BEVO BEAT

Breakfast with Bevo: Strong signs his class

Posted February 6th, 2014

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Good morning. Breakfast is served.

It’s February the 6th: 37 down, 328 to go.

And 16 till the start of the NFL scouting combine.

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YESTERDAY: It was national signing day. Alabama, with its No. 1-rated class, and the SEC, with seven of the top nine-rated classes, were the big winners. Texas came in at No. 17. The Texas women pounded Texas Tech. Former Red Sox pitcher and current ESPN baseball analyst Curt Schilling revealed that he has cancer. Wichita State won again.

TODAY: The Olympics officially start with a smattering of events – snowboarding (minus Shaun White, who pulled out of today’s slopestyle on Wednesday) and the first day of figure skating. Texas softball opens its season, at LSU. And Augie Garrido celebrates his 75th birthday.

TOMORROW: The Sochi Olympics opening ceremonies.

Feb. 6 has a sports history. On this date, Aaron Rodgers earned MVP honors in the Packers’ 31-25 win over the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium (2011); the Patriots beat the Eagles 24-21 in Super Bowl XXXIX (2005); the Twins traded Chuck Knoblauch to the Yankees (1998); Darryl Strawberry was suspended from baseball for 60 days (1995); we lost Arthur Ashe, who died of AIDs at the age of 49 (1993); a future logo was born when Michael Jordan made his signature free throw line-launched slam dunk, the inspiration for his Air Jordan logo (1988); Alan Shepard hit a golf ball on the moon (1971); the NBA expanded to 18 teams with new franchises in Buffalo, Cleveland, Houston and Portland (1970); Ted Williams signed with the Red Sox, becoming the highest-paid baseball player at $135,000 (1958); and George Herman Ruth — you know him better as Babe — was born (1895).

Last year on Feb. 6, Texas signed the 17th-rated class in the country on National Signing Day, Baylor’s Brittney Griner scored 26 points to move into 10th place on the women’s college basketball all-time scoring list, the Texas women lost to Iowa State at home by 19 points, and the New York Giants released running back Ahmad Bradshaw.

Today’s sports birthdays: Augie Garrido (75). Other notables: Natalie Cole (64), Tom Brokaw (74).

TODAY’S TRIVIA: Former MLB All-Star Chuck Knoblauch is a Texan. For which high school and college did he star for? (Answer is below.)

TODAY’S LEAD: NATIONAL SIGNING DAY. Texas signed a 23-player class on Wednesday, helped by two signing-day announcements that broke the Longhorns’ way — defensive tackles Poona Ford and Chris Nelson.

Alabama had the nation’s top-rated class, followed by LSU, Ohio State, Florida State and Texas A&M.

What’s it all mean? Perhaps little. You find the players you want and need, sign as many of them as you can, coach them up and develop them, and cross your fingers that it all works out.

Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News put it all in perspective. Going back to Rivals’ class rankings of the 2000s, he researched, the Longhorns’ class rankings that produced the players that made up the 2005 national championship team were 1st, 15th, 18th and 20th. The ratings for the classes that made up the 2010 team that went 5-7, however, were 5th, 14th, 5th and 3rd.

This won’t go down as the best Texas class in recent memory. But there are some bright spots. Denton Guyer quarterback Jerrod Heard could use a redshirt season, but has won back-to-back Class 4A state championships at the high school level and is a playmaker. San Antonio Brennan defensive end Derick Roberson is such an effective pass rusher because of his quickness off the edge. That could translate well at the college level. Ford, a four-star from South Carolina, might play early. And surely there’s a good receiver or two out of the five he signed.

Abilene Cooper’s Lorenzo Joe — one of those five receivers — tweeted: “Can’t wait to get down to Austin and ball with my boys!!”
We know who Texas got — here’s our biographical capsules ($) on the incoming Longhorns — but who didn’t they get?

“You can’t worry about the ones you didn’t get,” coach Charlie Strong said in his NSD press conference. ‘You need to worry about the ones you have.”

Fair enough. But in this space, we can worry.

Texas lost eight commitments in January and February, after Strong was hired. Two of them are 2015 recruits. Of the six 2014s who left, here’s where those players ended up signing:

DT Zaycoven Henderson: Texas A&M.

DT Courtney Garnett: Oklahoma.

DT Trey Lealaimatafao: LSU.

OLB Otaro Alaka: Texas A&M.

WR Emanuel Porter: TCU.

DE Sione Teuhema: LSU

For those scoring at home, that’s two new Aggies, two new Tigers, one new Sooner, one new Horned Frog.

