AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Despite two consecutive losing seasons, Texas closed strong on national signing day with a surge of defensive talent that put its recruiting class among the nation’s best.
Longhorns coach Charlie Strong clearly sold a promise of good things to come at a program that is just 11-14 the last two seasons. And the payoff came in the final hours with a tidal wave of commitments from recruits who had kept quiet about their choice of school until Wednesday.
Headlining the defensive haul were Brandon Jones, one of the nation’s top-rated safeties, and defensive tackles Chris Daniels and Jordan Elliot among the 24 players who signed with the Longhorns. Daniels, of Euless, Texas, had initially committed to Big 12 rival Oklahoma.
Texas also signed the state’s top quarterback prospect in Shane Buechele of Arlington, who is already enrolled in school and could compete for the starting job as the Longhorns rebuild their offense behind new coordinator Sterlin Gilbert.
Perhaps just as important for Strong was the optimism that came with landing so many highly rated prospects on the final day.
"It was a great day today. A great finish," Strong said. "This was a big step forward for our program. We needed it. The drama today, I liked it. We needed everyone’s attention on our program."
Top 25 Class: Yes.
Best in class: Brandon Jones, S, Nacogdoches, Texas.
Best of the rest: Jeffrey McCollough, LB, Houston; Erick Fowler, LB, Manor, Texas.
Late addition: Jordan Elliott, DT, Houston.
One that got away: Patrick Hudson, OL, Silsbee, Texas, who stuck with his early commitment to Baylor.
How they’ll fit in: The Longhorns had two significant needs, defensive tackle and quarterback, and nailed both. Texas’ best DT from last season, Hassan Ridgeway, is leaving for the NFL and experienced depth is woefully thin. Daniels (6-4, 328 pounds) and Elliott (6-3, 322) and the three other freshmen tackles will immediately compete for playing time. Jones (6-0, 195) is a big get to help he backside of a defense in the pass-happy Big 12.
"We knew we had to shore it up on defense," Strong said. "We had to get guys inside … Big body guys. That’s how you win."
Buechele (6-1, 190) will have his chance to take over at quarterback. His competition is senior Tyrone Swoopes and sophomore Jerrod Heard, who have struggled.