Texas Longhorns Will Allen (72), Justin Blalock (62) and Rodrique Wright (90) in 2003. (Sung Park/American-Statesman)

BEVO BEAT Football

Countdown to Signing Day: 5 times Texas finished with a top 4 recruiting class

Posted January 27th, 2017

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Since 2000 the Texas Longhorns have finished in the top 10 of the 247 Sports Composite rankings 12 times. That’s one more than both  Alabama and Ohio State in the same span. The Longhorns are consistently one of the top programs in the nation (I mean, who doesn’t want to live for 4-6 years in the land of Torchy’s Tacos?) when it comes to recruiting.

Of those 12 top 10 finishes since 2000, Texas has had a top four class five times and a top five class six times. In the non-top 10 years, Texas finished 11th in 2001, 14th in 2005, 17th in 2013 and 16th in 2014 — Texas has never dropped out of the top 20 since 2000, and since we’re guessing the 1999 and 1998 classes were likely top 10 classes, 1999 possibly No. 1, it’s probably been awhile since Texas had a “bad” recruiting class on paper.

We’re focusing on the top 5. Here are five times Texas finished with a top four class.

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Editor’s note: All recruiting rankings based on the 247Sports.com composite unless otherwise noted.

2012: No. 2 Class

Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown led the Longhorns in tackles for loss and quarterback pressures during the 2014 regular season.
Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown led the Longhorns in tackles for loss and quarterback pressures during the 2014 regular season.

Alabama was No. 1 on the list, and in the midst of a run that saw the Crimson Tide take the 247Sports No. 1 six years in row and running. In fact, Nick Saban and company can make it seven in a row next week, unless Ohio State can catch them.

In 2012, Texas had two 5-star recruits sign: the No. 1 running back in the nation, Aledo’s Jonathan Gray, and the No. defensive tackle in the nation, Malcom Brown (who is also the last Texas player taken the first round of the NFL Draft).  The real strength of this class was the 19 four-star players who signed. That was four more than Alabama (though Alabama’s three five-star recruits included Landon Collins and T.J.  Yeldon).

RELATED: Top 5 Texas recruits who lived up to their ranking

This class, though, didn’t get anywhere near its expectations. Gray suffered a string of injuries that prevented him from fulfilling his potential, and two of the five highest-graded players in the class, Curtis Riser and Cayleb Jones, transferred. The third highest-rated player, Kennedy Estelle (the No.5-rated offensive tackle of his class) was dismissed from the team and Kendall Sanders, the No. 7-rated cornerback in the class, went through a sexual assault trial before eventually moving on to Arkansas State, where he started eight games last season.

Add in Camrhon Hughes, Bryson Echols, Jalen Overstreet, Connor Brewer and Adrian Colbert, and this class saw many of those 19 four-stars leave the program at some point.

It wasn’t all a wash though. Paul Boyette of Humble became a main-stay on the team and even met his wife, basketball standout Imani, on campus. Hassan Ridgeway was drafted into the NFL last season by the Indianapolis Colts and Daje Johnson, Bryce Cottrell, Caleb Bluiett, Tim Cole, Shiro Davis and Peter Jinkens all contributed or have contributed to the program.

2011: No. 4 Class

Texas running back Malcolm Brown (28) carries the ball as Kansas State linebacker Jarell Childs (26) defends during the game at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium on December 1, 2012 in Manhattan, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Texas running back Malcolm Brown (28) carries the ball as Kansas State linebacker Jarell Childs (26) defends during the game at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium on December 1, 2012 in Manhattan, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

With two five-star recruits, Cibolo Steele running back Malcolm Brown (still the best running back this reporter has seen at the high school level) and the Statesman’s No. 1 Fab 55 prospect Steve Edmond, of Daingerfield High School, Texas ranked fourth behind Southern California, Florida State and No. 1 Alabama.

Texas had 12 four-star recruits, including Quandre Diggs and Cedric Reed. The seven three-star recruits in this recruiting class also became quality players. David Ash of Belton became the starting quarterback and led Texas to within a whisper of a Big 12 title his junior year, and Joe Bergeron of North Mesquite was a contributor in his career.

Brown, Diggs, Mykkele Thompson, Desmond Jackson, Cedric Reed and Jaxon Shipley all are playing or have played in the NFL.

M.J. McFarland, a three-star recruit from El Paso El Dorado transferred to UTEP after graduating in 2014.

