Charlie Strong’s first National Signing Day at Texas is in the books. The haul was impressive – 23 student athletes have confirmed their intentions to play football at the University of Texas. Texas landed six four-star athletes. Strong and his staff has to be pleased with the results. Longhorn Nation has to be pleased.
The job Strong and his coaches did is remarkable considering they were all hired last month. Attrition among recruits is expected when a new coaching staff comes in. Players recruited by the previous regime have no allegiance to the new staff.
It takes tenacious recruiting and determined leadership to convince a recruit to keep his pledge to the school. The Texas coaches made a good enough impression on most of Mack Browns’ recruits to fill some very important positions. Strong needed to plug holes, and he was able to do that with this class.
The most pressing need is along the defensive line. Things got off to a bumpy start when several D-lineman flipped their commitments to other schools. Texas managed to keep DE Derick Roberson and Jake McMillon in fold. Defensive tackle Poona Ford selected Texas over Missouri and Purdue during a live presentation on ESPNU. This followed a surprise announcement from DT Chris Nelson that he was coming to Austin. Strong was able to salvage a shaky defensive line class.
Strong filled holes at linebacker and the offensive line. Inside LB Andrew Beck is an early enrollee. Beck is the No. 23 linebacker in the nation according to Rivals. Outside LB Cameron Hampton helps shore up a linebacking group hit hard by injuries last season.
Looking at the rest of the players signed, one begins to see the type of athletes Strong wants to bring into the program.
The wide receiver position stands out because of its size. Four receivers are six feet or taller – Garrett Gray (6’5”), Dorian Leonard (6’4”), Lorenzo Joe (6’2”) and Armanti Foreman (6’0”). TE Blake Whitely is imposing at 6’5” and 240 pounds. Strong likes big targets for his quarterbacks. Look at Louisville’s roster – it is littered with tall receivers.
Secondary help was imperative following the graduation of Carrington Byndom and Adrian Phillips. Safety Edwin Freeman looks to be the gem of the secondary recruits. Freeman played linebacker in high school, but will slide into the secondary at Texas. In addition to Freeman, John Bonney, Jermaine Roberts and Jason Hall give Texas flexibility in the secondary. Strong has always had versatile, athletic DBs, going back to his days as the defensive coordinator at Florida.
Quarterback Jerrod Heard is a different type of signal caller than whom Strong had at Louisville. Teddy Bridgewater was a pocket passer, whereas Heard is a dual-threat option. It will be interesting to see how Strong uses Heard.
The 2014 class will be difficult to grade because most of the players were not recruited by Strong. They will have to adjust to his style and tempo. It is still a Top-20 class, however. The wheels could have completely fallen off, but they did not. If this class shows us one thing, it is that Charlie Strong can recruit.