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Sunday, February 12, 2012
An unfamiliar February

By Carter Strickland
HornsNation

AUSTIN, Texas -- Mack Brown and Texas closed fast with the 2012 class.

Darius James
Darius James was impressed with his visit to Texas' junior day, but not enough to commit to the Longhorns.

They have opened slowly with the 2013 group.

Both are unfamiliar and might be unsettling paths for Texas. But the paths, well worn by most other programs, are ones Texas might want to get used to as recruits it used to quickly lock up become more accustomed to waiting and weighing their options.

Sure the Coach February moniker still has some cache. Jake Raulerson (Celina, Texas/Celina) committed Feb. 3, just two days after 2012 class was inked.

But the commitment of the top linemen in Texas did not bring with it a wave of commitments from other players. At least 10 offers went out during Texas' junior day Sunday and not a one was returned with a yes.

Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes (Whitewright, Texas/Whitewright) said he would think about it. Lineman Darius James (Harker Heights, Texas/Harker Heights) will weigh other options. Wide receiver Jake Oliver (Dallas/ Bishop Lynch) wants to talk it over with his family. Athlete Kyle Hicks (Arlington, Texas/Martin) didn't get caught up in the hype either.

Then there were the players who didn't even show for one reason or another -- Kent Perkins (Dallas/Lake Highlands), James White (Pearland, Texas/Dawson), Vincent Taylor (San Antonio/Madison) and D.J. Ward (Lawton, Okla./Lawton).

OK, there are still more than two weeks left in February. Plus another junior day scheduled for Feb. 25. So no fingers should be dancing atop the panic button just yet.

A little sweat on the brow maybe, especially for anyone who has taken a glance at what Kevin Sumlin has done at Texas A&M.

Just two months on the job, Sumlin, who established a strong reputation with high school coaches in the state while at Houston, has secured four commitments and managed to hold onto two from the Mike Sherman era. Three of those players -- quarterback Kohl Stewart (Houston/St. Pius X), wide receiver Derrick Griffin (Terry, Texas/Terry) and wide receiver Jamar Gibbons (Sterling, Texas/Sterling) -- are in the ESPNU top 100 prospects for 2013.

Before somebody starts the SEC chant, the Aggies early success has little to do with the move to college football's top conference. Instead, these players, the four recruited by Sumlin and the two holdovers from Sherman, see a system at Texas A&M where they can get playing time, big stats and get to the pros.

That used to be the case at Texas. Not anymore. Not on offense at least. Last year Texas did not have one offensive player selected in the NFL draft. It is likely to see the same result in this upcoming draft.

Then there is Baylor with which to contend. The Bears had two offensive players drafted in 2011, have the Heisman winner in Robert Griffin III, a first-round wide receiver in Kendall Wright and even a running back, Terrance Ganaway, who might get a late-round sniff.

Both Baylor and Texas A&M, seemingly more viable alternatives than at any time in the past decade, offer a few things that Texas cannot. Offensive player development is near the top of the list. At the top is playing time.

Any recruit looking at Texas has to be wary of what the Longhorns already have at his position. Texas played 18 true freshmen in 2011. And it might not have played its best lineman in that group, Sedrick Flowers. At least four of the 2012 signees -- Donald Hawkins, Malcom Brown, Brandon Moore, Johnathan Gray and maybe even Connor Brewer -- will play in 2012. (Moore and Hawkins are JC players.)

Such a staggering number of young players even led Texas coach Mack Brown to say, "We may be the youngest team again next year with some of these guys playing."

Brown might as well have greeted the players at the first junior day with redshirts in hand. Players want to play. While it was particularly evident at Texas in 2011 that every player is given that chance, with the talent already in place, it might be some time before the Longhorns can get them on the field.

That is if they get them at all.

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation

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