A lot of eyes will obviously be on this program over the next two weeks with games against Baylor and Oklahoma. Are these make-or-break weeks for the Longhorns in 2015? Does Texas have to win one of these games to have a chance with these big recruits or can they survive with moral victories?
Texas doesn't have to win one of the next two games to have a chance with all the big-name recruits. But the Longhorns need to continue to improve, give max effort and not have any more questions about coaching decisions in the post-game.
The most frustrating aspect of the UCLA game for Charlie Strong had to be two-fold. Not only did his team not hold on for a 4-point victory with 4:17 left, but there were questions about stuff that is typically no-brainer (coin toss and running up-tempo instead of four-minute offense when Texas got the ball back with the lead and 4:17 left).
Perception can become reality when you've got a coach that doesn't spend a lot of time articulating the details of most situations. I'm not mad at Charlie Strong for that. I could not care less. But if you don't tell your own story, someone else will. And when you're winning, that's not a problem. But when you're struggling, having the naysayers start telling your story can start to get in the ears of indecisive recruits. (See the incompetent loser Paul Finebaum.)
Bottom line - it was a really good weekend for Texas and Charlie Strong. The UT defense sent Charlie Weis into retirement. And Roger Goodell sought out Strong to talk about how to communicate and enforce his core values and take suggestions about how to create a better working relationship between the NFL and college programs that send a lot of talent to the league.
Strong told uncommitted recruits in the spring and summer to wait on a decision until they saw Texas' product.
"Recruits need to see your product, and they haven't seen our product yet," Strong said at Big 12 Media Days in July.
Recruits are now seeing the product. And they've seen an improving defense (now without its best nose tackle) and an offense without its starting QB and center (and some other dismissed or suspended players) that was improving but took a big step back at Kansas.
Against what could be Hurricane Art and Hurricane Bob the next two Saturdays, Texas needs to continue to play great defense. And UT needs to have a clear, decisive gameplan on offense, even if it falls short. And it would help if the next two games were hard-fought into the second half and not lopsided in the wrong direction, such as the 41-7 final score vs. BYU.
No one remembers how well the defense played against BYU in the first half, holding Taysom Hill and Co. to a 6-0 lead. And that happened while getting absolutely no help from the offense (other than drive-killing penalties and turnovers) or special teams (other than a key penalty and turnover).
But that's life. The scoreboard doesn't say you're rebuilding on offense. The scoreboard doesn't always tell your story. So Strong and Co. need to make sure the scoreboard, after the next two games, doesn't allow perception to say to recruits that Texas is a house fire.
I never thought I’d see the day when moral victories would suffice when it came to keeping hope alive with top in-state recruits, but that time has come.
I don’t think the Longhorns are in do-or-die mode these next two weeks with Hurricane Briles or Hurricane Bob, but I do think that blowouts to both would severely damage their chances with big-time recruits from inside the state’s borders.
Right now I think Texas is in good position with Malik Jefferson, Cameron Townsend, and Chris Warren (work to be done with all three for sure). As for Ryan Newsome, Kris Boyd, Holton Hill and other top prospects, well, I think UT is in a fight for its life.
Blowouts aren’t going to sit well with any of those recruits. But hard-fought, gritty games, in front of a great home crowd on Saturday and then at the State Fair next week will do Texas a lot of good, win or lose.
Charlie Strong has won over a lot of recruits, and parents, with his steadfast commitment to his core values. Recruits and their parents took big-time notice of his meeting with Roger Goodell on Sunday. He’s a coach parents want to send their kids to.
But Texas needs to show that the product on the field is taking steps toward matching Strong’s character. If it ever gets to that level then the Longhorns will win a ton of games.
Moral victories suck and at a place like Texas, they are usually non-existent. But I think an exception can be made over the next few weeks as long as the effort is there and the score doesn’t get away from UT.
Anytime you have a new coaching staff eyes will be upon you. In this case, eyes are on Charlie Strong for more than simply being the new head coach at the University of Texas. The entire country is watching because of the man he is, the core values he lives by and the way he runs his football program. Can anyone tell me how often the NFL commissioner meets with college head coaches?
Charlie Strong has attracted a lot of positive momentum for his football program. Not only are the parents taking notice but the parents as well. Over the last few weeks I have heard whispers from some big time players that are looking this way who previously were not. Winning would clearly and certainly help the cause with the recruits but I do not believe it is a make or break scenario for the coaching staff or the recruiting class.
Obviously, winning cures all ills. That's why Texas recruited at the level that it did for so long. That's why the Alabamas and LSUs and Florida States consistently recruit at such a high level.
That said, I don't think the next two games are "make-or-break" weeks for Texas when it comes to recruiting. I'm not big into moral victories of any kind, but this is one case where I think they have a bit of merit. If Texas is competitive against Baylor and Oklahoma, I think that would go a long way to prove to recruits that Charlie Strong has the program on the right track.
Texas has already gone down to the wire with UCLA, which was significant when considering that the Longhorns fought back after the beating BYU dished out to the them. Baylor and Oklahoma provide similar tests to that which UCLA presented, though these two games likely present a bigger challenge from the standpoint of trying to keep pace point-for-point.
Bottom line: No, I don't think Texas has to win at least one of these games to stay in the race for some of the state's biggest recruiting targets. But, two blowouts might serve as damaging blows to Texas' chances for some of these big-name recruits.
In a perfect world, Texas could get away with putting up a good performances while losing to Baylor and Oklahoma but we don’t live in perfect world.
We live in world where recruits are attracted to glitz, glamour and wins – new uniforms, “swagcopters” and coaches fit for the E! channel are all the rage for recruits. Unfortunately, Texas doesn’t have much of any of those things going for them.
The Longhorns will have to shock the world if they want to get the eyes of major recruits back on them. Texas will have to win one of its next two games.
While it may appear that the Longhorns are on a downward trajectory, Texas is still Texas and it will garner the attention of a lot of recruits. There are those recruits who will want to play for the Longhorns because they are the Longhorns. There are also the recruits that realize the difficulties in front of Coach Strong and that his regime is still working at rebuilding the Texas identity. But for some recruits it will come down to wins and Texas needs to do that if it wants to land some of nation’s best recruits.
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