<
>

Recruiting Take Two: Should Texas panic?

We've got a special edition of Take Two for today: ESPN RecruitingNation's Gerry Hamilton is making a cameo and wants to dig into one of the biggest questions facing a Big 12 recruiting class so far: What's up with Texas?

The Longhorns have six pledges (two in the ESPN 300) for a 2016 class that doesn't rank among ESPN's Top 25. Should Texas fans start to panic about the slow start of their recruiting in 2016? Here's our take.

Gerry Hamilton: It's time to panic for Texas

The Texas Longhorns have quarterback issues. Everyone knows it, most importantly the top prospects Charlie Strong and staff have offered.

The questions at quarterback, offensive woes due to a lack of skill talent around below average quarterback play and very aggressive recruiting competition have put a sizeable dent in the efforts of Strong and staff to right the ship in Austin.

With more than a dozen members of the ESPN 300 having committed to schools other than Texas after years of the Longhorns mopping up early in the Lone Star state, the question is this: Is it time for panic to set in among the fan base?

The answer headed into the season is a strong maybe. The last time top prospects in the 2016, 2017 and 2018 classes watched the Longhorns play, it was a dismal offensive performance and blowout loss to Arkansas. That meant the SEC programs that are adding recruiting resources to the state of Texas now have added ammo when recruiting the best of the best.

The recruiting losses in 2016 have quickly mounted in the last two months, with the understanding a verbal commitment these days is worth pennies on the dollar. Now the Longhorns' 2016 efforts will almost assuredly be tied to the product on the field and showing top targets that Texas is about to turn the corner and ascend under Strong's leadership and process.

Recruiting is all about creating momentum and hype. Right now, the Longhorns don't have either and are fighting a number of other universities that are considered the “cool school” by prospects, which includes rival Texas A&M, and SEC powers Alabama and LSU. To make the situation tougher, Baylor and now TCU have much more to sell on the trail after the 2014 season and the momentum building going into the 2015 season.

The bottom line is there is certainly reason for concern, and if a sense of panic is setting in among the fan base, it's understandable considering how many prospects are committing before July, and how few top targets are saying yes to Texas.

For the fans that have concern, but not yet panic, that time to panic could arrive if Texas can only muster six or seven wins in 2015 and Strong is not able to enjoy the success rate of flipping targets as he did in December and January in the Class of 2015. Texas not only needs to flip a key prospect or three from a list that includes No. 48 Jordan Elliott and No. 203 Erick Fowler, but also close on four to six of the 12 uncommitted ESPN 300 prospects still seriously considering the Longhorns.

Max Olson: Calm down, it's only June

In the recruiting world, it's way too easy for fans and reporters to jump to the conclusion that no news equals bad news. We're constantly fixating on the idea of momentum -- who has it, who doesn't and what it'll take to get more.

In January and February, few coaches enjoyed as impressive a hot streak as Strong. Between mid-December and signing day, he and his assistant secured 14 of Texas' 28 signees. They put together an incredible haul, one that made a lot of people assume the Longhorns would keep rolling right into the 2016 class with a fervor.

So with that in mind, I can understand why some followers are getting a little antsy four months later. At a time when seemingly all of its recruiting rivals are thriving, the Longhorns only have six pledges. Of course, they went into last July with 10 verbal commitments. Six of them ended up signing. So in that sense, are we sure Texas is currently in much worse shape than a year ago?

Texas does have its quarterback firmly committed, and I think you can certainly argue he's the best signal caller in the state. Texas has two QBs, really, when you remember ESPN 300 commit Shane Buechele and grayshirt Matthew Merrick both enroll in January. That's an important positive.

But the biggest reason why Texas fans shouldn't freak out is this: Strong knew this was coming. He told Texas' most high-profile junior day visitors to take their time and their trips. I think he's confident a low-pressure approach pays off in the long run. The Horns still have to follow up on that tactic by getting top targets on campus as often as possible, but I doubt Strong is fretting about where Texas stands.

They need to win more games this fall. Winning solves a lot of what ails Texas on the trail. But even if this is another building year, it's hard to overlook Strong's knack for flipping commitments (eight last year), and committed studs like Kendell Jones, Rahssan Thornton and Dee Anderson will be in his crosshairs until signing day.

You're right about the Longhorns still being in the mix for a lot of ESPN 300 talent, but we're overlooking the fact they'll find more. We didn't know they'd eventually lock up five from Florida at this time last year. There are finds and flips and surprises on the way that we just can't foresee.

I'm not saying Texas will end up with another top-10 class in 2016, but it's just way too early to definitively say they can't.