Almost exactly one year ago to the day, Charlie Strong sat in his office on the University’s campus expecting to shake up the college football landscape in a matter of hours.
The former Texas football head coach felt the pressure to perform after limping into the offseason with a 5–7 record in his second season on the 40 Acres.
Needing to spark a turnaround in his tenure, Strong eyed National Signing Day as a mechanism to gain traction within his program in spite of compiling an 11–14 record in his first two years on the job.
Strong’s 2016 recruiting class sat at No. 32 in ESPN’s rankings heading into last year’s edition of signing day. When he put his head to pillow that night, however, his class had vaulted to No. 7 in the nation, according to 247Sports’ Composite Rankings.
Texas landed seven commits in a span of just over five hours to pen one of the nation’s top classes. Strong, once again, secured the pieces he wanted to get the Longhorns moving toward national prominence.
“Just looking at the national exposure, the way it took off, everybody kept saying, ‘What’s happening in Austin?’” Strong said on Feb. 3, 2016. “It became big-time news just because it was falling for us today. But we needed that, and we’ve just got to continue to build on it.”
A year later, however, Strong no longer sits in an office nestled inside Moncrief Athletic Complex just south of Darrell K Royal—Texas Memorial Stadium. Instead, he’s preparing to sign a herd of Bulls — not Longhorns — on the University of South Florida’s campus in Tampa, Fla.
Tom Herman now sits in the same space Strong used to occupy, trying to accomplish a similar feat as the latter. Herman’s current class ranks No. 25 according to 247Sports. He’ll need a another last-minute barrage of commitments to replicate Strong’s success from last year.
Herman’s chances at duplicating such a feat have already taken a big hit. Four days after taking an official visit to Texas, four-star cornerback Javelin Guidry chose Utah over Herman and the Longhorns.
Guidry had originally been committed to Houston while Herman was still the Cougars’ head coach. After Herman fled to Austin, it appeared Guidry would follow him when he decommitted from Houston.
Herman’s class still has a chance to garner some attention. In spite of his accomplishments on signing day last year, Strong failed to reel in a five-star player. Herman still has one on his radar: defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson.
Chaisson bounces around from a four-star player to a five-star depending on the source, but make no mistake — the Galena Park North Shore product can play. He’s rated as the No. 5 weak-side defensive end in the nation, according to Scout.com.
Herman also has his eyes on 6-foot-5, 290-pound Stephan Zabie out of nearby Westlake High School. The four-star offensive tackle visited Texas on Jan. 26 and would be a vital piece in both pass protection and run blocking as Herman implements his offensive scheme throughout his tenure.
Though Herman’s first recruiting class at Texas might be smaller in both numbers and notability than the group Strong put together last year, the first-year head coach still has a chance to sign the players he needs to be more successful on the field than his predecessor.