Every year, Texas thrives in early recruiting, landing double-digit prospects from the Longhorns' Junior Day and boasting 20 commitments by April. And seemingly every year, the Longhorns finish somewhere in Scout's top 10 class rankings. In the nine classes since 2002 (as far back as Scout rankings go), Texas has only finished outside of the top 10 three times. Two of those times came with classes of 18 players or smaller, where the Longhorns were docked for quantity, rather than quality.
"The main thing that has held Texas back in the past is just that they don't sign a lot of 25-man classes," said Greg Powers, Scout Midlands Recruiting Manager. "You don't see a lot of guys flaking out. They're developing the talent that they sign, and that can hurt in the team rankings, where you have teams, in the SEC for instance, who sign 25 every year."
Six times, Texas has grabbed a top 10 class, and four times, the Longhorns have finished in the top three. It certainly appears that this class is headed for another top-three finish. But all the pieces are there to make a run at number one.
First of all, 11 of the Longhorns' 22 commitments are rated among the top 10 at their position. Nine are top-five. Seven are five-star players. Texas has grabbed three of the top five cornerback prospects, the top two guards and Texas's top target at quarterback. They also left the Big 12 region for a five-star player for the second straight year, landing Christian Westerman, a dominating prospect on the offensive line, from Arizona.
"I think the fact that they've been able to go out and go into other states and grab players like Jordan Hicks out of Ohio last year, and grab Arizona offensive lineman Christian Westerman, has really shown a new strength to Texas recruiting," Powers said. "They're showing that they aren't just effective in-state. They're always going to get their top guys that they want in-state. But going out of state the way they have will always put them in the race for the No. 1 class in the country."
And those are just the players the Longhorns have committed. There's a very real possibility that Texas could add a five-star back (either Malcolm Brown or Aaron Green), a five-star tight end in Austin Seferian-Jenkins and a five-star defensive end in Jermauria Rasco.
Of course, all of those rankings are lost without a sense of perspective. So, consider this:
* For seven straight years, Bob Stoops and Oklahoma landed the top prospect in the Sooner State. When Texas pulled in a commitment from four-star cornerback Josh Turner, it marked the second time in as many years that Mack Brown was able to steal away Oklahoma's No. 1 ranked prospect (the Longhorns signed five-star S/ATH DeMarco Cobbs last year. Cobbs, rated as the country's No. 3 safety, will start off at running back).
"To go in and steal two top prospects in two years was really impressive," Powers said. "Especially when you figure that they weren't from the same area. Cobbs was from Tulsa. Turner is from Oklahoma City.
"Sometimes, you see a team establish a relationship with a pocket of a state and do well there," Powers said. "For Texas to go into a different area of Oklahoma and land Turner … they flexed their muscles a little bit."
* If Texas grabs two five star players (certainly not out of the realm of possibility), the Longhorns will have nine five-star players. That number would be good for third place in the number of five-star players a school has brought in. USC and Florida each grabbed 10 five-star players apiece in 2008. USC landed eight in 2006.
But even if Texas doesn't land another, seven is the most five-star prospects the Longhorns have ever landed. And just one five star player would likely give Texas the No. 1 class in the country in February, a spot that Texas has landed just once, in 2002. The good news for Longhorn fans is that the 2002 class, which included Vince Young, among others, helped to steer Texas to its 2005 National Championship
* Of course, no one class makes a team, which is why it's important that this year's class follows a stellar 2010 class. Between them, the two classes boast 13 five-star players and 21 players ranked among the top 10 in the country. That group means that Texas could almost roll out a two-deep of top-10 players just from the last two years.
Even more importantly is how the group is spread out over so many positions. It includes one quarterback, one running back (Cobbs, though he was rated as a safety), two receivers, four offensive linemen, three defensive ends, two defensive tackles, three linebackers, four cornerbacks and one safety.
Cornerback is the strongest group, with Texas landing four top-five players in the last two classes.
"I think it's really big (for a team to show positional development). It's something that doesn't stop," Powers said. "Coach (Duane) Akina has done a great job.
"That's something that recruits look at, success at a position," Powers said. "To use a rival as an example, defensive backs are having a hard time saying no to Bo Pelini in Lincoln because of the way he has helped players get stronger at that position."
At the same time, Powers said Texas's pull with Brown and Green was likely a result of those players seeing playing time on the horizon.
"I think the top running backs have to see the opportunity to come in and play early," Powers said. "The top kids want to go in and play right away. You look at Texas's roster, and there's not a clearly established guy. So somebody feels like they can make a pretty early impact, can make some huge waves early on."
But perhaps the best way to sum up the Longhorns' recruiting came in a one-word answer. When asked whether the last few recruiting classes were strong enough to keep Texas in the national title hunt on a year-in, year-out basis, Powers responded simply.