Garrett Wilson respectfully gave Texas fans a view of how a national power from a decade past is viewed by a future star.
Lake Travis’ five-star wideout committed to Ohio State on Sunday night, potentially giving the Buckeyes and coach Urban Meyer their most explosive receiving option since Ted Ginn Jr. signed back in 2004. The 6-foot, 179-pound Wilson has game-changing ability that’s sorely needed around here but he was always leaning toward returning to his home state.
This was going to be a tough sell for Texas coach Tom Herman since Wilson grew up in Dublin, Ohio, located 20 minutes north of Columbus. The five-star recruit listed Texas as a finalist and was extremely respectful of Herman’s recruiting pitch.
He also gave us a glimpse into how Texas is possibly perceived among some of the nation’s elite high school players.
“(The Longhorns) were close,” Wilson told Rivals. “I’m not going to lie, the official visit made me think about them a little more. In the end, I’ve watched a lot of people go to Texas with a ton of ability and maybe not achieve what I thought they could. I didn’t want to be one of those guys.”
Translation: I know I will win and get developed at Ohio State. Not so sure at Texas.
Lesson No. 1 in recruiting: These kids want to be associated with winners. By the way, this has nothing to do with Herman, who just completed his first season — a winning one — but more about the mediocrity of Texas football in the years since the 2009 title-game loss to Alabama. In the seven years before Herman arrived — four under Mack Brown and three under Charlie Strong — the Horns went 46-42 overall, 30-32 in Big 12 play and 10-24 against ranked opponents with only two bowl wins.
Contrast those numbers with the ones Herman’s ex boss has put up since arriving in Columbus in 2012 — 73-8 overall, 47-3 in the Big Ten, six seasons of 12-plus wins, and a national championship in 2014.
Brown owned national the recruiting game for the better part of a decade, but several high-profile recruits near the end of his run— most notably a pair of prep All-Americans and Texas high school record-holders in Lake Travis quarterback Garrett Gilbert and Aledo running back Johnathan Gray — did not live up to their prep brilliance. Worse yet, other in-state stars like Andrew Luck (Stanford), Robert Griffin III (Baylor), Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) and J.T. Barrett (Ohio State) were either not offered scholarships as quarterbacks and/or signed elsewhere.
The subsequent offensive struggles in the high-scoring Big 12 have painted an ugly picture in the place where all of these blue chippers are hoping to land — the NFL. Texas hasn’t had an offensive player taken in the first round since quarterback Vince Young back in 2006, around the time that Wilson was learning to read. In the last five drafts, 11 Buckeyes have gone in the first round.
This is where Herman has to get to work. He’s done a terrific job in recruiting so far — Texas just landed a commitment from Atlanta-area four-star defensive back Kenyatta Watson II, who chose the Horns over Notre Dame on Tuesday — but Wilson’s comments have provided a peek into how this program is viewed in some circles. The only way to change those perceptions is to win Big 12 titles and compete for national championships. No shortcuts available.
Herman doesn’t own a time machine — the boosters would build him one if he asked — so there’s nothing he can do about anything that happened before he arrived here. His job is to keep on grinding. Hookem.com recruiting guru Mike Craven told me that landing Wilson was a tough challenge because Texas’ 2018 class was so full of elite players. Plus these current recruits are keeping tabs on college depth charts. Texas is pretty deep at receiver, in case you haven’t noticed.
“Every coach does great in that first full cycle because they can sell hope, much like Texas’ last (recruiting) cycle,” Craven said. “Whether it’s Tom’s fault or not, guys want to go win. If Texas does great this year, some of these 2019 prospects could come back around.”
That includes Wilson. His is a non-binding commitment to the Buckeyes. Sure, Meyer rarely loses these recruiting tussles, but we also know Wilson is 18 and has spent more time in scenic Austin than he did in Dublin. We’re still eight months away from the early signing period and you can best believe Herman hasn’t given up on this prized recruit.
He will have to win these type of battles if Texas is to get back to those special places of yesteryear.
Texas’ 2019 class
National ranking: 23rd
Big 12 ranking: 4th
No. of players: 5
No. of players at this time last year: 4
2019 Texas Longhorns recruiting class
|Roschon Johnson||QB||Port Neches-Groves||4||July 21 (2017)|
|T'Vondre Sweat||DE||Huntsville||3||Feb. 28|
|Jordan Whittington||WR||Cuero||5||March 10|
|De'Gabriel Floyd||OLB||Westlake Village (Calif.)||4||March 31|
|Kenyatta Watson II||DB||Grayson (Ga.)||4||May 1|
|Brayden Liebrock||TE||Chandler (Ariz.)||3||May 8|
Recent state defections
Over the last five years, 23 Texas high school recruits ranked on the top 10 of the Fabulous 55 ended up signing with out-of-state schools, though only one defected in 2018:
2014: 5 (Alabama, Stanford, LSU x 2, Oregon)
2015: 6 (Alabama x 2, UCLA, Ole Miss, LSU, USC)
2016: 4 (Ole Miss x 2, Alabama, LSU)
2017: 7 (Ohio State x 3, Florida State, Stanford, LSU x 2)
2018: 1 (Alabama)
Note: 4 of the state’s top 10 for 2019 are committed to out of state schools