AUSTIN (AP) – This is the kind of drama Texas coach Charlie Strong can live with — and could finally push the Longhorns back to the top of the Big 12 during the season.
Several top recruits who waited until national signing day to announce their college choice picked the Longhorns. They also got two top defenders who appeared headed elsewhere, including one previously committed to play at rival Oklahoma.
“We needed it. The drama today, I liked it. We needed everyone’s attention on our program,” Strong said. “We needed some positive vibes … now we need to continue to build on it.”
After going 11-14 in Strong’s first two seasons, an impressive final surge Wednesday gave Texas the Big 12’s top signing class for the second year in a row.
Brandon Jones, one of the nation’s top-rated safeties from Nacogdoches, Texas, slipped on a Longhorns cap instead of signing with Texas A&M. Texas also got two top-notch defensive tackles among its 24 signees, including former Oklahoma commitment Chris Daniels from Euless Trinity High in Texas. Plus, the state’s top quarterback prospect, Shane Buechele of Arlington, is already enrolled in school and could compete for the starting job with a new offensive coordinator.
Going into signing day, it seemed like a school other than Texas or nine-time and defending Big 12 champ Oklahoma might have the top signing class in the league for the first time since the late 1990s.
That didn’t happen after the big finish by the Longhorns, the last Big 12 team to play in a national championship game — in the 2009 season when they won their last conference title.
“I was sitting there last night, thinking if this thing falls the way I think it will, we’re going to be OK,” Strong said. “You really don’t know what you have until you get up the next morning.”
Some other things to know about signing day in the Big 12:
WINNING IN FEBRUARY, TOO
Baylor was a perennial last-place team before Art Briles became coach eight seasons ago. The Bears are now winning on the field — 50 victories and their only Big 12 titles in the past five seasons — and have become a desired destination for recruits. The big-play offense that has embraced the moniker of “Wide Receiver U” added two more stellar pass catchers in speedy Devin Duvernay and Tren’Davian Dickson, who set a Texas prep record with 76 career TD catches.
TCU coach Gary Patterson needed less than 30 seconds Wednesday to say “paper tigers” — a term he often uses when talking about recruits. Still, this may be the best signing class for TCU, which over the past two seasons is 23-3 with a Big 12 title and two bowl victories. The Horned Frogs are touting 10 four-star recruits, including a pair of top receivers among six junior college transfers. The Frogs had 45 freshmen on their roster for the Alamo Bowl.
While recruits are committing to schools for up to five years, 76-year-old Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has given no indications of his plans beyond next season. And he didn’t officially announce until January that he was returning in 2016 — a delay that hurt the Wildcats in recruiting. Four players that had committed to K-State changed their minds and went elsewhere. “I could say: ‘Hey, I’ll be here for 10 years. I’ll be here as long as you’re here,’ but I want them to trust me,” Snyder said Wednesday. “Not that I wouldn’t be here during their tenure, I just don’t know how all of the factors will play out from year to year.”
Among the things that made signing day successful for West Virginia — “For the first time since I have been here, there wasn’t any surprises,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Usually, there are a handful of surprises.” The Mountaineers put an emphasis on restocking a defense decimated by graduation, with 15 defensive players among 27 signees.
FIRST AND BIG
New Iowa State coach Matt Campbell, whose staff sought kids with great character, had 36 players from 19 states in his first signing class. “That was really important to me in getting a culture-changing class,” said Campbell, who took over a team with only one winning season the past decade.
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