Article Cuts to Heart of Early Signing

One of my favorite features is the "Scouting the (Team X)" section, where "Opposing coaches size up (Team X)." The feature is exactly what it sounds like. An opposing coach takes the time to size up Texas, or whichever program they are focusing on.

p>It's great in that the opposing coaches are covered with a shroud of anonymity, and therefore don't pull any punches. The coaches therefore give a more realistic look at a program, its strengths and weaknesses.

In this year's Athlon Big 12 Preview, the unnamed coach talks about Garrett Gilbert, the team's lack of physicality on the offensive line a year ago, the lack of cohesiveness on offense and how Texas is filled up with high-character guys who might not be used to overcoming adversity.

But in my mind, the most interesting lines came early on, when discussing potential reasons for the Longhorn slide:

"…They get a ton of early commitments, so we are talking about the best 16-year-olds in the country. But you are playing with 19-year-old kids. Sometimes the best 16-year-old kids don't turn into the best 19- and 20-year-old kids. They get all of their commitments before the end of their junior years; maybe they aren't getting the best players. I think there is something to be said about that."

And boom goes the dynamite. As you know, we're no stranger here to the risks of early commitments. And Mack Brown acknowledged those risks multiple times last season, talking about how he wished the recruiting process slowed down for the Longhorns so that Texas would get a chance to evaluate players based on camps and senior tape.

But if anything, the Longhorns' Junior Day early-offering extravaganza, which really started in 2006, helped to start a train for which there is no brake. Once again, the Longhorns were mostly finished with recruiting by the end of spring, landing 16 of their 17 commitments before the end of April. And once again, it's easy to look back and say 'what if.'

In 2006, Texas picked up commitments from wide receivers Montre Webber and Phillip Payne before the end of March. That meant that Texas was full up on wide receivers when a talent named Michael Crabtree emerged through his senior year.

In 2008, Texas took Dan Buckner, Brock Fitzhenry and Antoine Hicks at wide receiver in February. Desean Hales entered the class in early June. That meant the Longhorns had given away four scholarships to wide receivers before their senior years of high school, and meant that Texas didn't have a spot for Kendall Wright, a late bloomer who earned offers from Texas A&M and Oklahoma after a stellar senior year. That same year, Texas was full enough to only offer Robert Griffin III as an athlete, though he had a strong enough senior season to merit offers from schools like Tennessee.

And it's not always as simple as pointing to a miss. In some cases, it's just a case of missing on a better player. Look at 2007, when Texas pulled in Malcolm Williams early. At the same time, a wide receiver was emerging at Cedar Hill who hadn't even started his junior season. He helped Cedar Hill to an undefeated record, showed the talent to be a playmaker and went on to become one of the top receivers in Big 12 history: Dezmon Briscoe.

That could be the case with a few players in the 2012 class. In general, I think they've recruited awfully well. There aren't really a whole lot of reaches there, and I especially love the way they're taking on rangy athletes like Peter Jinkens and Caleb Bluiett defensively. And the Longhorns have done a better job since that ill-fated 2006 class, with Texas seemingly hitting on more early evaluations each year after.

But as long as the Longhorns continue to fill up before players even hit spring ball of their senior seasons, it's a certainty that some of those players will continue to get passed up by late-bloomers.

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