Some might say it happened when Texas A&M moved to the SEC, or when former Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy.
Some might point to head coach Art Briles building a powerhouse at Baylor. Others still may link it to Texas' mediocrity in the final years under former coach Mack Brown.
It's likely a combination of all of those factors, but they all come to the same conclusion: Texas, with first-year coach Charlie Strong, has lost momentum on the recruiting trail. It's not that Texas is no longer getting top, in-state talent; rather, the wealth of that talent is spreading around more than ever.
Since no other position is followed as closely as quarterback, the Longhorns' quarterback struggles since the days of Vince Young and Colt McCoy have been fascinating to watch. David Ash, who has been Texas' best option at quarterback the past two seasons, has battled various injuries. Several others have transferred from the program over the past four years.
And, now, top members of the 2015 Texas high school quarterback class are planning to go elsewhere. Jarrett Stidham, a 4-star dual threat from Stephenville, has been verbally committed to Texas Tech since March. Kyler Murray, a 5-star dual threat from Allen, is strongly considering Texas A&M and Oregon.
Both are top-10 players in the state of Texas. Neither are likely headed for Austin. Speaking to Bleacher Report at the Elite 11 Regional in Arlington on Sunday, Stidham said Texas simply wasn't for him.
"I really liked [former Horns offensive coordinator Major] Applewhite," Stidham said. "Once the new coaching staff got here, they talked to me a little bit, but not as much."
Of course, new coaching staffs can change everything. Recruits gravitate or commit to certain coaches with whom they have strong connections all the time. Furthermore, Stidham doesn't believe Texas has lost its recruiting edge.
"Texas is going to be in the hunt for the top recruits every year," Stidham said. "That's the nature of Texas. But these other schools are getting some big-time players too."
Murray, on the other hand, has a family connection to A&M. Sometimes, allegiances pull the strongest—especially in Texas—as Mike Graham of The Dallas Morning News explains:
Texas A&M has the family edge. Murray’s father, Kevin Murray, played for the Aggies from 1983 through 1986 before a brief professional career and becoming a quarterback’s coach, but Kevin Murray has taken a hands off approach when it comes to Kyler Murray’s recruitment.
If that wasn't enough, Murray told Mike Roach of HornSports.com at the Elite 11 camp that going to Texas "wasn't happening."
Should Texas be concerned about Stidham and Murray looking elsewhere? Not necessarily. Other quarterbacks in the '15 class are interested in the Horns. Four-star athlete J.W. Ketchum III is leaning toward Texas, though he could play another position at the college level.
Out of state, 4-star pro-style prospect Zach Gentry from Albuquerque, New Mexico, is favoring Tennessee, but Texas is still heavily in the mix.
For 2016, 5-star Jacob Eason arrived at Sunday's Elite 11 Regional fresh off a visit to Austin.
"I liked everything I saw and they're making improvements on the field," Eason said. "Texas stands out. Everywhere I go down here, I'll see Longhorns stuff."
While branding isn't an issue, Texas has to battle two perception issues: program momentum and style of offense.
"I really like what [Texas Tech head coach Kliff] Kingsbury is doing," Stidham said. "He's a young, energetic guy. He knows what makes young guys like us click."
|Texas Quarterback Commits (2009-14)|
|2012||Connor Brewer||4-star||Transferred to Arizona|
|2012||Jalen Overstreet||4-star||Switched to running back|
|2010||Connor Wood||4-star||Transferred to Colorado|
|2009||Garrett Gilbert||5-star||Transferred to SMU|
Stidham admitted he's a fan of throwing the ball around a lot. That's something Baylor, Texas A&M and Texas Tech can all promise. Not coincidentally, the Bears, Aggies and Red Raiders made up three of Stidham's four finalists, along with Oregon.
The Horns should be a run-heavy team in 2014 since its offensive strength lies in its backfield, though there are questions surrounding the offensive line.
However, offenses can change. In 2013, Louisville was 16th in the country in passing offense under Strong. Regardless of where former Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater lands in the upcoming NFL draft, he was the best pure passer in college football.
Get the right quarterback behind center and Strong has shown an ability to adapt.
Texas' problem over the past four years hasn't been getting blue-chip quarterback commits. The problem has been managing the depth chart and development. Connor Brewer, a former 4-star prospect in 2012 from Scottsdale, Arizona, transferred back to his home state. Connor Wood, another 4-star quarterback from Houston in 2010, transferred to Colorado.
And there's Garrett Gilbert, the former 5-star recruit from 2009 who was supposed to be the future of the program. He didn't work out with Texas,, but went on to have a productive senior season with SMU in 2013.
With the signing of 2014 4-star quarterback Jerrod Heard, Texas can get back on track with quarterback play. The '15 class isn't a make-or-break factor for that goal.
But Strong and his staff must show they can develop quarterbacks at Texas in a way the old regime failed to do in its final years.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports Composite Rankings. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.
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