Longhorns ready to rebuild defense with fresh recruit

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SAN ANTONIO — Moments after Quincy Russell signed his letter of intent to play at the University of Texas next season, the Sam Houston High School cheerleaders — all eight of them, along with the Hurricane mascot — began a chant of “Way to go Quincy, way to go!” as his mother, Clarice Russell, fought back tears during what she called “one of the proudest moments of [her] life.”

“I’m so happy that he’ll be taken care of up there and that he’s going to UT, somewhere close so I can get to him,” she said. “It was a long road, but we’re here now so all he has to do is go up and show up.”

Quincy, a 6-foot-3, 289-pound defensive tackle known for his speed, is the first player head coach Gary Green has sent to a major Football Bowl Subdivision program since taking over at his alma mater of Sam Houston High School, a 3A school in east San Antonio.

“I couldn’t be more proud,” Green said. “I told Quincy last year, ‘You’re going to be the first.’ I knew he was going to be great.”

The Yahoo! Sports-affiliated recruiting site Rivals.com ranks Russell as the No. 11 defensive tackle nationwide.

In front of his extended family, Russell signed his letter and faxed it to the Texas athletics department Wednesday morning in a ritual repeated all over the country on national signing day — the first opportunity for current high school seniors to make official where they will play collegiate football.

“I didn’t know my signature meant so much on a piece of paper,” Russell said.

An hour later and 22 miles further north on Interstate Highway 35, running back Malcolm Brown signed his letter of intent as part of a different affair. In the auditorium of Steele High School in Cibolo, a small northeastern suburb of San Antonio, Brown and five of his classmates pledged themselves to play next season for Division I programs.

Steele won the 5A Division II state championship in December and three of its athletes will compete in the Big 12 come fall — Brown at UT, Marquis Anderson at The University of Oklahoma and Ryan Simmons at Oklahoma State University.

“You’re not going to find a better teammate,” said Mike Jinks, Brown’s head coach at Steele. “Texas is getting a pretty special young man.”

About 250 students, coaches and family members packed the auditorium on the frigid Wednesday morning, and another 20 or so members of the media. According to Rivals.com, he is the best running back recruit in the nation and is a consensus top-10 pick across the other two major recruiting services.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Tommy Brown, Malcolm’s father. “I’m just happy with him and his decision.”

Brown was recruited by Duane Akina, former UT defensive backs coach, who left the team this offseason to serve in the same capacity at The University of Arizona. However, the running back never wavered from his commitment — part of the reason he signed early Wednesday morning, instead of waiting like some other recruits.

“I’m ready to just get there and do my part,” Brown said. “Sometimes change is good.”

No matter the fanfare, Wednesday represented the single most important football-related event for hundreds of high school students across the state.

All 22 recruits with verbal commitments to UT signed their letters Wednesday, including four-star defensive back Quandre Diggs and four-star receiver Jaxon Shipley. Others who showed interest in Texas dragged the process along before deciding to play elsewhere, such as defensive end Jermauria Rasco of Shreveport, La., who will be at LSU in August. Overall, of the 30 offers extended by Texas, head coach Mack Brown finished with a little more than 73 percent of his targeted prospects despite some major staff changes since the end of last season.

“I thought they trusted me and our staff to hire the right guys,” Brown said. “Most of those guys didn’t even waver, and I’m really, really proud of that fact.”

Now, with all the excitement of signing day behind them and a full staff ready to begin spring practice, the Longhorns must focus on rebuilding with the pieces they have in place and not what could have been.