Charlie Strong has many important tasks now that he is the head football coach at Texas, but one of his largest will be recruiting.
Texas has always been a popular destination for high school athletes. In the past five years, the Longhorns have had four recruiting classes ranked in the top five of the nation by Rivals.com. But after a few consecutive disappointing seasons and a 2013 recruiting class that ranked just 24th, one of Strong’s biggest focuses is on regaining that recruiting prestige. “We’ll recruit with fire, and we’ll recruit with passion,” Strong said at his Jan. 6 press conference.
Strong is in a similar position as Mack Brown was when he first came to Texas in 1998. Brown, coming from North Carolina, had few ties to Texas.
But despite the lack of a Lone Star background, Strong looks to regain the Longhorns’ large recruiting presence in-state, which has started to drift in favor of Baylor and Texas A&M in recent years.
“Nationally, the Texas high school coaches are king,” Strong said. “My staff and I will be committed to closing the borders on this great state and making them realize that this is their program. We’re devoted to making Austin the state capitol for college football.”
While not a priority, Strong will also look to expand his recruiting base outside of Texas. Strong, who has 31 years of coaching experience under his belt, spent several years at Florida, which has opened up the state as a large recruiting playground for his teams.
In past years, he has had little trouble recruiting in Florida and stealing top athletes from hometown schools, such as Florida, Florida State and Miami. During his four years in Louisville, 44 percent of his recruits came from Florida, and he will look to continue that strong presence while at Texas.
Still, Strong’s main precedence is controlling his own backyard.
“I want to make sure that I control this state, and then we’ll cherry pick outside the state in Florida because of the ties that I’ve had in Florida or Georgia,” Strong said. “But I want the high school coaches to understand that when we leave this state, don’t think your player isn’t good enough to play here because I want the best players.”
Only a week into his new job, Strong’s program has already had some big news on the recruiting front. Three four-star defensive tackles decommitted from Texas last week, following the news that defensive line coach Bo Davis would be leaving UT to fill the same role at USC. Trey Lealaimatafao and Courtney Garnett made their decisions last Tuesday evening.
Then there was the Zaycoven Henderson saga. Henderson, another four-star defensive tackle, also decommitted after hearing the news about Davis. But after a conversation with Strong shortly after his decommitment, the Longview native recommitted to Texas. But, less than 24 hours after recommitting to the Longhorns, Henderson changed his mind once again and has now committed to play at Texas A&M.
Despite these recent decommits, Strong is expected to steal other top recruits — that were previously committed to Louisville and other schools — in the coming weeks. The 53-year-old has proven his ability to recognize talent and then develop it further. As he starts his journey at Texas, he should have no trouble bringing top athletes to Austin.