The year was 1998, and a new coach had arrived on campus to pull the Texas football program out of the depths of a 4-7 season. Expectations were high for Mack Brown, as they always are at a program as historic as Texas’. Not only did the team need to improve on the field, but Brown also needed to rebuild the Texas brand.
Brown, affectionaly called Mr. Football, did just that. After starting the 1998 season 1-2, Brown’s Longhorns finished 9-3 — the first of his 12 consecutive seasons with at least nine wins. On top of a successful season, senior running back Ricky Williams won the Heisman trophy.
On the heels of the Texas resurgence, Brown did what he did best: recruit. Brown’s first full recruiting class, 1999, was ranked as the top class in the country. The 28-player class had future All-Americans and NFL players on the roster, including quarterback Chris Simms and defensive end Cory Redding, among others.
The 1999 class saw great success on the field, posting an impressive 40-12 win-loss record and wins in the Holiday Bowl and Cotton Bowl. The class helped Brown gain a stranglehold on future Texas recruits.
Brown went on to win three BCS games, make two national championship appearances and win one. Sixteen years after Brown was hired, Texas was in a familiar position — it needed change. Texas got that change in the form of Charlie Strong.
Strong inherited a struggling program. The image of Texas football had transformed from a hard-nosed program to one that had softened.
If Strong wants to restore the program to its former glory, having a successful first recruiting class, like Brown’s, will be integral to the reconstruction of the Texas brand.
When Strong was hired, he only had a month to salvage the 2014 class. He managed well, as he kept key recruits committed, such as incoming quarterback Jerrod Heard and defensive end Derick Roberson. Strong also added some new talent, including out-of-state defensive tackles Poona Ford and Chris Nelson. But the class was disappointing by Texas’ standards — it ranked just 17th nationally, according to 24/7 Sports.
Now Strong has his opportunity to build the program that he wants. As it stands, Texas has just nine commitments for the 2015 recruiting class. Strong and his staff are pushing hard to reclaim in-state recruits, while also attempting to steal out-of-state talent.
In order for the Longhorns to have a top recruiting class in 2015, they will have to make up a substantial amount of ground.
But don’t count out Strong. Early reports have indicated that recruits have been impressed by the changes Strong has made so far in Austin.
He may not have a DJ at practice or a helicopter to chauffeur recruits, but Strong’s proven ability to develop talent speaks for itself.
If Charlie Strong wants his name etched among the Longhorn legends, it’s imperative that Texas’ 2015 recruiting class be one of its best ever.