Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Tom Herman is bringing in talent by the truckload, but will it lead to a Big 12 title?

Posted February 5th, 2020

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Story highlights
  • Herman’s got the recruiting part down pat just as Brown did. But Texas hasn’t won the Big 12 since 2009.
  • But Herman’s accumulating even more, uh, elite players, to form a 19-player class that ranks ninth in the nation, according to 247 Sports Composite. Texas edged out Oklahoma, which came in 11th.
  • Bastrop defensive end Alfred Collins is the type that usually winds up in a Clemson or Alabama uniform. A difference-maker, in other words.

Except for Zach Evans, signing day is over.

God only knows where the eccentric Galena Park North Shore running back winds up playing college football unless he goes directly to the XFL next season. But for everyone else, recruiting for 2020 is pretty much done.

And Texas was a big winner.

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Again, unless an Iowa caucus app screwed up the results.

The Longhorns have won a lot of signing days. So much so, in fact, that one former coach was nicknamed Coach February in this space.

It was only partially a compliment. 

Mack Brown was the next best thing this side of Darrell Royal here, but he only won two Big 12 titles in his 16 seasons. It’s time for Tom Herman to win one, and his path has eased because Oklahoma has to be running out of Heisman-caliber transfer quarterbacks by now, Baylor’s Matt Rhule took off for NFL riches, and TCU, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech have taken big or small steps backward, weakening the field.

Texas head coach Tom Herman walks the sideline during an NCAA college football game against Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Brown spent his own sweet time winning the conference, not pulling it off until his eighth season, thanks to the Sooners. But he was an outstanding plus-110 in victories and won 10 of his 15 bowl games. Herman played for a Big 12 title in his second year but lost, thanks to the Sooners. Now he has won all three of his bowl games as Longhorns head coach, but he’s only a plus-10 overall at 25-15.

Herman’s got the recruiting part down pat just as Brown did. But Texas hasn’t won the Big 12 since 2009. OU, Baylor, Kansas State, TCU and Oklahoma State have all won or shared a league championship since then. That’s very damning.

But Herman’s accumulating even more, uh, elite players, signing a 19-player class that ranks ninth in the nation, according to 247Sports’ composite. Texas edged out Oklahoma, which came in 11th. No other Big 12 team ranked in the top 25.

To his credit, Herman was the only Big 12 coach to lure a five-star blue-chipper. He landed the nation’s No. 1 running back in Bijan Robinson from Arizona in December and a huge, four-star defensive end in Alfred Collins — the No. 2-rated strong side defensive end in the nation — just down Highway 71 in Bastrop on Wednesday.

Mike Craven, our recruiting guru, raves about this Longhorns haul and labels it the best defensive class Herman’s had. 

Bastrop Cedar Creek’s Alfred Collins signed with Texas late Wednesday afternoon, giving the Longhorns some much-needed depth on the defensive line. [JOHN GUTIERREZ/FOR STATESMAN]
Collins is the type that usually winds up in a Clemson or Alabama uniform. A difference-maker, in other words.

“Albert’s the best recruit in the state not named Zach Evans,” Craven said Wednesday during our “On Second Thought” podcast. “He’s rare. He’s a 6-5, 300-pound guy who runs like a defensive end. It’s not a guarantee that he’ll be like that, but he’s built like that.”

Herman also grabbed versatile, four-star wide receiver/punt returner Kelvontay Dixon, the younger brother of current UT running back Keaontay Ingram. 

“With him, you get a ton of speed, a ton of aggressiveness and a knack for finding the football,” Herman said in a statement. “And you get a guy that has played a lot of different positions in his career in high school.”

That’s to go with a pair of four-star quarterbacks and eight other four-star prospects who play wide receiver, offensive tackle, guard, center, defensive tackle, outside linebacker, cornerback and safety. Did we leave any position out? 

“We addressed a lot of areas of need,” Herman said, “and brought in a lot of guys we think will be able to come in and play early.”

It’s a good way to welcome in Herman’s new made-over staff, which includes two new coordinators and so many assistants they’ll wear name tags in the spring.

Those players who could help soon should include Robinson, Texas’ best running back signee since Jonathan Gray; Collins, who has a high motor and is a perfect specimen; linebackers Prince Dorbah and Jaylan Ford; cornerback Kitan Crawford and safety Xavion Alford. Eight signees are already on campus.

“If you watched Texas, you know Texas has holes,” Craven said. “It needs playmakers on both sides of the ball, and Texas got a good group of defensive players. This group is talented.”

It’s good to be Tom Herman these days after a $1 million contract bonus in December, an impressive romp over Utah on New Year’s Eve and a terrific signing class spread over three months.

Hopefully he’ll be luckier with this class than he was with his last one. Six of the 26 recruits from the 2019 crop never saw the field, save for the one-game appearance by wide receiver/running back Jordan Whittington, who had as many hernia surgeries (two) as he did catches.

As heralded as that third-ranked class was, big luminaries like five-star wide receiver Bru McCoy (wishy-washyness), four-star linebacker De’Gabriel Floyd (cervical stenosis) and four-star running back Derrian Brown (stroke) never saw the field. Nor did three-star linebacker Caleb Johnson (UCLA) and four-star offensive tackle Javonne Shepherd (transfer portal).

So there are no sure things. But Texas also hit it big last year with running back Roschon Johnson, defensive tackle T’Vondre Sweat, slot receiver Jake Smith, defensive back Chris Adimora, wide receiver Marcus Washington and safety Tyler Owens, all of whom made immediate contributions.

Doing well in February is all well and good. But Longhorn Nation is pretty much united in the notion that Texas needs to fare better between September and January.

We’re not suggesting Herman is Coach February II. But he, like Brown once did, has gotten consistently high marks in recruiting. In three years, the classes have ranked third, third and now ninth in the nation.

That should be enough to contend for a Big 12 title, right? Hey, it is a new decade.

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