The Texas Longhorns era of recruiting dominance in the Lone Star State is over. Programs on the rise at Baylor and TCU have helped cut into the team's monopoly on top talent, while Texas A&M assembled a substantially more impressive 2014 class than Texas.
Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin solidified the nation's fifth-best incoming crop of freshmen this February, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. Texas A&M acquired 11 4-star prospects and is one of just four squads to sign at least three 5-star recruits.
The Aggies are off to an excellent start in the 2015 recruiting-class cycle, currently sitting atop the national board with commitments from six 4-star players and 5-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack (Gladewater, Texas). Momentum continues to mount for Sumlin and Texas A&M, a team that cracked the country's top 10 in 247Sports' composite recruiting rankings with its past two classes.
The Longhorns finished 17th on that list both years.
Charlie Strong aims to even the playing field next February, when members of the 2015 class sign their letters of intent. The first-year Texas coach inherited Mack Brown's recruiting class when he accepted the position in early January.
He lost a cluster of commitments, gained a few late pledges and didn't really have an opportunity to leave his imprint on Texas' 2014 class. Strong now has an entire year to get to work cultivating talented prospects from the fertile football state.
Regardless of how well Strong does during his first stretch on a largely foreign recruiting trail, Sumlin won't slow down.
His stock has soared since Texas A&M entered the SEC and quickly proved it could compete against longtime conference mainstays. The Aggies also benefited from unparalleled exposure as a product of 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and the "brand" he brought to the field.
Strong must combat Texas A&M's increased ability to add recruits from SEC territory. This year, the Aggies swiped away 5-star New Orleans wide receiver Speedy Noil from LSU, Alabama and Florida.
Texas needs to assert itself on similar turf. Charlie Strong is familiar with the Southeast recruiting scene, spending his past 15 years coaching in Louisville, Florida and South Carolina.
The former Gators defensive coordinator tapped into the Sunshine State talent pool routinely during his Louisville tenure. Strong secured signatures from nine Florida prospects in 2013, and heralded Cardinal quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was recruited out of Miami.
Strong needs to strengthen those ties now that he is with one of the most marketable collegiate athletic programs in the country. Expect him to invest expansive resources into recruiting Georgia and Florida.
It's been too long since Texas featured a superstar offensive player. Ricky Williams, Chris Simms, Roy Williams, Vince Young, Colt McCoy and Jamaal Charles helped define the most memorable years of Mack Brown's tenure.
Which program will be more successful during the next five years?
The Longhorns offensive attack has struggled to produce consistent top-level production, and that shortcoming cripples Texas at times. Strong will pick up prized in-state quarterback Jerrod Heard this summer.
Texas now intends to surround the promising young passer and his counterparts at quarterback with explosive offensive weapons. The Longhorns are attempting to restore the "coolness factor" of years past, and nothing goes further in that effort than a marketable star who can light up the scoreboard.
Texas A&M is currently on the upswing, but it's important to remember how long the program spent playing the role of little brother to Texas. Now it's the Longhorns looking to make strides, and Strong must start the process with a significant success in recruiting.