- The Longhorns are building recruiting momentum inside and outside the state of Texas for the 2018 class.
- National analysts view Texas head coach Tom Herman as a strong recruiter in a perfect situation at Texas.
- Remaining loyal to Texas prospects while still finding the right fits out-of-state is a balancing act Herman must perfect.
The 2017 class revealed little about Tom Herman’s plan to recruit at Texas. His staff had two months to put together a group after a 5-7 season and the results weren’t great. The Longhorns missed out on in-state and out-of-state targets down the stretch and limped into national signing day with the worst-ranked class signed by Texas since the launch of recruiting services.
It was an understandable letdown. Herman wasn’t recruiting the same type of prospects in the 2017 class at Houston that he needs to sign as the head man at Texas. He relied on his Houston pipeline to secure signatures in 2017 and he didn’t care about the rankings. As he shouldn’t.
Herman’s job is to win football games. It’s easier to do with five-star talents littering the field, sure, but Charlie Strong proved a coach can recruit at Texas and still fall short. That’s why Herman was hired. The Longhorns’ 2018 class is on track to finish as a top five class in the nation. Texas holds 11 commitments and is ranked No. 8 in the nation and No. 2 in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma, per 247Sports’ composite.
“I think everyone knows Tom is a good recruiter,” said Bud Elliott, SBNation’s recruiting director. “He’s a young guy, energetic and detail-oriented. I think we all expect him to kill it in recruiting. It’s Texas, he should.
“If you don’t (recruit well at Texas), there is something wrong. He did a great job at Houston. Houston became the first G5 school to land a five-star in Ed Oliver, so he’s an impressive recruiter.”
Recruiting in Texas offers obvious advantages. No state in the nation cares more about high school football. Only California and Florida produce anywhere near the amount of quality talent that Texas does on a yearly basis. But Herman is already showing fans he’s not afraid to search out-of-state for prospects if he isn’t satisfied with what’s available within his borders. Four of the Longhorns’ 11 pledges are from outside the state.
“They’re a top-five class right now and Texas is generating a lot of momentum in the state of Texas,” said Barton Simmons, the director of scouting at 247Sports. “But not only is he emphasizing the state and building momentum within Texas, he’s doing it while also still recruiting at a national level.
“If Texas can balance that and be the flagship program in Texas and still recruit nationally, that will be new for the Longhorns,” he added. “I’m not sure they’ve ever figured out that balance. To me, he’s laying a foundation to have that approach.”
Texas is filled with football prospects and pride. Seeing the Longhorns go outside of the state for talent isn’t something Texas high school football coaches enjoy. Strong caught heat for it early when he relied on his south Florida roots in recruiting. Herman will face similar backlash if wins don’t follow. Two out-of-state commitments — Oklahoma defensive end Ron Tatum and Florida wide receiver Justin Watkins — have already de-committed.
“You secure your backyard first, but if the store you normally shop in doesn’t have what you need, you have to go somewhere else to get it,” Elliott said. “If you can fill the need locally, that’s great. But if not, there should be nothing wrong with going to find it.”
It won’t be easy. Remaining the home for state’s top talent while balancing a national imprint as a recruiter can lead to headaches like de-commitments and bad press. It’s why it is hard to find programs in talent-rich states balancing a local and national presence in a real way.
The fact that you don’t see a lot of blueprints out there proves how tough that is. Texas is the program most equipped to do that because ultimately they are the biggest name in the state and when they’re good, they own the state and they are a national brand,” Simmons said. “In Florida, Georgia and California, there are more big fish in the pond. The big fish come to Texas to recruit, but they know who’s turf they’re stepping into. That’s the advantage Texas has.”
Now, all Herman needs to do is make Texas good again.