The Early 2018 Recruiting Equilibrium

Tom Herman. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Tom Herman. (Will Gallagher/IT)

In years past, we’ve seen classes start off with peculiar imbalances. Maybe commitments are mostly on offense or defense, or position heavy. That’s not entirely unusual, and sometimes there are good reasons for it: more offers at a position; more leverage to gain commitments; a richer tradition on that side of the ball or a position, etc. But when you start off heavy at one position or side of the ball, there could be some not-so good reasons, often centered around an imbalance with recruiters.

Yesterday while enjoying Texas recruiting Twitter, I came across this rather simple observation from the very solid Mike Craven of the AAS (Craven understands recruiting infinitely more than their previous guy): Texas recruiting class by position: QB, QB, RB, WR, OT, DE, OLB, CB/S, K. Good balance and Herman hasn’t yet tapped the Houston area…

When you account for Texas eschewing low hanging fruit — and in fact climbing well above the canopy for out-of-state players — this class start is all the more impressive. Oh, and they have yet to play a game, which is either good or bad, but for now I’ll assume the season will be a big positive for recruiting.

So, what’s to explain this balance? Everything.

Tom Herman: His vision for the program is top-down. He’s a doer, as evidenced by the immediacy he attacked lagging facilities. 2017 recruiting was a mirage, as we emphatically stated at the time. 2018 was supposed to be the year, and it will be. Herman stated in a press conference he landed 80% of his first U of H class before they ever played a game. He mentioned he gained commitments because he sold a vision. That’s exactly what he’s doing at Texas, where the vision is much more grand than anything he could honestly put forth in Houston. Without Herman’s vision, the next couple of resources would continue to be under-utilized.

Austin/The University: As mentioned in a recent Scoop, much of the OOS attraction is the city and school itself. Austin has become sort of the buffer between the West and the South. There are a few different ways to sell that, whether the kid and his family are from Orange County or more rural areas. As far as education goes, Texas should always find itself in the mix for prospects making a ‘complete’ decision between Notre Dame, Michigan, and Stanford. Texas has lost too many of these types of battles in recent years. There are a large number of players who fit this academic/athletic profile.

Life After Football: The 4ever Texas program is a weekly symposium with guest speakers who discuss life after athletics. Not only is this the right thing to do for athletes who sacrifice (and gain) so much, but nothing will win over parents and many recruits quicker than explaining the long-term value of choosing Texas. The status of athletes and business-people who have spoken to the team is quite impressive. I mean, Michael Dell? UT has done things like this in the past, but it’s now doing a much greater job of promoting them. Which brings us to…

Marketing Might: I think it’s fairly obvious Texas has weaponized the marketing department. Yesterday, a team specific shoe designed internally was promoted. To you, wearing your bright white Jerry Seinfelds, that might not impress you, but to a kid who spends 80% of his discretionary money on shoes, it’s cool. Yeah, there’s a little bit of Oregon materialism to that stuff, but it’s an attention getter so who cares? We’ve also seen tons of edits circulated across Twitter. The magnification of that, compared to a simple letter sent to an address, has a much more public and compounding effect for the program. Videos of practice, videos of past Texas greats, etc., serve as almost free social media commercials.

Coaching Staff: These sections are not in order of importance, otherwise these nine would be directly after Tom Herman. When Herman put a very similar staff together at Houston I wondered aloud if his staff was better than the one Texas had at the time. It was. As I’ve often stated you can evaluate coaches as recruiters rather easily. We knew Jeff Traylor would be a star, and it’s easy to see this staff has many future ones as well. What it doesn’t have is experience recruiting directly against the Alabamas, Ohio States, and other elites, but it’s gaining that right now and I’d say Texas is holding up quite well. Probably the only guy not known as a plus recruiter is Todd Orlando, and he’s the second best coach on the staff. He’s not a good ol’ boy like Naivar or Meekins, and he doesn’t do laid-back-cool like Jason Washington. But, for players putting a premium on scheme and how they’ll be used, Orlando shines. It’s a no-nonsense approach for what should be a no-nonsense position. While other coaches were tweeting gifs of Chihuahuas doing the Macarena in celebration of Keaontay Ingram’s commitment, I half-expected Orlando to tweet “Good. He’d make a fine rover.” All this is to say, there isn’t a weak link on the staff as far as recruiting goes, and in fact, overall, the depth of quality recruiters is very impressive.

Support Staff:
We’ve often heard that Michael Huff or one of the personnel guys is the point-man on an early recruitment. This is counter to previous years, though Patrick Suddes was pretty hands on. Mack Brown should have hired three more of him. Don’t look now, but Texas hired yet another personnel member yesterday, one who spent numerous years at Texas State. I’m guessing he’ll know Cen-Tex quite well. These guys play a vital, if under-appreciated role. The more the better.

Organization: Having a plan is no good if you can’t execute it. I’m going to get through this whole damn post without using the A-word but it is vital to pulling an elite class together, especially after the school has been down for so long. Identify your class needs, identify your preferred targets, do your homework on them, offer, pursue, gain a commitment, gain a signature. Each recruit and recruitment is different, thus requiring a different sell. Texas has a plan to sell each recruit, and because of the completeness of the school, the staff can back up what they’re telling prospects.

All this adds up to Texas having its recruiting mojo back. As far as recruiting goes, it is once again the definitive “it” school. Obviously the team still needs to win on the field.

Given the balance of the entire sell and vision of the program, it’s no wonder the class has begun with such balance too. Expect it to amble down this path; a lineman here, a wide receiver there, etc.