Charlie Strong boosts Texas rebuilding efforts with another top-10 class

Charlie Strong pushes his way to successful recruiting class (0:44)

Jeremy Crabtree explains how Texas coach Charlie Strong's perseverance and ability to sell the program was the key to the Longhorns landing a top-10 recruiting class. (0:44)

AUSTIN, Texas -- Back in August, before Charlie Strong embarked on his second season as Texas’ head coach, he offered up an important admission about his timeline to rebuild the struggling Longhorns.

Back then, he knew he’d brought in a group of freshman difference-makers, guys who’d go on to start a lot of games in 2015. And he knew he needed more.

“I need to have a good class with 2016 to match this class I just had,” Strong told USA Today. “If I can do that, I’ll have me something.”

After inking a class featuring 12 ESPN 300 standouts, seven of whom committed in the last two days to blast the Longhorns up 22 spots to No. 10 in the ESPN class rankings, Strong felt it was safe to say he accomplished his mission.

“I think we did a good job of not only matching it but getting the needs,” Strong said.

The needs included linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch and safety Brandon Jones, two of the nation’s top 50 recruits. Both turned down Texas A&M and signed with the Longhorns on Wednesday.

Another need was defensive tackle. The Horns locked up the No. 2 (Jordan Elliott), No. 3 (Chris Daniels) and No. 5 (Marcel Southall) guys in the state of Texas at that position on signing day. To achieve this, they beat Oklahoma for Daniels and Southall and persuaded Elliott to back out of his commitment to Michigan.

There was one more need, though this was more of a want: Texas finally flipped ESPN 300 linebacker Erick Fowler -- a longtime LSU commit from nearby Manor, Texas -- at the very last minute, securing one more pass-rushing playmaker to a defensive class that also added three-star safety Chris Brown on Wednesday morning.

Those seven pickups -- a signing day haul that’s unprecedented in recent Texas recruiting history -- were the payoff for a wild final month of recruiting that saw 13 eventual signees jump on board after Jan. 1.

Strong took a low-pressure approach with this class over the past year, urging recruits to take their time and all their visits -- and, in some cases, get all their early commitments out of the way -- before making their final pledge to UT. He said he never had to panic while waiting on all those recruits who decided to save their decisions for the deadline.

“Sitting there last night, I said, ‘OK, if this thing goes the way I think it’s going to fall tomorrow, we’re going to be OK,’” Strong said.

When all the dominoes fell, the Longhorns finished with the No. 1 recruiting class in the Big 12 and a top-10 finish for a second consecutive year. In addition to the last-second victories, Texas landed No. 1 quarterback recruit in Texas in early enrollee Shane Buechele as well as the state’s No. 2 running back, Kyle Porter.

Strong was particularly proud of having bolstered the team’s depth up front with four new offensive linemen (led by ESPN 300 signees Jean Delance and Denzel Okafor) plus six defensive linemen.

After a disappointing 5-7 season, the Longhorns needed to add those big men and several more pieces to the rebuilding puzzle. Thanks to the flurry of high-profile victories and flips on Wednesday, Strong felt glad to be one big step closer to getting the program back on track.

“The drama today, I kinda liked it because I think we had everybody’s attention,” Strong said. “That’s what I want. I want everyone’s attention on our program, and that’s what we got today.”