Commentary

Two big stars won't define Longhorns class

Texas gathered a class featuring 11 ESPNU 150 prospects

Updated: January 31, 2012, 8:39 AM ET
By William Wilkerson | HornsNation

AUSTIN, Texas -- Poor Texas.

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comTexas' 2012 class is highlighted by record-setting running back Johnathan Gray.

Seriously, someone get Mack Brown a tissue before his tears smear the ink on his freshly signed four-year contract extension that will keep him in Austin through at least 2020.

Why the doom and gloom one day before national signing day?

What, it isn't obvious?

First it was the news of elite wide receiver prospect Thomas Johnson's decommitment earlier this month.

He'd flashed "Hook'em Horns" regularly and was excited about rooming with teammate and fellow Texas commitment Peter Jinkens next year. Instead he'll end up on the west coast at Cal or Oregon, or in-state at TCU or Texas A&M.

Then, a few weeks ago, the Longhorns came to the realization that its efforts to get the nation's top prospect, Mario Edwards, to stay in-state and switch his commitment from Florida State went for not.

Edwards, who hails from Denton (Texas) Ryan, didn't even have the Longhorns in his final two. Those spots were reserved for FSU and LSU. Ouch.

Lastly will be tomorrow's inevitable news of the nation's top receiver, Dorial Green-Beckham, donning the cap of either Arkansas or Missouri, and not Texas, during his live announcement at 9:15 a.m. CT on ESPNU.

Texas gave a valiant effort in pursuit of DGB, getting him to come on an official visit and making several stops to Springfield, Mo. But it doesn't appear to be enough.

So much has gone wrong for Texas at the tail of this recruiting season that it would appear Gabriel has actually blown his horn to alert recruits that, indeed, the Longhorns have gone a pedestrian 13-12 over the last two seasons. Not exactly the type of production one would expect from a program that grossed in excess of $100 million this past season and $94 million last season after a 5-7 outcome.

Only, so much has actually gone right.

Over the weekend the Longhorns got two ESPNU 150 members to switch their commitments during the last available weekend for official visits. Dalton Santos, the nation's top inside linebacker, backed out of his verbal pledge to Tennessee. And four-star athlete Daje Johnson (Pflugerville, Texas/Hendrickson) went with his gut and ditched TCU for the Longhorns after a week of indecision.

Then, out of nowhere, the Longhorns got two-star defensive end Bryce Cottrell (Plano, Texas/West) to switch his pledge from Oregon late Monday after his official visit to Texas over the weekend.

Their additions bumped Texas in front of Florida State into the No. 2 position in the ESPNU Class Rankings behind national champion Alabama.

The Longhorns now have 19 commitments with at least a four-star rating and, despite going 6-11 in the Big 12 over the last two seasons, now have 11 ESPNU 150 commitments. That is four less than the combined total of the rest of the conference.

Those en route with that tissue for "Coach February" should actually tear them into pieces of confetti.

There aren't too many programs that could endure two seasons like Texas has and still be able to lure in talent as it has, and will on Wednesday.

This same story could have been written at this time last year when the Longhorns lost the commitment of five-star offensive tackle Christian Westerman (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) to national champion Auburn and still wound up with the No. 5 class overall.

That class, like this one, was led by a five-star Texas running back in Malcolm Brown (Cibolo, Texas/Steele). This class' bell cow, Johnathan Gray (Aledo, Texas/Aledo), is none other than high school's all-time touchdown leader (205).

[+] EnlargeDonald Hawkins
Courtesy Kevin Maloney/Northwest Mississippi SIDBesides the 11 ESPNU 150 prospects, Texas also signed OL Donald Hawkins who could start next year.

He'll be joined in Austin by the nation's No. 2 defensive tackle (Malcom Brown), No. 5 outside linebacker (Jinkens), No. 7 offensive tackle (Kennedy Estelle), No. 6 offensive guard (Curtis Riser), No. 6 cornerback (Bryson Echols), No. 1 inside linebacker (Santos), No. 7 defensive tackle (Alex Norman) and No. 7 quarterback (Connor Brewer), to name a few.

That list doesn't include the nation's No. 21 receiver Cayleb Jones, who was rated No. 3 at his position for the longest time until a drop in the most recent ratings because of questions surrounding his speed.

Also absent from that list are junior college transfers Donald Hawkins and Brandon Moore, who together match the total of Brown's JUCO signings in his previous 13 years at Texas.

If that's not a sign of urgency, to get experienced players on campus to compete right away, then signs of urgency simply don't exist.

Then again, maybe they don't at Texas?

Brown has been profitable in so many ways, both financially, and in the win column, that the university saw to it that he has the ability to stay for at least nine more seasons.

He's afforded himself that luxury in large part because of his success on the recruiting trail. Success that has been enjoyed again this year despite finishing unranked for the second consecutive season.

Maybe instead of "Poor Texas," it should be "Pour Texas a glass of celebratory bubbly."

It's good being Texas.

Now someone cue the tissue-papered confetti.

William Wilkerson covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation.
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