National signing day is over, and Texas fans across the nation can breathe a sigh of relief.
New head coach Charlie Strong and his staff managed to keep the Longhorns' 2014 recruiting class intact, minus a couple of decommitments. The Longhorns rank No. 20 in the Rivals.com team rankings, which is four places ahead of the Longhorns' 2013 recruiting class.
Of the 23 signees, only five were players brought in after Strong was hired, and all five are athletes who can make an impact on the line of scrimmage. In his national signing day press conference, Strong expressed how important it is to have powerful offensive and defensive lines.
"If you're going to have a good football team, the strength of your team is going to be upfront," Strong said Wednesday. "It's going to be built around your offensive and defensive line."
And Strong added 1,393 pounds of strength on his offensive and defensive lines.
But overall, Texas placed behind in-state rival Texas A&M and conference rival Oklahoma in the Rivals.com 2014 team rankings.
However, can anyone really pin the blame on Strong and his staff for holding together a top-20 recruiting class in less than one month?
Rather than judging the Longhorns' 2014 signing class for what it is or is not, Texas fans need to take a look at what Strong does moving forward.
Former head coach Mack Brown was known for his highly touted recruiting classes. The downfall of the past coaching staff was the inability to transform top classes into top teams. How Strong brings toughness back to the 40 acres, develops talent and adjusts to the prolific offenses of the Big 12 will be key components to his success as the head coach of the Texas Longhorns.
One word sums up Texas' offseason workout program under strength and conditioning coach Pat Moorer: tough. According to Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com, Moorer's offseason workout program has made players realize a change of culture has arrived at the University of Texas.
"There's a lot of throwing up," Brown wrote of Moorer's offseason program. "It's all about building toughness and competitiveness. Guys are getting pushed in every way possible right now to know the culture is changing."
Strong has expressed the importance of toughness in his program and that toughness begins in off-season training.
Handling the quarterback situation
It is no secret Strong is not an offensive-minded coach. In his signing day press conference, he revealed that he has not watched all of the Texas offensive film from 2013. And one of the toughest personnel decisions he will have to make comes on the side of the ball that is not his focus.
But it is his job to have the right offensive coaches and coordinator in place to handle the Longhorns' future at quarterback.
The Longhorns have not had a viable quarterback option since 2009, and that should never happen at Texas. But for the first time in recent memory, there is an abundance of talent on the sidelines from the Longhorns quarterbacks. Texas fans are eager to see what quarterback Tyrone Swoopes can do, and their "Swoopes" chants at the Longhorns games in 2013 is proof.
But how open is Swoopes' window of opportunity with the potential of USC transfer Max Wittek interested in the Longhorns and incoming freshman Jerrod Heard enrolling in the summer?
While at Louisville, Strong and Cardinals offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson had the security blanket of an elite quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. How Strong and Watson handle the juggling act of Swoopes, Heard, Ash and potentially Wittek will be a large determining factor on their success at Texas and their ability to develop elite high school athletes into elite college football players.
Ability to stop prolific offenses
The Big 12 is known for its fast-paced, high-scoring offenses, which is not necessarily something the American Athletic Conference is known for. Strong is used to going up against the AAC's leader in scoring offense, UCF, which averaged 35 points per game in 2013. He is not used to going up against reigning Big 12 champion Baylor, which averaged 52 points per game in 2013.
His defensive scheme against the spread offenses of the Big 12 will be another key factor for his success at Texas.
All-in-all, Longhorn fans need to view the 2014 recruiting class as nothing more than a step in the right direction. What happens next will determine if Strong and his staff is the right group to revive Texas football and bring it back to prominence.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's lead writer covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.
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