Nothing shifts the focus from being shut out of the NFL draft quite like landing a blue-chip recruit.
On Monday, Texas received a verbal commitment from Zach Gentry, a 4-star quarterback from Eldorado High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 247Sports' composite rankings have Gentry as the No. 1 player in the state and the No. 6 pro-style quarterback in the country.
At 6'7" and 230 pounds, Gentry already has the prototypical size that Division I programs seek. But his size doesn't mean he's a statue in the pocket. "He's all of 6'6". I don't call him 6'7", because if you call him 6'7", people think he's slow," Eldorado coach Charlie Dodson told Jason Suchomel of OrangeBloods.com. "His feet are really good, he runs really well."
Among those to make offers to Gentry were Alabama, Tennessee and Strong's previous stop, Louisville.
With top 2015 in-state quarterbacks like Jarrett Stidham committed to Texas Tech and Kyler Murray considering other schools, Texas had to look elsewhere to get its prize quarterback recruit.
That's exactly what quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson, who mentored Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville, did when recruiting Gentry, per ESPN's Max Olson:
Watson got on Gentry early on while at Louisville and has extended him offers at both schools. The in-state crop of quarterbacks is solid, and there could be room to take another like Quinten Dormady in this class, but Gentry would be a home run and a clear statement that Watson and the offensive staff won't be afraid to pursue elite passers outside the usually loaded Lone Star State.
Without actually comparing Gentry to Bridgewater—the former hasn't even signed a National Letter of Intent with Texas, let alone arrived on campus or played in a game—Strong may have found a quarterback who can provide some future stability at the position, not to mention elevate it.
David Ash, the presumed starter had it not been for a recent foot injury, has two more years of eligibility because of a medical hardship waiver he was granted last month. Ash missed most of last season with concussion symptoms. USC transfer Max Wittek seems bound for Texas, but hasn't officially announced anything.
Then there's sophomore Tyrone Swoopes and incoming freshman Jerrod Heard. The point being, there's potentially going to be a lot of blue-chip talent on the quarterback depth chart soon—presumably much more than at Louisville when Strong recruited Bridgewater.
The problem is that Texas has had a difficult time developing that talent. That shouldn't be an issue under Watson given what he did with Bridgewater. If a quarterback has the smarts and the tools, Watson can coach 'em up.
It will be interesting to see if Gentry remains committed to the Longhorns until signing day and if he grows into a starting role down the road.
Texas hasn't had a problem signing highly touted quarterbacks in the past, but the first major commitment of a new coaching regime is always cause for excitement.
If Gentry's pledge is at all comparable to Bridgewater's, it's that it should at least have fans excited about the future of the program.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand.