smaller and prospects and their families are less reluctant than ever to scour the country for a college football program that fits. Even in the absence of expanded geographic horizons by prospects, there’s stiffer competition even for those that want to stay at home. Texas A&M’s move to the Southeastern Conference and on-field success has allowed the Aggies to take more than their share of late. Baylor’s rise and ability to make sterling early evaluations and get commits from top prospects before they become known as “top prospects” has allowed the Bears’ annual in-state talent haul to become just as formidable, if not more so, than the Longhorns. Plus, there’s always Oklahoma and SEC programs like LSU and Alabama that come in and swipe elite talent.
Strong, during his introductory press conference on Monday, said he was going to sign the top Texas talent first, then cherry pick the top talent from across the country. Just speculation here, but the guess is instead of signing 90 percent of most classes from the state of Texas, that number very likely will go to approximately 70. So roughly a third, give or take a few, could possibly be “cherry picked” each cycle. Given Strong’s ties to the state of Florida and the proven track record he established at Louisville of snagging Sunshine State talent, the eyes of Texas are on that state as a particular new frontier for said cherry picking.
One prominent Texas high school coach is intrigued by the idea.
“Can you imagine a team with the best from Texas mixed in with some of the best Florida kids and sprinkled in- some of the best in the nation?” Dallas (Texas) South Oak Cliff coach Emmett Jones said. “It could be scary. It will take a good manager/leader to direct that type of mixture. The Longhorn logo is strong and powerful in Texas and this could be a match that immediately propels Texas back to the top.” Louisville made a living under Strong in talent-rich south Florida (Dade and Broward Counties) and one of the most respected high school coaches in that area is a fan of the hire.
“(Strong) is a great coach and recruiter,” Miami Booker T. Washington head coach Tim “Ice” Harris said. “He’s also a great total man.”
Want something to keep an eye on in the future? Class of 2016 quarterback Xavier Gaines of Frostproof (Fla.) is as dynamic as they come and could contend for No. 1 overall status in that cycle. Though Florida State is sitting pretty at present, Gaines has remarked about his fondness for Texas during interviews and meetings with recruiting reporters and analysts.
Beyond casting a wider net, who Strong is as a person is going to help the Longhorns close the deal on top talent.
Almost universally, anyone associated with college football recruiting when asked about the hire immediately spoke of Strong’s high character, something that will not only help in Florida, but also at home in Texas and throughout the country. Players and especially parents typically are comfortable with a coach that commands respect and comfort level ultimately is what decides most recruiting battles.
Tampa (Fla.) Plant head coach Robert Weiner, who coaches current Longhorns commit Andrew Beck, believes that Strong’s best attributes as a recruiter are evident from the first time you meet him.
“(Strong) is an incredible man of character and moral fiber,” Weiner said. “And that is clear the first time you meet him. That gives him a presence and an immediate credibility with the guys in recruiting. He has a quiet strength in communication that makes people want to be a part of what he is leading.”
One former ACC recruiting coordinator agreed that it’s all about Strong’s presence and how it resonates with recruits.
“He’s a relentless recruiter. Kids respect the hell out of him. He could win a National Championship at a place like Texas.”
Of course, recruiting is done primarily by assistant coaches. Two of Strong’s best from Louisville- defensive coordinator Vance Bedford (a former Longhorns defensive back) and defensive assistant Brian Jean-Mary are expected to join his staff in Austin and you can imagine there will be several other assistants with sterling recruiting reputations joining him.
“His assistants are really the recruiters, but he’s not bad with the kids,” a current Pac-12 assistant said. “Parents like him.”
An SEC assistant simply summed it up in three words when asked about the recruiting impact of Strong.
"Watch out, Texas."
Quotes obtained by 247Sports National Recruiting Insider Ryan Bartow