Charlie Strong: The Real Coach February

After a historic haul on National Signing Day, Charlie Strong’s credentials as a master recruiter are no longer in doubt.

Early in his career at Texas, Mack Brown acquired the nickname Coach February.  At that time, it was a nickname born of derision.  People scoffed at Brown’s ability to dominate in recruiting while underperforming on the field.

After Charlie Strong flat out owned National Signing Day 2016, I submit that Strong is the real Coach February.  In college football’s all-important second season, Strong is pure beast.

I have been as critical as anyone of the on-field product Strong’s first two years in Texas have produced and make no mistake, he still has questions to answer there.  The man can flat out recruit, however.

2015’s class was important. Securing Malik Jefferson in December 2014 was a momentum builder, but what Strong and his staff just accomplished dwarfs all of that.

Throughout 2015, Strong repeatedly pointed to this class as the last important piece.  As that season began circling the drain, it helped to look to this class and think about brighter days.

Except, they didn’t look so bright.

When the regular season ended, Texas’ recruiting class didn’t look anything at all like a program changer.  Sure, he had the best pure quarterback recruit in years and had the second half of the Brothers Johnson and Boyd locked in. There were some nice pieces, but the class was small and after a 5-7 season there seemed to be little momentum.

Worst of all, Texas was in horrible shape to fill their biggest glaring need, defensive tackle.  They had a nice developmental piece in Louisiana native Gerald Wilbon, but he wasn’t going to be enough to right the ship.

Even the experts felt that Texas’ only chance to fix the problem was going to be through the JUCO ranks as the Longhorns seemed to be hopelessly out of the race for the best high school prospects.  The Horns were also thin at linebacker and desperately needed at least one top flight safety.

There was no reason to believe that Texas would even field a top 30 recruiting class at that point, much less threaten the Top Ten.

This was all before Texas almost comically booted the hiring of a new offensive coordinator.  All the cards seemed to be stacked against Strong and his staff.

Strong believed.

Behind ace recruiter and rising star Jeff Traylor, the Horns started working.  New coached Sterlin Gilbert and Mike Mattox stepped right in. Mattox especially proved effective as well as being a breath of fresh air following Joe Wickline.

Chris Vaughn did his duty. Even Tommie Robinson helped put Texas in the lead for Katy’s Kyle Porter before leaving for USC.

Strong didn’t have any sleeovers or engage in any snowball fights.  He did do a lot of dabbing though.

Slowly the pieces began to fall into place.  Big targets started to think twice. Players who had longtime commitments to other schools began to waver.

Jean DeLance committed at the Under Armour All-American Game.  Zack Shackeford flipped from Kansas State just in time to enroll early.

Like the mounties, Strong gets his guys.  Say no? He’ll keep calling.  Commit elsewhere?  Charlie doesn’t mind.  It doesn’t count til you sign on the line.  Feel unappreciated by your Rivals ranking.  Charlie doesn’t need no stinking rankings.  He makes his own.

There’s a clock under the shiny dome of Strong’s.  That clock keeps track of every day, every hour, every minute in the current recruiting cycle.  You can bet he’s going to use every last bit of that time.  While Brown locked up his classes a year early, Strong sometimes waits until the last possible moment to jump in.

Sure his approach is a little unorthodox and yes his slow play may turn off some recruits, but Strong has a plan and he sticks to it.  He knows what he wants. His confidence in his ability to recruit is unmatched.

As new Longhorn Chris Daniels said earlier today, “If you don’t want to go to Texas, don’t let him get on your couch.”

In the last two days of the recruiting cycle, Strong landed nine commitments.  He singled handedly rebuilt a defensive tackle corps that had been decimated by poor takes, missed targets, failed potential, injuries and early departures.

He landed a Shark to go with his Predator.  He landed the top safety in the country. He flipped top flight recruits from LSU and Michigan and he dominated the big talking Aggies head-to-head.

There has been a lot of talk about signature victories since Charlie came to town.  I say that his true breakthrough win didn’t come in the Cotton Bowl in October, but rather on National Signing Day. The day he overcame a dreadful season, poor coaching hires and ugly losses to turn a class that once ranked fourth in the Big 12 and made it a Top Ten class.

Yes Strong still has questions to answer.  We’ll get to that in time.  For now, let’ just all bask in the glory that is Charlie Strong.  The real Coach February.