While there are bright spots, like an outrageously talented offensive line class, Texas is stumbling to the finish line in the 2013 recruiting cycle.
The Longhorns can avoid a downward slide if Mack Brown and Co. follow these recruiting guidelines.
Something must be done.
What can Mack Brown do to improve Texas recruiting?
Here are my thoughts.
They don't include easily discussed items that everyone can agree to, like winning football games. This is about systematically changing facets of recruiting that are within the control of the head coach and his staff.
It starts with player evaluation and identification.
The long-standing fundamental principle that college assistant coaches and a recruiting coordinator would be the only ones responsible for identifying and recruiting athletes, needs to be dismantled completely by Mack Brown.
The new recruiting rules recently adopted by the NCAA allow for just that.
The new NCAA rule specifically allows a school to employ as many folks dedicated to recruiting as it wants.
Texas should establish a true player personnel department.
The first hire should be a personnel director, someone who has run an NFL scouting department or a college recruiting coordinator that has a proven track record. This is not a place for old guys to go and serve out the final days of their career.
It can't be a good old boy hire, it has to be someone with serious player evaluation chops. Player evaluation needs to be their passion. This isn't a guy who eventually wants to be the receivers coach, it's a guy who wants this to be his career.
That person would then hire a staff of four to five folks who would do nothing but evaluate and scour players across the state and the country, from the smallest high school to the junior college tucked away in some small Mississippi hamlet. Of course, the focus first and foremost needs to be turning over every rock in the home state to make sure no player goes unevaluated.
This four- or five-man staff would help Texas identify players quickly and consult with the Texas coaches.
Hire a personnel director. Hire multiple evaluators.
Because of another rule adopted by the NCAA, Texas must find more people it trusts to communicate more frequently with the recruits it wants.
The NCAA has basically allowed more contact between the recruits, the high school coaches and those employed by a university's athletic department.
These need to be the "recruiters", which really is just another term for communicators that help sell your program and make things easier on your coaches and the prospective student-athletes to get answers quickly.
Mack Brown is an excellent recruiter and he knows how he wants his university and program portrayed. I think hiring 2-3 people, with one manager of the group, to help him run this aspect of his program would be something right up his alley.
Hire and train "communicators".
Multiple Recruiting Coordinators
I'm a strong believer in having two recruiting coordinators, one for offense and one for defense.
That will make two people in charge, each for their own side of the ball, and it absolutely helps accountability for the head coach.
Right now, Mack Brown can't go to Bruce Chambers and complain about this defensive class. However, if he had a defensive recruiting coordinator, he could go directly to that person and hold him accountable.
Asking the offensive and defensive coordinator to act as de facto recruiting coordinators is misplaced because they can not do both jobs adequately during the middle of the regular season.
Streamline Director of Football Operations
Texas needs to separate a few of the functions that it currently consolidates into one person.
Right now, the person who manages part of the evaluation process is also responsible for getting assistant coaches to the right games on Friday nights, and they're also responsible for figuring out travel.
Those functions need to be given to separate people. It's hard to be great at one thing if you have to be a master of all things.
There needs to be one or two people responsible for securing and figuring out travel and a different person (or people) needs to be deciding who a coach is going to go see.
Change the Perception
Right now, Texas is looked upon as a stale program. Like it or not, that's what too many recruits are seeing.
Recruits see an older coach running what was an older-style offense that has had issues winning like he used to.
Rather than run from some of those perceptions, Texas needs to embrace some of them. Of course, some of those things need to be changed altogether, like playing a more open style of offense, which is already underway.
Here's what Texas should be using to its advantage:
- Mack Brown remains the only coach in the state to win a national championship (Larry Coker at UTSA doesn't count).
- Mack Brown has put more players in the NFL than the rest of the Texas-based Big 12 coaches combined.
- Of the major football schools, the university is the No. 1 rated school in the state academically.
- The city of Austin is the state capitol.
Having recruits meet Earl Campbell and Vince Young is nice and I see that as part of the solution, but it's far from all of what Brown and Texas have to sell. Taking recruits to the Vince Young Steakhouse is a great touch as well. Mack Brown already does a lot of things right, but there's always room for improvement.
Paying more attention to pre-game activities helps. Paying more attention to in-game activities helps. Make the games and the stadium less about a Taco Bell commercial and more about the "experience".
Get Games Off LHN
Providing three football games a year to the Longhorn Network is absolutely ludicrous and DeLoss Dodds needs to hear about it from Mack Brown.
The network limits the visibility of the football program. Period.
That, in turn, directly hurts recruiting.
The idea of short-term gains for the long-term good, as the LHN gains distribution, is compelling on its face. But that's not what Mack Brown signed up for and one quarter of your season only being shown on a poorly distributed network hurts the visibility of the program immensely.
If Baylor, Texas A&M, OU and Oklahoma State are all going to be on easily accessible channels while Texas is going to be relegated to the LHN, it's an advantage to those other teams.
One game a year is all that Texas is required to push to LHN.
If Mack Brown sits back and allows DeLoss Dodds and Chris Plonsky to push his games to the LHN, then he is making a major mistake and undervaluing how much kids want their friends to see themselves play on TV.
Mack Brown shouldn't try to get along with DeLoss Dodds. Brown needs to push for what is best for his program.
He's not doing that if he continues to allow Texas football games to be pushed onto a poorly distributed network.
Houston, we have a problem
Re-establish Houston as a primary recruiting ground.
While the DFW Metroplex churns out more players than Houston, the city of Houston is actually more easy for the Horns to recruit.
There are truly only two major schools in Houston - Texas and Texas A&M. LSU is a distant third and Baylor and Tech fall even further behind that. In the Metroplex, there are a half dozen.
Stop finding excuses not to do it and get after the satellite camps.
These camps are proven to help identify players. A newly created personnel department could potentially be a part of these camps and even help make them a reality.
Yes, it will cut into the staff's vacation time, but other staffs already have multiple satellite camps while Texas insists players come to Austin.
There is little question that satellite camps are helping Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State evaluate players that they can't get on their own campuses. In fact, it's how Gary Patterson, Art Briles and Mike Gundy have all but closed the talent gap while Brown and Bob Stoops have sat back and watched it happen.
Of course, this idea goes back to player identification and evaluation, so really it is only a subset of that. But it's an important enough idea because others are using it so successfully that I feel like it deserves its own mention.
Keep Moving Forward
Mack Brown already does so many things right on the recruiting trail.
In some ways, he has revolutionized recruiting throughout his career as a head coach. While he's known for early recruiting, there are other aspects that are more nuanced, like having a player panel on junior day, or even junior day itself.
But Brown needs to keep re-engineering Longhorn recruiting.
If he stops looking for ways to improve and taking the necessary steps to improve, he and the Horns will get passed up. That's what the Horns are in danger of unless Brown takes immediate action.
By visiting high schools of key juniors this winter and offering scholarships earlier, Brown has proven he is willing to change. But some of the suggestions in this article aren't merely about change, they're about changing the recruiting dynamic and the long-standing inertia of how he has recruited.
As the saying goes, history tends to repeat itself. The fear is if Brown doesn't make changes now, history will only repeat itself and the Horns will stumble to the finish line again next year.
I don't think he and the Longhorns can stand pat in how they recruit, not if they want to win a national championship and be the best team in the state of Texas.
The aforementioned list of suggestions are but a few things that Mack Brown should be considering as this recruiting class ends with a whimper.