The Dotted Line

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Football

The Dotted Line: Texas high school coaches not bothered by Longhorns’ out-of-state pursuits

Posted July 11th, 2018

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Former Texas coach Charlie Strong was famously criticized for his recruitment of out-of-state prospects. Strong signed five prospects from outside of the Texas borders in his first class, then infamously reeled in the “Florida 5” in the 2015 cycle. The high school coaches in Texas weren’t happy.

Texas coach Charlie Strong during the first half in Lawrence, Kansas on Saturday, November 19, 2016. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“Charlie was a great man but a horrible hire,” South Grand Prairie coach Brent Whitson said in a Land of 10 story in 2017. “You get here and the first thing you do is go to Florida for recruits. … All it did was cost him about 2,500 head coaches at Texas high schools.”

Tom Herman, who inherited the class of 2017 much like Strong did in 2014, also signed five players from outside of the Lone Star State in his first cycle. The similarities in numbers don’t stop there, though the perception of the two coaches’ recruiting priorities couldn’t differ more greatly around the state.

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It was the 2015 class that drew ire from high school coaches in Texas. Strong leaned on his Florida connections and signed 11 players from out-of-state. Eight of those players made it to campus.

Herman wasn’t shy about recruiting out of state in his second class. The Longhorns signed the third-best class in the country in 2018. It consisted of eight out-of-state signees. The same number Strong brought to campus in his 2015 class that alienated so many high school coaches.

Strong’s last class turned out to be 2016 when he signed five non-Texans. It was his third UT class. The 2019 class will be third at Texas for Herman. Texas currently holds 13 commitments, six of which hail from outside of the state. Yet Herman isn’t getting the same heat from the coaches in Texas.

Numbers can lie, and perception is the key. Coaches thought Strong preferred Florida recruits to those available to the Longhorns. Texas coaches got to know Herman as a head coach at Houston before he took the most scrutinized head coaching job in the state. He relied on those connections to lure the top talent from Houston in 2018, sprinkling in the eight out-of-state prospects.

“Herman started his recruiting in Texas. Its base is here, started here and then went outside,” said Kevin Goodwin, the quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator at Conroe Oak Ridge. “Strong started here, but went out of state simultaneously. Made it look like the other recruits were just as important. Remember, Strong withdrew offers from Texas kids immediately when he got there. That didn’t sit well with a lot of people.”

Herman finessed the 2017 class, keeping the group together, adding a few pieces and holding the remaining offers for a super-sized 2018 class. The eight out-of-state commitments didn’t seem as big of a number since the team signed 27 players. Still, the 2015 class that signed the Florida 5 also contained 27 members.

Simply put: Herman built the clout in state to go outside of it. Strong never did.

“Herman won’t receive the same heat as long as his main priority is Texas guys first,” said Theadis Reagins, who coached defensive backs at Houston Lamar in 2017 and watched two of his players sign with the Longhorns. “I’m thinking with Texas A&M catching a little steam with the in-state guys this cycle, Herman is looking to build a national brand.”

Recruiting is about relationships. Strong, for several reasons, was never able to build a real connection with the power brokers of the state, which remain the high school football coaches. Herman built trust at Houston. He recruited Houston. He continued to do so when he arrived at Texas and he’s starting to build those same connections in Dallas.

“There will be enough Texas boys on the roster,” said Chris Gilbert, the head coach at Lancaster in south Dallas. “You’re not a national program unless you can recruit nationally. Our guys are plucked left and right by Oklahoma. They needed something to be mad at Charlie (Strong) about. Heck, Ricky Williams is from California.”

It was dumb to bash Strong for going out of state and it would be equally dumb to use it as a recruiting tool against Texas. Herman will fill his roster with mostly Texans. That’s what Texas does, even under Strong. He was from Florida. Herman is from California, a state Texas is currently recruiting with fervor.

It was a straw-man argument used to undermine Strong. Winning would have muted the noise. It’s a non-topic for Herman, but he’ll still need to win to keep a stranglehold on the state.

“As long as (Herman) wins, I don’t think he’ll get (crushed) like Strong did for recruiting out of state,” said Adam Harvey, the defensive backs coach at Cibolo Steele. “No one will bat an eye if W’s are the byproduct.”

2019 Texas Longhorns recruiting class

PlayerPos. SchoolStarsCommitment date
Roschon Johnson QBPort Neches-Groves4July 21 (2017)
T'Vondre Sweat DEHuntsville3Feb. 28
Jordan Whittington WRCuero4March 10
De'Gabriel Floyd OLBWestlake Village (Calif.)4March 31
Kenyatta Watson IIDBGrayson (Ga.)4May 1
Brayden Liebrock TEChandler (Ariz.)3May 8
Tyler JohnsonOLConroe Oak Ridge5May 25
Jared WileyTETemple3May 26
Jake SmithWRNotre Dame Preparatory (Ariz.)4June 3
Peter MpagiDEGeorge Ranch3June 16
Chris AdimoraSMayfair (Calif.)4July 1
Marques CaldwellCBAlvin3July 7
Demariyon Houston WRMillwood (Okla.)4July 7
Marcus Tillman Jr.OLBJones (Fla.)3July 28
Javonne ShepherdOTNorth Forest4July 29
Derrian BrownRBBuford (Ga.)4Sept. 16
Tyler OwensSPlano East4Sept. 24
David GbendaILBKaty Cinco Ranch4Sept. 30
Peyton PowellATHOdessa Permian4Oct. 23
Marcus WashingtonWRTrinity Catholic (Mo.)4Oct. 26

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