National Signing Day: Big finish boosts Texas football in recruiting rankings

By Steve Habel, The Sports Xchange  |  Feb. 3, 2016 at 5:13 PM
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas coach Charlie Strong is a bit of a riverboat gambler when it comes to recruiting, an approach that seems to play into the "this-is-my-time" mentality of potential signees.

The proof of Strong's prowess in the living room was in the pudding of the Longhorns' final haul on national signing day on Wednesday when 10 high school players revealed at the 11th hour that they would play for Texas.

The avalanche of last-minute signings gave Texas a 24-player class and propelled the Longhorns from a mid-30s ranking to as high as No. 10 in the ESPN list of classes.

Strong said he "kind of had a feeling that we were going to have a big day today."

"Some of the recruits told us to 'relax, we just want to have our day,'" Strong said. "We told them 'that's fine, as long as you pick Texas on your day.'"

Texas produced far and away the top showing in the 10-member Big 12 Conference, hauling in as many as 13 four-star players and five-star linebacker Erick Fowler from Manor, Texas.

Included on that list were two players that decommitted from other programs in the past few weeks -- defensive tackles Jordan Elliott from Houston (who originally chose Michigan) and Chris Daniels from the Dallas suburb of Euless (Oklahoma) -- and another in Fowler, who had been committed to LSU since June.

The Longhorns' six highest-rated recruits all committed to Texas since the start to the new year. The Longhorns had 32 players come to Austin on official visits and they signed 24 of them.

Daniels told the Dallas Morning News that Strong sold him on being a Longhorn.

"If you don't want to go to Texas, don't let (Strong) get on your couch because that man is very persuasive," Daniels said. "He's like an uncle to me; Uncle Charlie -- for real."

The biggest catches of the day came with the signings of Brandon Jones of Nacogdoches, Texas, and Jeffrey McCulloch of Houston. Jones, the nation's No. 2 safety, chose the Longhorns over Texas A&M and Baylor. McCulloch, an outside linebacker, is considered the No. 3 recruit in Texas.

"It was a great day and a great finish -- our staff did an unbelievable job," Strong said. "The players we signed from Texas came as a result of the relationship we built with the high school coaches in the state."

Texas' signees on Wednesday gave the Longhorns the top-rated recruiting class in the Big 12 for the second consecutive year.

In the Longhorns' 5-7 campaign in 2015, Texas had 17 signees contribute, including eight true freshmen who combined for 55 starts. Strong believed that set the table for a big haul on Wednesday.

"A lot of players want to be able to play right away, and we continue to tell these guys that they will have a chance to contribute immediately if they're good enough," Strong said. "The best salesmen are our players. They formed a group (text) message to keep up with the recruits and to make sure they knew what was going on and that we wanted them."

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