2010: No. 2 Class

SEPTEMBER 6, 2014 - Texas #3, Jordan Hicks celebrates a tackle against BYU during the first half of action held at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, September, 6, 2014. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
SEPTEMBER 6, 2014 – Texas #3, Jordan Hicks celebrates a tackle against BYU during the first half of action held at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, September, 6, 2014.
(RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Ranking behind a Florida class that landed the same amount of 5-star players (five) but three more 4-star prospects, Texas continued its run of strong classes to start this decade.

Texas has yet to match this class in terms of 5-star recruits during the current decade. Jackson Jeffcoat (Plano West), Jordan Hicks (Lakota West, West Chester, Ohio), Mike Davis (Dallas Skyline), Reggie Wilson (Fort Worth Haltom) and Darius White (Fort Worth Dunbar) were the five top players in the class.

RELATED: 10 times Texas landed the No. 1 player at their position

Jeffcoat was the No. 1 player at his strong-side defensive end position, No. 5 recruit nationally and the No. 1 player in Texas both by the Statesman’s Fab 55 list and 247 Sports. Hicks was the No. 1 player in Ohio and No. 1 outside linebacker.

This class also produced Case McCoy, who spent time as the starting quarterback, and Dominic Espinosa, who was a stalwart on the line for several seasons. Trey Hopkins also went on to become a standout lineman for the Longhorns and is currently with the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad.

Like 2012, there were some misses and players who left. Darius White is one of the bigger recruiting misses of the last 17 years. He was the No. 4 receiver in his class, the No. 4 player in Texas, and the No. 27 player nationally. He transferred from Texas to Missouri but did little at Missouri. Taylor Bible, a four-star defensive tackle, never played at Texas after taking a redshirt and transferring.  This class saw several players join the 2014 Charlie Strong transfer trend, including cornerback Adrian White.

2007: No. 4 Class

ORG XMIT: BCS130 Texas safety Earl Thomas (12) chases down Alabama running back Mark Ingram during the first quarter of the BCS Championship NCAA college football game in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Texas safety Earl Thomas (12) chases down Alabama running back Mark Ingram during the first quarter of the BCS Championship NCAA college football game in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Florida, Southern Cal and Tennessee were the the top three classes this season with USC coming at No. 2 despite six — six!– five-star recruits (including the No.1 player, the late Joe McKnight). Florida wasn’t half bad either, with five 5-stars, including future Pro Bowler Carlos Dunlap (Joe Haden, the future All-Pro corner for the Cleveland Browns was a four-star recruit in this class).

Texas landed two five-star recruits in John Chiles and Tray Allen. But the biggest star of this class, and a player who may one day go down as the best Texas player to play in the NFL, was Earl Thomas. The defensive back from West Orange Stark was only a three-star recruit, but after redshirting took the college football world by storm and was a 2009 All-American. He went pro after his sophomore year and has since been a five-time Pro Bowler, four time All-Pro and a Super Bowl champion.

This class also featured Sam Acho, Fozzy Whittaker, Keenan Robinson and Cody Johnson.

2002: No. 1 Class

Texas Longhorns Will Allen (72), Justin Blalock (62) and Rodrique Wright (90) in 2003. (Sung Park/American-Statesman)
Texas Longhorns Will Allen (72), Justin Blalock (62) and Rodrique Wright (90) in 2003. (Sung Park/American-Statesman)

if you’re in the camp that recruiting lists are “overrated” and don’t matter, this will make you mad. Texas’ No. 1 recruiting class helped the Longhorns win a National Championship in 2005. Four five-star recruits, 13 four stars and a total of 26 recruits were apart of this class.

Naturally the No. 1 recruit in the nation and star of that championship team joined the Longhorns that season, Vince Young. But the Houston Madison star wasn’t the only big-time get. Rodrique Wright and Justin Blalock are all-time great players at Texas. The fourth five-star player was Bryan Pickryl of Oklahoma, who’s career was derailed by Injuries. Looking past the five-stars, Selvin Young,  future Thorpe winner Aaron Ross, main-stay linemen Kasey Studdard and Lyle Sendlein, NFL tight end David Thomas and Chase Pittman were also part of this class.

RELATED: 5 of Texas’ greatest recruiting finds

The amazing thing is that of all the names here, it’s Brian Robison, a three-star recruit from Splendora High School in Texas, who has carved out the longest and most productive NFL career. Robison has been a member of the Minnesota Vikings since 2007 and has 55 sacks and 254 tackles in 149 games. He was a fourth round pick.

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