AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – Still trying to shape his program back into a national championship contender, Texas coach Mack Brown signed another highly-rated recruiting class on Wednesday, a group anchored by a record-setting running back and notable for its last-minute additions.
Texas annually signs classes rated among the best in the country, but the Longhorns are just 13-12 over the last two seasons since playing for the national championship in 2009. The question for the latest group of 28 players will be whether they can push the Longhorns back among the elite after two straight losing seasons in Big 12 play.
“Everybody has a good recruiting class. It never changes … What will happen in four years, in five years” will prove where this group ranks among all the others, Brown said.
Brown signed this group a week after getting a four-year contract extension through 2020. University President William Powers has said the extension was meant in part to end rumors that the 60-year-old Brown will soon retire or be forced out. Brown said he’d like to coach another nine years and said the regents’ unanimous vote was a strong message that “Y’all can shut up, he’s going to be here.”
The biggest name in the 2012 class is Johnathan Gray, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound tailback from Aledo who set a national record with 205 career touchdowns. Gray was named the Gatorade national player of the year and received The Landry Award in both 2010 and 2011.
“He’s got vision, he’s got power, he’s got great speed,” Brown said. “He gives you a chance for a home run every time he touches it.”
Gray joins a backfield with last season’s standout freshmen Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron. Brown said Gray welcomed the chance to share carries with his teammates.
“I like classes who don’t worry about who’s there,” Brown said. “I’ve always felt like if they were asking about the depth chart all the time they were insecure.”
Brown typically has recruiting classes locked up months in advance, but this year got several late commitments. The final one came on Wednesday when linebacker Torshiro Davis of Shreveport, La., signed with Texas after a previous verbal commitment to LSU.
Brown said that was a trend across the college landscape this year.
“I saw more changes this year, it looked like there were more flips at the end. I don’t like that. I don’t like that for the kids and their families,” Brown said.
Texas signed two junior college players, a rarity in Brown’s 14 seasons with the Longhorns. Offensive tackle Donald Hawkins of Northwest Mississippi Junior College and defensive tackle Brandon Moore of East Mississippi Community College have already enrolled and will be expected to immediately compete for playing time in those positions of need.
Six players in the new class are already enrolled in class and will participate in spring drills, including quarterback Connor Brewer, a high school All-American from Scottsdale, Ariz.
Although sophomore David Ash enters the spring as the starter and junior Case McCoy as the top backup, Brown said Brewer will get a chance to start taking snaps.
“David should be a lot further along” than last year, Brown said. “We’ll let Connor get into that mix and see how he does.”
Last year, Brown had to scramble to keep together a recruiting class amid the departure of several assistant coaches following a 5-7 season. That group made significant contributions to last season’s 8-5 turnaround with 18 of the 22 freshmen playing.
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