Texas coach Tom Herman speaks to the media during his Feb. 1, 2017 national signing day press conference. Herman's first UT class had no five stars, seven four-stars and several three-stars and ranked 25th nationally. “What rankings don’t do though is crack their chest open and look at their heart,” he said that day. “They don’t look at work ethic, don’t look at what their coaches say about them." (Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman)

Cedric Golden

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Golden: Recruiting wins are always nice, but for Texas, football wins are better

Posted February 1st, 2017

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HOUSTON — Tom Herman didn’t win a national championship on his first national signing day at Texas.

He didn’t even bring in a top-10 national recruiting class.

What’s taking him so long?

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That’s the nutso world of college recruiting. Everybody wants it all right now.

Herman will win at UT eventually, but his biggest battles will come on a football field and not on a fax machine.

So some rain fell Wednesday when Galena Park North Shore’s five-star defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson, the 11th-best player in the country per 247Sports, bolted for LSU despite being heavily recruited by Todd Orlando dating back to his days as Herman’s defensive coordinator at Houston. Westlake offensive tackle Stephan Zabie, another four-star, also threw up the deuces, choosing UCLA over Texas.

While Zabie’s choice stung, Chaisson’s decision cut. He was the one player who could have made the Horns a top-20 class if you care anything about the numbers. The truth is that there are hits and misses every year. Herman may have recruited a four-star who’ll have a better college career than Chaisson. It’s all in what the kid brings to the table and how you coach him up.

Herman said he didn’t want to chase stars or piecemeal this class. His hope has to be over the next couple of years that the stars will be chasing Texas like they did back in the salad days.

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He did sign 18 players on Wednesday, numbers that won’t get you mentioned at or near the top of the recruiting rankings. But it’s something that can happen when you take over a new job and hit the ground running late in the recruiting cycle. Herman will have to recruit better, but he’ll one day be remembered (or forgotten) for what happened in September through November, not in February. Just ask Charlie Strong, who had good recruiting classes that didn’t add up to wins.

“Will we be there next year? Absolutely we will,” Herman said. “But man, am I proud of how the staff went about their business of finding these guys that can win a national championship at the University of Texas that may have that extra something that rankings don’t ever or will ever see.”

Herman was fortunate that Westlake quarterback Sam Ehlinger, a Strong recruit, decided to stick with his original choice of Texas after Strong’s ouster. Better yet, he and Houston Langham Creek running back Toneil Carter are already on campus preparing for spring football. Those chickens were already in the oven, so to speak.

Langham Creek and Cy Springs High Schools football teams played a 7 on 7 game at Cy Creek High School as part of the qualifying tournament for the right to go to the state playoff. Langham Creek receiver Toneil Carter (28) juggles the ball as he tries to make a reception.
Langham Creek and Cy Springs High Schools football teams played a 7 on 7 game at Cy Creek High School as part of the qualifying tournament for the right to go to the state playoff. Langham Creek receiver Toneil Carter (28) juggles the ball as he tries to make a reception.

As for the others, it was largely a class of guys Strong recruited or that Herman already knew from UH, and while it isn’t a banner crop, Herman held things together with just four coaches — Oscar Giles, Corby Meekins, Derek Warehime and Jason Washington — on the recruiting trail for much of the process.

Given the talent already on campus, it’s a start, especially since Herman landed players in key spots in the offensive-driven Big 12. Ehlinger, Carter and Spring Westfield running back Daniel Young will compete for playing time right away while Lake Travis tight end Cade Brewer could become the first Texas tight end with double-digit receptions in a season since Geoff Swaim caught 10 in 2014.

Over on the defensive side, I really like the addition of Temple edge rusher Taquon Graham, who stuck with his choice of Texas after watching the Horns beat Notre Dame in the 2016 opener, and Hooks star Montrell Estell, who may play on both sides of the ball because of his great skills.

At last glance, the Horns checked in at No. 26 in the national recruiting rankings which, to steal a line from Mack Brown, is not their standard, not even close. The bottom line is Herman will have to win some games to bring that sexy back to Austin. It’s been seven seasons since Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley and Earl Thomas led the Horns to a national title game. So the kids Herman just signed weren’t even driving yet.

So ease off the gas for a second.

Some of you dream of Herman racking up 11-2s and 12-1s right away by substituting a magic wand for his coach’s whistle, but getting a national power back to postseason relevance doesn’t come with a set of CliffsNotes. It can only come by winning. If that happens, players like Chaisson and Zabie will find their way to Texas.

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