Strong’s first Texas class signed, sealed, delivered


HOW (AND WHEN) WAS THIS CLASS BUILT?

Texas’ class was built by two head coaches, as Mack Brown had secured a bulk of the pledges before Charlie Strong put on the finishing touches. A look at when everyone came into the fold:

January 2013 (1)

Jan. 30: WR Roderick Bernard (recruited by Oscar Giles, Darrell Wyatt, Brian Jean-Mary)

February 2013 (1)

Feb. 10: OLB Cameron Hampton (Bruce Chambers, Greg Robinson)

March 2013 (1)

March 30: C Terrell Cuney (Bo Davis, Stacy Searels, Joe Wickline)

April 2013 (2)

April 1: DE Jake McMillon (Bo Davis, Giles, Shawn Watson)

April 12: CB Jermaine Roberts (Porter, Chris Vaughn)

June 2013 (4)

June 10: WR Garrett Gray (Major Applewhite, Wyatt, Watson)

June 13: WR Dorian Leonard (Searels, Wyatt, Wickline)

June 27: WR Armanti Foreman (Larry Porter, Les Koenning); RB D’Onta Foreman (Wyatt, Porter, Tommie Robinson)

July 2013 (1)

July 27: S Jason Hall (Chambers, Duane Akina)

August 2013 (5)

Aug. 2: DE Derick Roberson (Akina, Giles, Rumph); WR Lorenzo Joe (Bo Davis, Wyatt, Koenning)

Aug. 3: RB Donald Catalon (Applewhite, Porter, Tommie Robinson)

Aug. 14: QB Jerrod Heard (Wyatt, Applewhite, Watson)

Aug. 17: ATH Kevin Shorter (Davis, Wickline)

September 2013 (1)

Sept. 5: S John Bonney (Giles, Akina, Vance Bedford)

January 2014 (4)

Jan. 8: TE Blake Whitely (Chambers)

Jan. 13: ILB Andrew Beck (Greg Robinson)

Jan. 16: OLB Edwin Freeman (Chambers, Duane Akina)

Jan. 20: OG Alex Anderson (Wickline)

February 2014 (3)

Feb. 3: OT Elijah Rodriguez (Koenning)

Feb. 5: DT Poona Ford (Brian Jean-Mary, Rumph), DT Chris Nelson (Jean-Mary, Rumph)

GET ‘EM ON THE FIELD

Texas signed 15 players last year. All but three redshirted (offensive tackle Kent Perkins, quarterback Tyrone Swoopes and receiver Jacorey Warrick), and of those three, only one made a significant impact:

Kent Perkins, left tackle: Ended up playing in a handful of games — starting one — because of injuries to other Texas tackles.

— Richard Tijerina

FIRST-YEAR SPLASHES?

Three years ago, 18 of Texas’ 22 freshmen played, which led the nation, and six made significant contributions. Two years ago, 16 of 26 freshmen played, with three making early impacts. Last year, only Perkins contributed. We polled our Longhorns coverage team for their personal top three players from this year’s class to watch this fall:

KIRK BOHLS

DT Poona Ford

DT Chris Nelson

DE Derick Roberson

CEDRIC GOLDEN

DT Poona Ford

TE Blake Whiteley

DT Chris Nelson

BRIAN DAVIS

DT Poona Ford

WR Garrett Gray

QB Jerrod Heard

DAVE BEHR

Poona Ford

Derick Roberson

Donald Catalon

Charlie Strong’s first recruiting class at what he calls the state’s “flagship university” may not catapult the Longhorns completely into the national championship conversation.

Considering the limitations facing the Texas coaching staff, Strong and his assistants simply wanted to reach the finish line.

Texas signed 23 players on Wednesday, but the group wasn’t viewed favorably by national recruiting websites.

Strong’s first class was ranked 16th nationally by 247Sports and 20th by Rivals. These are the same websites that routinely swooned over former coach Mack Brown’s classes. Still, it’s a start.

“Overall, an outstanding class,” Strong said. “What we wanted to do was just keep this class together and to let our coaches get out and develop relationships within this state. We know this: We can do a lot better, and we will do a lot better knowing we have to control this state and get our work done.”

Strong and his assistants were behind the curve from the get-go. Due to NCAA rules, none of them were able to see any recruits in person until Jan. 16, just 21 days before national signing day.

By then, many top-level recruits had already made up their minds. Some recruits had already taken their full allotment of five official visits, so the coaching staff couldn’t lure them to Austin. The coaches had to go find them, hoping to get face time in that player’s home or high school.

Denton Guyer’s Jerrod Heard, who never wavered from his commitment, will be the one that fans key in this recruiting class since the quarterback position is so wide open. Even 247Sports rated Heard as the nation’s No. 1-rated dual-threat quarterback.

Strong said he doesn’t talk to players about redshirting. If they’re ready to play, they’re going to play. Denton Guyer coach John Walsh may be the biggest Heard fan going. But even he doesn’t believe Heard can step in and start for a FBS program.

“Do I think he’s going to lead Texas to a Big 12 championship at some point? Absolutely I do,” Walsh said. “But I don’t think any kid is ready to come out and compete for that spot immediately. I don’t care if it was Jerrod or whether it was Johnny Manziel or any of them, they’re not ready.”

Reports surfaced this week that USC quarterback Max Wittek has graduated early and may consider transferring to Texas. He could play immediately and have two years of eligibility remaining. However, a USC source said it’s still early in the process and Wittek may consider multiple schools.

Outside linebacker Edwin Freeman (Arlington Bowie) was one of the first recruits Strong landed since taking over as head coach. Coincidentally, it also was Strong’s first head-to-head win over Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, who also had targeted Freeman. Sumlin, though, had just flipped four-star outside linebacker Otaro Alaka away from Texas.

On Wednesday, Texas nabbed standout defensive tackles Chris Nelson (Lakeland, Fla.) and one-time Louisville commitment Poona Ford (Hilton Head, S.C.). That helped ease the sting of losing three defensive tackle recruits immediately after former assistant coach Bo Davis was not retained.

The coaching staff got offensive lineman Elijah Rodriguez (Houston) to flip his commitment to Texas from Colorado in their closing kick. Rodriguez, Terrell Cuney (Jasper) and Alex Anderson (New Orleans) are considered solid linemen.

The Longhorns added some tall receivers, including 6-4 Garrett Gray (Marble Falls) and 6-4 Dorian Leonard (Longview). They also added a pair of athletic skill players in brothers Armanti and D’Onta Foreman (Texas City).

Strong also signed running back Kevin Shorter, who may never play a down for the Longhorns. Shorter committed to Brown last year, but suffered a season-ending spinal injury in October. Doctors have advised him to stop playing football.

“When he gets here, the doctors will reevaluate him,” Strong said. “I’m going to go off what our doctors say.”

Strong’s recruiting prowess will ultimately be judged by his 2015 recruiting class after he’s had a full year to meet people and develop deeper relationships. But for now, it’s a start.

“I don’t know if there’s a word that describes this group, but you’re always looking for character,” Strong said. “You’re always going to start off with good character. Then you look for size and speed.”