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July 12, 2011

OB's greatest recruiting moments

As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Orangebloods.com (May 2001), we continue to rank some of the best moments for the Longhorn football program during the OB era. Up next, we look at the top 10 recruiting moments.

Don't go looking for any Darrell Scott or Ryan Perrilloux recaps on this list, we're talking about the fondest of memories for the UT fan base (don't worry, we'll touch on the drama in a future update).

Once again, it was hard to narrow the list down to just 10 selections.

1. Vince Young commits to Texas.

January 13 should be an annual celebration for the Longhorn fan base. It was on that day in 2002 that Vince Young (or more formally, Vincent Young as he was dubbed in the Rivals.com database) announced his decision to commit to Texas. Actually, the news on the man now-known as simply VY broke via his mother shortly after Young returned from his official visit to Texas.

"He committed, but you'll have to talk to him about it. He's in the shower right now. Call him back in 30 minutes," Felicia Young said at the time.

Everyone knew Texas was getting an incredible talent at the time of Young's commitment - he was rated as the nation's top overall prospect by Rivals.com - but few could envision the success that VY would have in Austin, including leading Texas to the 2005 national championship. VY was a program-changer if there ever was one.

2. Landing the nation's top running back (Malcolm Brown/Johnathan Gray) in back-to-back classes.

The Longhorn ground game has been frustratingly inconsistent ever since Jamaal Charles left after the 2007, but UT running backs coach Major Applewhite has rolled up his sleeves and put in extra work on the recruiting scene the past two years to get things straightened out.

In the 2011 class, the running back options within the Lone Star State were vast, and seemingly every member of the Longhorn fan base had an opinion on how Texas should be handling its recruiting options. While many fans were critical of UT's approach, Applewhite stayed patient and kept his focus on his top target, Cibolo Steele's Brown, knowing all along that Texas was the heavy favorite to eventually win out on his commitment.

By recruiting Brown and only Brown as a true tailback in that class (Texas did take Joe Bergeron as an H-back option), the UT staff also kept one eye on the future. The UT depth chart was still an attractive recruiting pitch for the 2012 class, and Applewhite went out and won a hotly-contested recruiting battle for Johnathan Gray.

The UT ground game looks to be in great shape for the future thanks to two of the biggest commiments in the program in the last 10 years.

3. Colt McCoy signs with Texas, some other quarterback doesn't.

On National Signing Day for the 2005 class, all the Longhorn fans (and media) wanted to talk about was a certain out-of-state quarterback who got away at the last moment. Meanwhile, McCoy, a three-star prospect out of little ol' Jim Ned High School, sent his letter of intent into Texas with very little fanfare. What a blessing for UT.

McCoy went on to rewrite the Texas record book in completing a staggering 70.3 percent of his passes while throwing for 13,253 yards (No. 1 on UT's all-time list) and 112 TDs (No. 1 on UT's all-time list) against 45 INTs for a passer rating of 155.0 (No. 1 on UT's all-time list). He also handled his business wonderfully away from the field and gave his coaches zero headaches, unlike the QB that spurned Texas on signing day.

4. 5-star Friday.

This one's still pretty fresh in the mind of Texas fans and it might sit atop the list as one of the more exciting recruiting memories for Texas in the past few years.

On January 29, 2010, a mere five days before National Signing Day, Texas secured commitments from five-star prospects Jackson Jeffcoat and Jordan Hicks, sending the burnt orange faithful into an online frenzy.

With the two commitments, the Longhorns bested some heavy competition from the likes of Florida and Ohio State for Hicks, and Oklahoma and Houston for Jeffcoat. The commitment announcements were separated by only 30 minutes.

Both Jeffcoat and Hicks played for Texas as true freshmen and played well. Both are being counted on to be leaders for the UT defense in 2011 and beyond.