Strong’s first NSD press conference lasted about 30 minutes — or easily half as long as a Mack Brown NSD presser would’ve been. And that includes 2013, when Mack signed only 13 recruits.

The highlights from Strong’s presser:

On his recruiting philosophy: Character, size and speed count the most.

On what it all means: “Even though you go recruit, you still have to develop.”

On recruiting the state: “We’re still the University of Texas. We will always be the flagship university of this state. … We’re the University of Texas, and this is the state of Texas. So when we walk in, the door will be open for us.”

On DE Derick Roberson: “He can pressure the quarterback for you.”

On WR Garrett Gray: Reminds Strong of Riley Cooper, whom Strong recruited back at Florida.

On RB D’Onta Foreman: Not so fast. Strong says Texas is considering Foreman an athlete, not a running back.

On DT Poona Ford: “And the thing about Poona as a DT, (he’s a) big guy with some size there. You’re always looking for size.”

On S John Bonney: “I think with Bonney, we had to recruit his dad more than him.”

On QB Jerrod Heard: “Not only can he beat you with his feet, but he can throw the football. … Just a quality person.”

On signing another quarterback: “We’d like to get another one.” Texas has only three scholarship quarterbacks now — David Ash, Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard.

On his 2015 recruiting To-Do’s: (1) Go get the top 10 players, (2) get 10 players who fit Texas’ needs, (3) save five spots for late bloomers.

On who might play early: “I always tell guys that if a freshman comes in and plays ahead of you, it’s your fault. … If a freshman gets you beat, then you did a poor job coaching that cat.”

(Last year, out of a 13-player class, only three ended up playing as freshmen.)

Here’s our story on the Texas class ($), as well as Kirk Bohls’ column ($) on Strong, who generated some social media buzz with his comments about Texas A&M. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram was under-impressed with the class. The San Antonio Express-News wrote on Strong’s handling of his first class and thoughts on the ones that got away.

We asked our UT reporting crew — columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden, beat writer Brian Davis and recruiting writer Dave Behr — for their Wednesday NSD takeaways.

Bohls’ takeaway: “Charlie Strong said he loves recruiting, and I guess we’ll find out. He lost six recruits who decommitted and replaced them with six, all in the span of his three weeks on the job. He said he didn’t think “my hands were tied” by the fact that Texas said it would honor all of the commitments of players while Mack Brown was still the coach. He struck me as a guy who makes no excuses and looks for none.”

Golden’s takeaway: “This wasn’t the greatest recruiting class in Texas history, but Strong thinks he did enough, given the challenges of a three-week recruiting sprint after Mack Brown left. He has already said you can’t lose with players you didn’t get, and that’s a great way to look at things. No nonsense. No excuses.”

Behr’s takeaway: “Strong made it clear: He covets big, strong linemen over everything. He said he wants ‘six to eight linemen in every class.’ He spoke of having four big linemen on either side of the ball, and ‘you want to build around (those) big guys.’ Strong inherited a class with only one offensive lineman and no defensive tackles after three decommitted. Strong will get credit for six 2014 signees, five of them who’ll play on the line. He immediately saw the lack of bodies on the lines in this class and said it was ‘critical for us to get some more linemen.’ Strong also said he wants 15 or 16 offensive linemen on the roster at all times. With the three in this class, the Horns will have 15 when fall camp opens up.”

So now what?

Strong said it best: “Now that signing day is over, we have to learn our football team now.”

Next up: Spring football, March 18. The learning process starts now.

AROUND THE BIG 12: Lots of NSD coverage. Over at Baylor, Art Briles signed an excellent class even if it’s not loaded with a bunch of five- and four-stars, because those star ratings aren’t as important as what the player will give you on the field, wrote Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News. TCU’s class was all about offense, offense, offense, wrote the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which also produced an interesting read on which schools recruit the Metroplex the best; the paper surveyed DFW-area high school coaches and found that Texas A&M recruiting coordinator David Beaty is the most effective recruiter of that area and that Texas is the best school to deal with. In Waco, there wasn’t any drama, or signing-day announcements, or defections. Just a strong class signed by Baylor, wrote the Waco Tribune-Herald. Here’s who the Bears signed. Irony alert: Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury — an offense kind of guy — signed a class loaded up with … linemen and defensive backs? Here’s the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s coverage. Texas was expected to sign the Big 12’s top-rated class, but it ended up being Oklahoma. How’d the Sooners do it? Wednesday’s landing of Georgia offensive lineman Orlando Brown had quite a bit to do with it, wrote the Daily Oklahoman. There also was some non-recruiting football news coming out of Norman — Blake Bell will remain with the Sooners, but move from quarterback to tight end, and Bob Stoops confirmed that former Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield will transfer to Oklahoma and join the team as a walk-on. Perhaps the best read of the day? An Oklahoman feature on an Oklahoma State signee’s special relationship with his grandfather. And perhaps lost amid all the NSD coverage was the Oklahoma men’s overtime loss at West Virginia. And the Tulsa World’s John E. Hoover was granted full-day access of Oklahoma signee Steven Parker, and wrote an insider’s account on what national signing day is like for the actual student-athlete.

