TRANSITIONing from 2017 to 2018: Oh yes, things will be different

D'Shawn Jamison (Joe Cook/IT)

D’Shawn Jamison (Joe Cook/IT)

If┬ádrinking to alignment didn’t have you drunk, at least smoking to transition class had you high. And while we don’t condone the use of drugs and alcohol here on this family medium, I don’t blame you for doing what you needed in order to get through those last two months.

Like everyone else, I’m in a giant hurry to get 2017 scrubbed from the mainframe and am doing my best to do so immediately. I’m unfollowing as many 2017 players as I can find, knowing full well as man devolves on a yearly basis, so too does my Twitter timeline. I’m really excited to see what dance crazes this next cycle has to offer, you guys.

But, we can’t let go of 2017 until we analyze what went wrong, and for our own mental health, understand why things will be better.

Tom Herman personally did some of the legwork on how taking a new job on a short-cycle affects the quality of the first class. The Transitional Herman Class, or THC for short, was doomed from the start, even if most people, and notably myself, didn’t realize it in late November.

2017 HEADWINDS

Sailing into the wind is obviously possible, but it’s a pain in the ass, takes much longer to go from point A to B, and requires the understanding of physics and geometry. That’s not the swashbucklin, beer swillin’ crootin’ we know and love.

What fans saw as a boat capsizing in shark infested waters, Tom Herman saw as deliberate uphill tacking. As he stated in no uncertain terms, his goal wasn’t to win the race but rather to finish.

Herman knew early on he’d have headwinds, but I still believe they were greater than he imagined. Let’s take a look from the crow’s nest.

1. Timing: Herman was hired immediately after the season ended, a season that for Texas even ended a week early. This was a plus for sure, at least giving him a chance to chart his course. But unfortunate timing out of his control manifested in the abundance of elite, early enrollee prospects. Knowing what we know now, Herman was very unlikely to land any of those players, and that’s in large part a bitter cocktail of the following reasons.

2. Relationships: Herman mentioned the lack of relationships and their importance in his press conference on Wednesday. Here ashore Helmet Boy has done a great job of beating that same drum. A strong relationship makes it much more difficult for a prospect to pick up the phone and tell you ‘no’. A strong relationship gets a kid to campus to visit more. It creates trust and familiarity. It becomes familial. That’s a perfect segue to #3.

3. CSSF: The Charlie Strong Sympathy Factor was very real. Before you scoff at that notion, how many posters here are hesitant to give Herman a chance because he’s replacing a man they revered? Now imagine if you actually knew Strong well like many top prospects. And while those kids probably still weren’t going to Texas (because of #4), they really weren’t going to play for a man they had no pre-existing relationship with.

4. State of UT football: Texas hasn’t been good at football beyond a 60 minute stretch here and a 60 minute stretch there in quite some time. Kids need to see Texas win, or at least a reason for them to believe they will. Without the time to earn the trust, or build the relationships with prospects and their families, Herman was as dead in the water as the program – at least perceptually – he’s charged to sell.

5. State of Texas football: The whole state is a pile of boring, middling programs. Tom Herman’s UofH team was very likely the best team in the state last year, at least when it was healthy. TCU fell off. Baylor fell off but not as far as it deserved. A&M is becalmed and it’s hard to envision Kevin Sumlin returning it to its JFF glory. I forgot about Tech, which means I could be your average recruit. Without the state’s programs inadvertently pulling to keep resources in-state, big-time programs are fishing with dynamite. The whole state needs to get back to the decisions of big-time recruitments coming down to in-state schools. We’re a long ways from that.

2018 TAILWINDS

“A good sailor always has the wind at his back.” – John Candy (RIP)

Now Herman finds himself on a full-cycle: Junior Days, Spring practices, the Spring Game, two high profile track events at Mike A. Myers Stadium, Summer camps, a Summer feature event, Fall practices, unofficial visits for games, official visits, campus visits, and in-homes all await.

He’ll also have a full staff of energetic recruiters doing his bidding on the road, and a creative team working behind the scenes to generate shiny sales pitches designed to illustrate to 16-18 year olds just how #lit Austin really is.

1. Timing: Texas has already offered nearly 60 players in the class of 2018. They’re getting an early-ish start on prized recruits both in and out of state. While they’re making note of who is actually interested and who isn’t, they’re evaluating further options, and then options after that. They’ll have a crystal clear ‘big board’ soon, if they don’t already.

2. Relationships: Herman has a full year to develop relationships, but right now is the time you have to put the footers in to build around. These high priority prospects are hearing from upwards of 20 schools all selling the same thing. They’ll stay in touch with the coaches and programs who foster the best relationships. These next couple months are crucial for paying dividends next February.

3. CSSF: Strong’s preference to slow-play the next cycle makes the Sympathy Factor a non-issue. He didn’t have many relationships built with the class of 2018.

4. State of UT football: As he mentioned in his press conference, Herman had 80% of his class of 2016 committed before he ever coached one game at Houston. He also mentioned “selling a vision.” This is something we’ve talked about in the past, notably Groundhog Day. It’s true, this is where that ‘new car smell’ surrounds a program and you get prospects buying. For some prospects who are more skeptical Herman’s going to have to show them on the field. That’s up to him, his coaches, and the team, but for now he’ll be selling a vision and the numerous positives the school has to offer.

5. State of Texas football: From a recruiting standpoint, Texas being good at football helps the entire state and conference. Similarly, if A&M is winning, more high quality prospects consider staying home. Optimism is high with most that Herman will return Texas to its winning ways, but that’s an unknown. Sumlin needs one of those old people foam toilet seats to sit on because his ass is burning, and he lost a lot of talent on top of it. TCU made some changes on offense that should work but they have issues at quarterback. Matt Rhule appears to have a plan in place and I wouldn’t discount him down the road, even if I thought he was an odd hire in real time. Kingsbury should petition the NCAA to have the sport played with 11 quarterbacks a side. Until that passes he’s in trouble.

As you can see, at least from my vantage, recruiting over the next 12 months will look entirely different than it did the last two.

Now let’s sit back, relax, and enjoy some Tom Herman Crootin, or THC for short.