Texas Football: What Recent Recruiting Woes Mean for Charlie Strong, Longhorns

Ben KerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterJanuary 28, 2014

Charlie Strong answers questions during an NCAA college football news conference where he was introduced as the new Texas football coach, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Strong acknowledged the historical significance of being the school's first African-American head coach of a men's sport. He takes over for Mack Brown, who stepped down last month after 16 seasons. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

With national signing day on Feb. 5, coaches around the country, including Texas coach Charlie Strong, are trying to close the deal on their respective classes. 

It also marks an inopportune time for recruits to flip. 

Texas lost a key member of its 2014 class over the weekend when Houston (Cypress Falls) linebacker Otaro Alaka flipped from the Longhorns—to Texas A&M. 

"I'd like to thank Coach Strong and UT for the offer but Ive decided to decommit from the university of Texas and commit to Texas A&M!" Alaka tweeted on Sunday. 

Alaka is a 4-star recruit and the No. 18 prospect in Texas, according to 247Sports' Composite rankings.

The 'Horns have some playmakers at linebacker, including Jordan Hicks once he returns from his Achilles injury; however, Alaka could have been among the next key contributors.

Instead, he heads to College Station where expectations for him will also be high. 

The news comes a few weeks after Texas lost three defensive tackle commits in a 24-hour period: Zaycoven Henderson, who also flipped to Texas A&MTrey Lealaimatafao and Courtney Garnett

Additionally, safety John Bonney and wide receiver Garrett Gray took official visits this past week to Baylor and Cal, respectively. While visiting other schools doesn't necessarily mean Texas is in trouble, sometimes the program that leaves the last impression has the advantage. 

Al Behrman/Associated Press

So what does the recent string of decommitments and visits mean for Strong and Texas?

When it comes to coaching changes, short-term recruiting instability oftentimes follows. That's not even counting the general indecisiveness of high school kids, who are notorious for changing their minds. It happens all the time. 

Recruiting, much like winning and losing during the season, can be made out to be a life or death situation. Really, though, that couldn't be further from the truth. 

As Sean Adams of ESPN Austin tweeted, Strong is not the first coach to lose players in the weeks leading up to signing day. 

The recent departures also need context.

Texas has the No. 12 class in the country and the top class in the Big 12. It's not as though the 'Horns have completely fallen off the face of the Earth. In fact, some of the biggest names in the class, such as quarterback Jerrod Heard, remain committed. 

The first recruiting class for a new coach can sometimes be more about holding things together than making an immediate splash. It's no secret that a lot of recruits commit to a coach, and not the school itself. There's a compelling argument to be made that holding a majority of a class together, coupled with the return of key players such as defensive end Cedric Reed, is also a great recruiting victory. 

Nov 9, 2013; Morgantown, WV, USA; Texas Longhorns defensive end Cedric Reed (88) reacts after recovering a fumble in the second quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

That's not an attempt to sugar-coat things, though.

Defensive line figures to be a strength for Texas in '14, but what about afterward? Losing the three defensive tackles mentioned above is a tough loss. There's time for Strong to recover, but that will be a position of need sooner rather than later. 

Strong will have more opportunities to crush in on the recruiting trail, though. While Strong doesn't personally have deep ties to Texas high schools, he has time to develop those relationships. That will ultimately play a role in his success or failure with the Longhorns. 

And what happens with the '14 class won't be a complete representation of that. 


Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. All rankings courtesy of 247Sports.