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Friday, August 3, 2012
Brown, UT change recruiting philosophy

By Carter Strickland

Texas, which had two stepped around the edges of early offers, finally has succumbed to the Siren’s song of getting in the 2014 recruiting game.

No more waiting until after the current recruiting class’ signing day so as not to take away their moment in the spotlight. No more being "approved" for an offer to come in February. No more waiting.

So now it is no holds barred. Texas has entered the fray. With the Longhorns comes a big stick. The Longhorns, long the recruiting bullies of the Lone Star State, have now placed themselves on equal footing with the likes of Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Alabama, LSU and even TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State.

Mack Brown
Mack Brown and the Longhorns sent out a flurry of 2014 offers on Thursday.
Why it took this long is one part stubbornness and two parts arrogance.

Texas was loathe and slow to get into the early offer game because Mack Brown thought his way was the best way. He had, after all, perfected the art of the early offer back when early was the summer of a prospect’s senior year.

The theory in recent years was that by waiting, until at least after a prospect’s junior year, Texas was able to more comprehensively evaluate the player and how he might fit into the program. That worked. Until it didn’t.

From Aug. 1, 2011 to June 1, 2012, Texas had 18 players transfer or leave the program for one reason or another. So much for that comprehensive evaluation process.

Even as far back as June, Brown seemed to know his old way wasn’t working.

"We're the ones that started offering early in the summer of their senior year, and now we're two years late," he said. "… we all reassess everything we do daily. It's something that you just have to continue to look at and continue to do."

Right there Brown proved he was indeed flexible. But still more than a hint of arrogance remained. This is Texas, after all. And Texas did just pull off some late-in-the-recruiting-game switches with Dalton Santos, Torshiro Davis and Daje Johnson.

Success like that may have emboldened the coaching staff and led it to believe that its way was still the right way. Most assuredly the prevailing feeling around the program was that if some other school, say Tennessee or LSU or TCU, offered early, Texas could always come back around and get the guy it wants.

When Texas did miss on a guy, maybe because it wasn’t in on the recruiting early enough, it was OK to let the little brothers in the state have a recruit or two.

"Sometimes people panic when you lose a guy," Brown said. "We might have been trying to lose the guy. Maybe we didn't want him. It didn't fit us. In some cases we've moved on long before the public moves on because we can't comment on kids publicly, and they can."

No comment speaks louder than the one Texas has made by extending offers to the class of 2014. With that move, the coaching staff is saying it is worried about Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M, Nick Saban and Alabama, Les Milles and LSU, Art Briles and Baylor and others. Texas is worried because all of those programs have made strides.

In the case of the Aggies the strides might not be on the field. But Sumlin has been dynamic in the recruiting game and alumni-speaking circuit.

Briles has Baylor building a new stadium and has sent more players to the first round of the NFL draft the last two years than Texas –- four for Baylor, zero for Texas.

Now TCU has entered the fray. The facilities aren’t there. Neither is the history. But the opportunity is – the Horned Frogs have had 10 drafted to Texas' 14 over the past three years. So, too, is the coaching.

To be sure, there are pitfalls to early offers. Texas might have to pull an offer or two. Brown, always more comfortable in the white hat, doesn’t want to go that route.

Players can change their mind, too. Or even feel pressured into making a decision too quickly.

"In talking to the kids a lot of time I will say, 'Why did you take that commitment early?'" Brown said. "They will say, 'My mom and dad wanted me to do it because it meant I got my school paid for.' I can understand that. I think that is a product of early recruiting that is probably not going away."

But early recruiting wasn’t going away either.

Just last week, 14-year-old Tate Martell accepted an early offer from Washington. A PR firm sent out the email announcing and that Martell is the youngest FBS commitment since David Sills, then 14 as well, committed to Southern Cal back in 2010.

So however noble or nearsighted Texas may have been in trying to not dirty its hands in the muddied water of recruiting younger and younger players, it just couldn’t continue to go against the tide or the Tide.