AROUND THE FORTY ACRES: What’s going on around UT athletics?

Football: Texas signed 23 players Wednesday. Spring practice begins March 18. The Orange-White Game is April 19.

Women’s basketball: Texas beat Texas Tech at home Wednesday night, 88-51. Here’s our game story. The Longhorns improved to 15-7 overall and 6-4 in the Big 12, including a 5-0 conference mark at home. Next up: Iowa State (2 p.m. Sunday, Fox Sports 1, 1300).

Baseball: No. 18 Texas opens its season Feb. 14.

Softball: No. 10 Texas opens its season today, at LSU. The home opener is Feb. 12. Suzanne Halliburton previewed the Longhorns’ season ($), which has an obvious storyline — who will end up being UT’s pitcher? The school that produced Cat Osterman and Blair Luna has essentially gone back to the pitching drawing board.

Men’s track: Texas signed 10 players Wednesday — Oregon sprinter/hurdler Max Dordevic, distance runners Logan Emery (The Woodlands), Zach Hamstra (Flower Mound), Connor Hendrickson (Southlake Carroll), Jake McConnell (Keller), Jacob Pickle (Southlake Carroll), Chris Pietraszkiewicz (Texas Military Institute) and Wesley Ward (Flower Mound), Klein Oak pole vaulter Barrett Poth, and Argyle multi-eventer Reese Thompson.

Women’s track: Texas signed 11 players Wednesday — throwers Lauryn Caldwell (Dickinson) and N’Dia Warren-Jacques (Conroe Oak Ridge), distance runners Jessica Ellis (Westlake), Alyssa Moody (Round Rock) and Samantha Young (Southlake Carroll), sprinters/hurdlers Ariel Jones (Houston Atascotita) and Caitlin Smith (Pelham, Alabama), pole vaulters Kally Long (Wimberley), Shay Petty (St. Mary’s Hall) and Calie Spencer (New Braunfels Canyon), and multi-eventer Alex Harmon-Thomas (Kansas).

Women’s soccer: Texas signed seven players Wednesday — Plano West defender Jalynn Barron, Houston Memorial forward Olivia Brook, California forward Mikayla Flores, Colorado midfielder Erin Geiger, Plano West midfielder Morgan Murphy, Houston Cypress Christian midfielder Chelbi Orrick and Vandegrift midfielder Quinn Zulkowski.

Men’s golf: Senior Toni Hakula was named to the 2014 Ben Hogan Award watch list, one of 30 golfers. Those 30 will be narrowed down to 10 semifinalists on April 16, and those 10 will be narrowed down to three finalists on May 7. We find out the winner on May 18. No Longhorn has ever won, though you might recognize some of these former winners now on the PGA Tour — Rickie Fowler (2008), Bill Haas (2004), Hunter Mahan (2003), Ricky Barnes (2003) and D.J. Trahan (2002). Hakula, the 2013 British Am runner-up, has three Top 20 finishes out of his four events this season.

Women’s tennis: No. 17 Texas (3-1) open the 16-team ITA National Team Indoor Championship on Friday against No. 5 UCLA. The winner meets either Alabama or No. 5 USC in Saturday’s quarterfinals.

ON FEB. 6 …

1998: Washington National Airport was renamed Ronald Reagan National Airport.

1998: We lost two musicians — founding Beach Boy Carl Wilson and Falco, of “Der Kommissar” fame.

1959: Texas Intruments’ Jack Kilby filed the first patent for an integrated circuit, also known as the microchip. An industry was born.

TODAY’S TRIVIA ANSWER: Chuck Knoblauch attended Houston’s Bellaire High School and starred at Texas A&M before becoming the Minnesota Twins’ first-round pick of the 1989 draft.

TODAY’S LITTLE NUMBER: 4. Consecutive years that a UT golfer has been on the Ben Hogan Award watch list.

TODAY’S BIGGER NUMBER: 6. Out-of-state recruits signed by Texas, the most since 1995.

TODAY’S BIG NUMBER: 30-3. First-half scoring run by the Texas women against Texas Tech.

OK, Breakfast is over. Thanks for stopping by.

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