Monday, April 4, 2011
Recruits still hooked on Horns
By Mitch Sherman ESPN Recruiting
So much has changed at Texas since Todd Reesing graduated from Lake Travis High School on the west side of Austin in 2006.
The Longhorns, as Reesing left for a career at Kansas in which he threw for more than 11,000 yards, celebrated a national title and simply selected from the top football prospects in the state to assemble a recruiting class.
"If I had a chance to play there, I would have jumped at it," said Reesing, ignored by Texas out of high school. "You go to games, and it's a childhood dream. Texas dominates everything."
It didn't last year. UT finished 5-7, at the bottom of the Big 12 South, and replaced five assistant coaches, including both coordinators.
Mack Brown and the Longhorns might have struggled on the field last year, but, as usual, they are dominating off it on the recruiting front.
But one bad season under coach Mack Brown after nine straight with 10 wins or more, has hardly sapped Texas' ability to recruit. Instead, it's basically the same old story for a program that has landed top five recruiting classes in five of the last six years. Texas' down year was signing the nation's 10th-ranked class in 2008.
Wide receiver Cayleb Jones, a junior at hometown Stephen F. Austin High School, attended the Longhorns' spring game Sunday as a centerpiece of Texas' nearly completed 2012 recruiting class. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown and linebacker Timothy Cole, both of Brenham, Texas, joined the group on Sunday, giving the Longhorns commitments from 15 players, including 13 among the ESPNU 150 Watch List.
"The biggest question to me was to see how everybody bounced back from it," Jones said Sunday. "The new coaches bring a refreshed feeling, a refreshed atmosphere. I believe in Coach Brown.
"Going there makes me want to do things better and do things right -- not only in football but outside of football. There's so many people who love the university, you've got to represent them well. It's such an honor to be a part of that Texas family."
Just how dominant is UT in out-recruiting its rivals?
Consider this: Texas A&M, after a nine-win season in 2010, has 17 commitments for its next class. But none of the Aggies' pledges are known to have received a scholarship offer from Texas.
Of the 15 Texas commits, A&M offered at least 10.
"We asked the kids, their families and the coaches to hang in there with us," Brown said. "We assured them we'd be hiring great coaches and asked them to give us a chance and meet those guys.
"I think the energy around our program from recruits, high school coaches, our fans -- everyone who cares about Texas football -- has been really positive and supportive."
Jones, an Under Armour All-American who's the son former of former Pro Bowl and three-time Super Bowl champion linebacker Robert Jones, accumulated approximately 2,000 receiving yards over the past two years.
Business As Usual
Texas annually locks up the bulk of its class in the spring and this year is no exception as the Horns already have 15 commits, including 13 on the EPSNU 150 Watch List. Texas' 2012 commit list
Other UT headliners include quarterback Connor Brewer of Chaparral High in Scottsdale, Ariz., who won back-to-back state titles and threw for more than 3,000 yards last year to earn offers from Auburn and LSU, among others, and receiver Thomas Johnson of Dallas Skyline, who chose the Horns over Southern California, Notre Dame and Oklahoma.
Brewer is the only non-Texan among the 15. But then, it's hardly a surprise that Texas is looking close to home to help fix its problems. The Longhorns signed only one out-of-state recruit -- Under Armour All-American and ESPNU 150 cornerback Josh Turner of Oklahoma City -- among its 22-player class in February.
Defensive back Bryson Echols of DeSoto, Texas, committed since the weekend of Texas' second junior day in February, said the status of a UT pledge has not waned in the wake of last season.
"People notice it," Echols said. "They say, 'Oh, you're going to Texas. Yeah, you're big timer.'"
Big time, indeed.
"When I go into a restaurant and my little brother's friends and their families congratulate me," Jones said, "That feels good."
Kids in Texas still grow up wanting to wear burnt orange. Even Reesing, who wouldn't change a thing about his career at Kansas, knows he missed a special experience to play college football in Austin.
His successor at Lake Travis, quarterback Garrett Gilbert, got the chance, starting for Texas as a sophomore last year. Reesing's sister, Meg, attended high school with Gilbert, so Todd heard stories of the things he once dreamed to experience.
"He was the king," Reesing said. "He was the king of the school. I would imagine it's like that with almost any kid who's going to UT. In that position, you're sitting on top of the world."
Mitch Sherman is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Mitch Sherman on Twitter: @mitchsherman