First Come, First Served?

The Longhorns will not offer football scholarships to high school juniors prior to National Signing Day for seniors, head coach Mack Brown has long stated, even though some of his program's top rivals adopted the practice a year ago. Upon further review, Brown may now be reconsidering his recruiting philosophy.

Everybody else is doing it. Should Texas?

"We're really going to have to look at that (offering juniors before Signing Day) because nobody else I know is waiting," Brown said. "They're all going forward."

Oklahoma and Texas A&M are among the programs that have already begun offering scholarships to underclassmen and conducting Junior Days prior to Signing Day. Ironically, Brown may be a victim of his own innovation. Brown insists ACC schools were doing it before he arrived at Texas, but there is no doubt he changed the recruiting landscape in the Big 12 Conference by accelerating the time frame within which prep stars were evaluated and offered. This year is no exception. Brown will sign approximately 20 youngsters in 2009 and the vast majority will have committed within the next four weeks.

Yet, what was once considered pioneering in recruiting circles has almost become a relic.

"We're the dinosaur (because) we're waiting," Brown said. "That hurts us some. People think we're being arrogant (by waiting). And some recruits think we don't want them."

There are already signs that Brown is moving in the direction of starting the recruiting process even earlier. Less than 24 hours after Wednesday's Signing Day, and a whopping 363 days before the ink dries for the class of 2009, Texas secured a solid commitment from a 16-year old junior. But not just any 16-year old junior.

Record-setting Lake Travis QB Garrett Gilbert will have four or five stars next to his name for the rest of the year and is easily one of the top signal-callers in the nation. All he did was lead the Cavaliers to the Texas 4A Division II championship, setting state records for yards (4,825), attempts (556) and completions (360). Gilbert would certainly have committed later in the month at one of Texas' two Junior Days but, in the brave new world of football recruiting, why wait?

"What we'd like to do is give the due to this senior class because Signing Day is about them. We can talk to the juniors the next day. We like for it to be about the seniors."

At the same time, nearly half (nine) of the 20 recruits that Texas signed Wednesday have been on-campus as early enrollees since mid-January. In short, the very concept of being a 'senior' is a relative term and one that is very much in flux.

"The process has moved back further than we would have liked," Brown concluded. "We get credit for some of it, unfairly, because we were offering scholarships in the summer. Then we started in the spring. Now, some people are committing sophomores. You'd like to know that they're shaving. You'd like to have more than four semesters on a transcript. We also don't want to be a problem for high school coaches. We've been lucky. The kids we've committed early have played hard (while still in high school). We've heard stories that some players lay down and don't try hard (after they commit). It's a real problem for some high school coaches. We make sure we say to a recruit that he has this scholarship only if his high school coach stands by it. If the coach calls us and says he's not trying, then we drop the scholarship."

Texas will hold Junior Days on February 10 and 23. Spring football is slated to begin on February 22.

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