For better or worse, the Longhorns were often credited (or blamed) for the sped-up process of recruiting. When Texas had its first Junior Day in 2005 (for the 2006 class), the Longhorns not only offered a number of players in February of their junior years, but they hauled in a whopping 10 commitments before April, and had 15 by the end of April.
Some coaches lamented the lack of evaluation time — this was at a time period where coaches like Bill Snyder liked to evaluate players throughout their senior years before extending offers — and looking back now, it's easy to make that case. Out of those 10 early commitments — and remember, Texas was getting first-choice with these guys — none were All-Big 12 caliber players. And none were drafted out of the Longhorn program.
But as the Longhorns became better at making those early evaluations, other teams began to lament how quickly Texas sewed up the top players in the state. Aaron Williams, David Snow, Kheeston Randall and Emmanuel Acho were all committed in February of 2007, just two years later. And while 2009 was filled with early misses, it did produce Kenny Vaccaro, with Alex Okafor and Mason Walters adding their names in March.
Predictably, others began to move their recruiting cycles up. After all, it didn't make sense that others should simply yield the top players in the state to the Longhorns because they waited to establish relationships and to offer.
All of which leads us to today, when the Longhorns, once THE proactive recruiting school, are at the back-end of the offering process. And with the SEC starting to mine the state more — Alabama has already extended an offer to 2014 Beaumont Ozen DB Tony Brown — and regional recruiting rivals Oklahoma and Texas A&M offering earlier and earlier, the question emerges: are the Longhorns waiting too long?
For his part, Texas coach Mack Brown says that the Longhorns are further ahead on next year's class than they've ever been. But is that far enough? When an in-state cornerback has offers from Oklahoma and LSU before he plays a down his junior year, is he going to have the patience to wait for Texas to enter the picture with an offer? And even if he doesn't end his recruitment early, will he feel as strongly about the Texas offer, or will he feel neglected that he didn't get one sooner?
All of this is a question for people much smarter than me. And in related news, here are Mack Brown's thoughts:
"We constantly look at our methods of offering," Brown said. "We're the ones that started offering early in the summer of their senior year, and now we're two years late. Like you all, we all reassess everything we do daily. It's something that you just have to continue to look at and continue to do."
Brown continued by stating "sometimes things seem very simple," with the obvious unstated point being that they aren't as simple as they appear.
"It's bigger than, 'Hey, we should be doing that', because there's a lot more involved," Brown said. "I like where we are. I like what we're doing. I like how we're doing it. I'm real excited about our coaches. They're excited about recruiting.
"We're probably doing a much better job of everybody having discussion about every player in a staff room and we keep a priority list of what we want," Brown said. "There's some guys that you need more than others. There's some that you want more than others, and they're priority."
Could those "priority" players start to get their verbal offers more quickly than the now-traditional, once-groundbreaking Junior Days? The answer, at least at this point is unclear. Given Brown's previous comments — ironic, given that he had some hand in starting the process, it doesn't seem likely. At times, Brown has lamented how quickly the recruiting process has sped up, like a water-skier calling for more speed from the boat pulling him, then being unable to communicate when the boat when it tops his speed threshold.
But that's just the immediate take. And there's certainly somewhat of a middle ground, much like what Brown did with Jake Raulerson at last year's Texas camp when he told the burly lineman that Raulerson could play any position he wanted before adding "I just hope it's at Texas." That's technically not an offer. But it's enough of one to whet the beak of most recruits already looking for their college destination.
The important takeaway is that the Longhorn staff is having the conversation. And as Brown has shown in the past, it wouldn't be bright to count out the Longhorns pressing on the accelerator once more.