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Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Burning recruiting questions: Texas

By Gerry Hamilton

Charlie Strong is closing in on the start of his first season in Austin, and that means his first full recruiting class as the head coach of the Longhorns. While Texas is positioned well in the RecruitingNation class rankings early on, as expected, Texas is fighting an uphill in-state battle against Texas A&M for the first time since the mid-to-late 1990’s.

Here's a look at five questions that must be answered for the Longhorns entering July.

1. Will Texas reel in the "must get" prospect?

Kendall Sheffield
The Longhorns have their eyes on top-ranked cornerback Kendall Sheffield.
If there is one prospect in 2015 that is in the "must get" category for Texas, it’s No. 10-overall Kendall Sheffield. The reasons are simple, he’s a difference-maker and the top-ranked prospect in the Lone Star state, and he is at an absolute need position -- cornerback. The Longhorns are very much in the mix for the five-star corner, but so are SEC recruiting powers Texas A&M, Alabama and LSU. Oklahoma and Baylor pose threats to Texas as well.

2. Can Texas pull an upset in 2015?

When Malik Jefferson’s recruitment began, many believed Texas was where the No. 39-ranked prospect would sign. Fast forward a year, and the Longhorns are on the outside looking in currently with Texas A&M considered to be the team trending with Baylor, Alabama, Oklahoma, Stanford, UCLA and Ohio State in the hunt. Jefferson is not one to rush a decision, and the Under Armour All-America Game selection’s recruitment is a legitimate academic and athletic decision removing hype and emotional decision-making. Expected to go through the entire official visit process as of Wednesday, the Longhorns have to stay in the fight and hope to impress on the field in 2014 and get Jefferson and family on campus for an official visit. Jefferson’s mom is a key in the process for any school courting the fast closing outside linebacker.

3. Will Texas fill the needs at defensive back?

Coming out of the spring, there is not be a position of need on defense more important than defensive back. With both corner and safety being need positions in the future for the normally loaded Longhorns, there is pressure to close on top targets.
No. 10 Sheffield -- As mentioned above, the five-star corner is the most important prospect on the board due to need.
No. 200 Holton Hill -- The Longhorns are trending with the big corner with ball skills, but serious competition comes from LSU, Texas A&M, Baylor and others.
No. 228 Roney Elam -- Once thought to be a lean to Texas, Texas A&M has been trending in June. Also seriously in the mix are Arkansas and LSU in a recruitment that could go one of three or four ways.
No. 300 Kris Boyd -- Being the cousin of former Gilmer High and Texas corner Curtis Brown, some have figured the Longhorns would emerge as the team to beat. With that said, there is a strong Texas A&M pull in Gilmer, and the Aggies are arguably the team to beat with Florida State, a third program standing a good chance to pull the perceived upset. Oklahoma State and Arkansas are two of a few on the outside looking in.

4. Will Texas have a presence in South Florida and the Southeast Region?

If there is one thing that fans know about Strong and his recruiting, South Florida and the Southeast region have always been a staple and targeted area while an assistant at Florida and the head coach at Louisville. When Strong was first hired in Austin, he immediately went to Florida and made a number of offers in 2014, eventually signing defensive tackle Chris Nelson. In 2015, the target is the state of Texas with every other state on the peripheral. With Texas A&M having all the momentum in the Lone Star state, look for Texas to dip back into the Sunshine State throughout the season.

5. What does Texas have to do on the field to regain momentum on the trail?

While there may not be a win total that is key for the Longhorns in Strong's first year, there is a two-week stretch in early October that holds the key to the perception of Texas under Strong. On Oct. 4, Texas hosts Baylor and has lost three of four to the defending Big 12 champs. A home game against a trending Baylor, that is a must win. Then one week later, Texas and Oklahoma will battle in the Red River Rivalry. The Sooners are riding high coming off the Sugar Bowl blowout win against Alabama, and this is the game all Texas head coaches are ultimately judged on. Texas will be the underdog, but must play competitively and show that the trend under Strong is going to be that of upward. Winning one of two is a must, but winning both would be a huge perception win in Year 1 for Strong.