Longhorns choose wisely

AUSTIN, Texas -- Rankings do matter.

They matter in college football. They might even matter more before college football begins for many athletes. That's because where recruits are ranked, at least when it comes to the ESPN 150, is often, an accurate barometer of how highly the team will be ranked with those recruits.

Sure there are busts. But the hits far surpass the misses.

Let's take a look at Texas.

The Longhorns have 10 former ESPN 150 members as projected defensive starters in 2012. The only player who is not is Kenny Vaccaro at safety. It could be successfully argued Vaccaro is the most important piece of the defense. So, yeah, ESPN might have missed on seeing that he was going to develop into a Thorpe candidate. Even Nostradamus would have problems projecting how good high school kids will play.

But maybe all can be forgiven since nine of the 11 backups on defense are also former ESPN 150 members. The exceptions are Mykkele Thompson and Sheroid Evans. (Cedric Reed and Duke Thomas were also not 150 members but they could be battling for backup spots with members Torshiro Davis and Leroy Scott.)

For those counting that is 19 of the 22 players on the defensive two deep for Texas who were former ESPN 150 members. Somebody might want to let secondary coach Duane Akina know that he is bringing down the average.

Of course the defense has been far from average over the past couple of seasons.

While featuring many of the aforementioned players, plus two other ESPN 150 members Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho, Texas finished the season ranked No. 11 in overall defense. It's stats like that which lend a healthy dose of credibility to the ESPN rankings.

However, the offense has been another matter.

Only four of the project starting 11 on the 2012 offense are former ESPN 150 members. If Texas goes with a single back set and puts in Barrett Matthews that number could be pushed to five.

Since 2008, Texas has signed 15 offensive players from the ESPN 150 list. While only 33 percent, or five of those recruits, have become starters -- David Snow is the only one to have exhausted his eligibility and he was a starter -- another six are in backup roles and expected to contribute.

The offensive misses are tilted toward the wide receiver position. Chris Jones, Dan Buckner, Darius White and DeSean Hales were all signed as wide receivers. Only Hales is still around and he had two catches last year. That has left Mike Davis as the lone productive receiver who was a 150 member out of high school.

Texas has been slightly more successful signing linemen from the ESPN 150. Snow anchored the line last year. Mason Walters, the 17th rated player overall in 2009, and Trey Hopkins, 141 out of 150, will anchor the line in 2012. Paden Kelly, Thomas Ashcraft and Sedrick Flowers, all ESPN 150 members, will be backups with Flowers (93 out of 150) showing the most promise.

Then there is running back Malcolm Brown (7 out of 150) who will be in a very real battle with Joe Bergeron for carries at the start of the year.

The incoming class of 2012 has six additional top 150 offensive players with running back Johnathan Gray as well as receivers Daje Johnson and Cayleb Jones expected to make an impact.

In all, Texas has signed 51 ESPN 150 players in the past five recruiting classes. A dozen of those are from the 2012 class so it is difficult to project just what their future will hold. But of the remaining 39 all but 10 either currently are starters, have been starters or are currently players expected to make a contribution to the 2012 team.

That's a success rate of 74 percent with 64 percent of the starters being comprised of ESPN 150 players. That first percentage means that nine players from the 2012 class will become starters or significant contributors.

As for 2013? It might be wise to pay attention to the recently released ESPN 150 because it is evident the rankings do matter when it comes to success on the field and, well, the rankings.