5. Texas takes Garrett Gilbert in the 2009 class before the first junior day.

In a move that had some fans ecstatic and others frustrated, the Texas coaches stepped away from their tradition of not accepting commitments before the program's first junior day of the recruiting year when Gilbert, a member of the 2009 class, committed the day after the 2008 group signed.

In taking Gilbert, the Longhorns chose to go with one of the nation's top pro-style quarterbacks over the more athletic option in Russell Shepard, who would go on to sign with LSU. That decision was a recruiting quarterback controversy unlike any the Texas fan base has ever experienced.

6. Texas picks up commitments from the Brenham duo of Malcom Brown and Timothy Cole.

If anyone thought the recruiting tide might be turning in the Lone Star State in 2012, a year after Texas struggled on the field and A&M gained some momentum, the commitments of Brown and Cole served notice that UT is still the top dog.

Early on, both Cole and Brown looked as if they'd follow several Brenham teammates to Texas A&M, but the Texas coaches made it a personal mission to win the battle and Texas won out over the Aggies for the two Rivals100 members.

7. Holding the 2011 class together after the coaching changes.

When Texas went through a two-month revolving door of assistant coaches, fresh off the heals of one of the program's most disappointing seasons in history, there was legitimate concern that the coaches would be unable to hold on to a number of UT's stellar 2011 recruiting class.

Thanks to some tireless efforts by the UT assistant coaches, and the stable foundation that Mack Brown has been able to build over the year, Texas marched on, nearly without a single blip on the screen. Christian Westerman did switch his commitment but no other Longhorn commitment even visited any other schools. Incredible.

8. Texas picks up commitments from Eddie Jones, Deon Beasley, Hunter Lawrence, Brian Ellis and Sergio Kindle on or near the spring game, sending shockwaves through the state of Texas.

In securing the commitments of Kindle, Jones and Beasley, Texas locked down players who were ranked No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5 in the state in the 2006 class, respectively. Jones and Beasley went public with their announcement following UT's spring game while Kindle waited a week to finalize his decision, although he too was all but in the bag after taking in the Orange-White game.

Texas had really begun to amp up its early recruiting efforts that year, securing pledges from 17 pledges before mid-April, signifying a dramatic change in the program's early recruiting efforts. Just about every school in the country has followed suit in recent years.

9. Jevan Snead switches from Florida to Texas.

The 2006 recruiting class in the state of Texas was loaded with talent, and Texas scored its second big QB pledge of the class (Sherrod Harris committed early) when Snead switched from Florida to UT in mid-November. Texas did miss on a few other top targets that year, including Matthew Stafford and Mitch Mustain, but the commitments of Snead and Harris had UT fans on cloud nine when they went down.

Unfortunately for Longhorn fans, Florida turned the tables the next year when John Brantley switched from the Longhorns to the Gators.

10. DeMarco Cobbs and Mike Davis switch their commitments in the 2010 class and now look like future stars.

Texas doesn't often recruit players who have committed to other schools, but in 2010 the Horns stole a couple top prospects from SEC programs and are now reaping the rewards.

In the case of Cobbs, who had committed to Tennessee, it was the player who reached out to Texas rather than the Longhorn staff pursuing Cobbs after he had given the Vols a pledge. Cobbs somewhat out of the blue called Texas assistant Bruce Chambers in October, about six weeks after committing to Tennessee, with hopes of setting up a visit. He was brought in on an official visit on December 13 and made his commitment 100 percent official at that time. Cobbs is now looking like a potential star linebacker for the Longhorn defense.

In Davis, Texas decided not to offer the Dallas Skyline product early on, a decision the coaches would learn to regret after Davis went on a tear during his senior season. Texas began talking to Davis behind-the-scenes towards the end of his season and Davis gave indications behind the scenes that he'd be switching his pledge from LSU to Texas. He visited Texas on the same weekend Cobbs was brought in and went public with his commitment after that visit. Davis is expected to be the Horns' top receiver next fall.



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