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Strong Scrambled To Keep 1st Texas Class Together

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(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Texas coach Charlie Strong barely had a month to accept his new job, move to Austin and somehow hold together the Longhorns’ 2014 recruiting class after Mack Brown’s sudden departure after 16 years.

Strong did it, keeping together a class recruiting experts rank among the best in the Big 12. Texas signed 23 players to national letters-of-intent Wednesday, including the big-time quarterback the Longhorns need, and two out-of-state defensive linemen Strong originally tried to lure to Louisville.

Strong spent the past month re-recruiting and “re-selling” Texas to the players who had committed to the Longhrons when Brown was the coach. Making it particularly awkward was that Brown announced his resignation on Dec. 14, the same weekend Texas hosted more than a dozen recruits for the team banquet and their official visit.

Those recruits were left to wonder who would take over and Strong accepted the job three weeks later. He soon was dashing to Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and San Antonio to meet and greet recruits, parents and coaches and keep anyone from abandoning ship.

“A very intense couple of weeks,” Strong said. “We had to sell ourselves. When a new staff comes in, the recruit has to be comfortable with you.”

Among them is Jerrod Heard, the only quarterback Texas signed.

The U.S. Army All-American won consecutive Texas Class 4A state championships and fills a critical need at a position where depth is a major concern. Senior David Ash, the presumed starter next season, missed most of the 2013 season because of recurring concussion symptoms and backup Tyrone Swoopes hardly played.

Considered one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, Heard passed for 2,148 yards, rushed for 2,172 and accounted for 50 touchdowns last season.

Brown’s departure prompted a couple of defections from the class, but Strong filled the gaps by signing defensive tackles Poona Ford of Hilton Head, S.C., and Chris Nelson of Lakeland, Fla. Both were players Strong had tried to recruit at Louisville.

Strong said he wants to dominate the Texas recruiting grounds. That will be tough as old rival Texas A&M has seized momentum with coach Kevin Sumlin dazzling recruits with the school’s Aggies-themed helicopter that has been nicknamed the “Swagcopter.”

“We’re not going to be a gadget program,” Strong said.

“We’re still the University of Texas,” Strong said. “We will always be the flagship university of this state.”

Texas’ 2014 football signees announced Wednesday:

Alex Anderson, ol, 6-5, 310, Landry-Walker HS, New Orleans

Andrew Beck, lb, 6-3, 230, Plant HS, Tampa, Fla.

Roderick Bernard, wr, 5-10, 175, Sharpstown HS, Houston

John Bonney, db, 6-1, 183, Lamar HS, Houston

Donald Catalon, rb, 6-0, 200, Eisenhower HS, Houston

Terrell Cuney, ol, 6-3, 260, Jasper (Texas) HS

Poona Ford, dt, 6-1, 288, Hilton Head (S.C.) HS

Armanti Foreman, wr, 6-0, 180, Texas City (Texas) HS

D’Onta Foreman, rb, 6-2, 215, Texas City (Texas) HS

Edwin Freeman, s, 6-1, 215, Bowie HS, Arlington, Texas

Garrett Gray, wr, 6-4, 211, Marble Falls (Texas) HS

Jason Hall, db, 6-2, 190, South Grand Prairie HS, Grand Prairie, Texas

Cameron Hampton, lb, 6-0, 201, Carter HS, Dallas

Jerrod Heard, qb, 6-2, 190, Guyer HS, Denton, Texas

Lorenzo Joe, wr, 6-2, 192, Cooper HS, Abilene, Texas

Dorian Leonard, wr, 6-4, 200, Longview (Texas) HS

Jake McMillon, dt, 6-3, 240, Abilene (Texas) HS

Chris Nelson, dt, 6-3, 280, Victory Christian HS, Lakeland, Fla.

Derick Roberson, de, 6-4, 235, Brennan HS, San Antonio

Elijah Rodriguez, ol, 6-6, 280, Cypress Creek HS, Houston

Jermaine Roberts, db, 5-9, 170, St. Augustine HS, New Orleans

Kevin Shorter, rb, 6-0, 188, Newton (Texas) HS

Blake Whiteley, te, 6-5, 245, Arizona Western CC

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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