Tom Herman understood his audience during his introductory news conference as Texas’ football coach.
Sure, it included current players, donors and fans, but it was with an eye toward the immediate goal of recruiting that he beckoned to the high school players and coaches in Texas.
“I also want the high school coaches of the great state of Texas to know that this is their football program,” said Herman, the former Houston coach. “I have recruited this state for 20-some odd years. I have grown up with the high school football coaches in this great state. It is important to me that the great players in the great state of Texas understand that we are going to do everything we can to keep them home.”
Texas has seven commits in the Class of 2017 – all from Texas — and is only expected to sign 13-15 players for 2017 after signing 24 last February in a class that was ranked among the top 10. That group had seven players commit on National Signing Day and 11 within the final week.
The timing of the hire should also benefit Herman as there are still more than two months until National Signing Day in February. He also has two weeks until the dead period begins Dec. 12, although coaches can call, text and write recruits during that period but can’t have personal contact.
“It’s going to be tough for this to create major waves in the 2017 class for Texas because there’s a lot of ground to make up,” said Barton Simmons, national recruiting director for 247Sports. “Going forward, there’s no doubt that Tom Herman will be able to have Texas contending for a No. 1 recruiting class every year.
“He’s the same guy that brought in a five-star to Houston (in Ed Oliver) and has Houston ranked higher than Texas in the national recruiting rankings. If he can do that at Houston, it’s scary to think what he can with the flagship program of the state behind him.
“Texas will return to regularly being a heavyweight from the beginning of the recruiting cycle to the end.”
Houston has 20 commits in its class following the Monday night decommitment of California cornerback Javelin Guidry, and it’s unclear if any will opt to follow Herman to Texas. The most intriguing among them could be three-star linebacker Mohamed Sanago from Plano West. He could potentially help in an area of need for Texas.
“It would be an option to follow him if he chooses to recruit me at Texas, an intriguing option,” he told USA TODAY Sports. “But as much is I want to play for Herman, I also want to play under (interim coach Todd Orlando, Herman’s defensive coordinator).
“This situation won’t change my commitment, but I will have my eyes open.”
The seven Texas commits all had built relationships with Strong and his staff and now must look forward to Herman and the staff he is assembling. Unlike what is often the case at other programs, none of the seven immediately decommitted.
“It’s sad to see a great man and coach go like that,” said four-star defensive end Taquon Graham from Temple (Texas). “I am looking at it that Herman can bring in something new and different and that should help out a lot.”
Three-star cornerback Josh Thompson from Nacogdoches, Texas, said he remains committed to Texas but is planning to take visits that were arranged before the coaching change. Thompson flipped from TCU to Texas in late July.
“I am shocked,” he said, “but I will play along with the situation.”
Among the seven, much of the focus has been on quarterback Sam Ehlinger from Westlake (Austin), who is ranked as the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback in the class by the 247Sports Composite. Ehlinger plans to enroll early at Texas.
Reports indicate that Kyle Allen could follow Herman from Houston to the Longhorns. Allen would be eligible to play in 2017. Incumbent starter Shane Buechle just finished his freshman season.
“Sam Ehlinger is a very athletic kid,” Simmons said. “He’s got a big-time arm. Herman was successful with a multitude of quarterback styles at Ohio State so Ehlinger should be excited.”
The top four recruits in Texas remain uncommitted and would be potential targets.
However, linebacker Baron Browning (Kennedale) and cornerback Jeffrey Okudah (South Grand Prairie) visited Ohio State over the weekend and Texas is not among the finalists for either. However, Browning announced late Monday night that he is delaying his planned announcement scheduled for Tuesday. That at least could give Herman time to make his pitch.
But the Longhorns should be in the mix for Episcopal (Bellaire) teammates Walker Little and Marvin Wilson. Little, an offensive tackle, and Wilson, a defensive tackle, are among the top 20 players in the country, with Walker among those contending for No. 1 overall.
“I think it now gets Texas much more so in the game,” Simmons said. “I think both of those guys are very much in play. You have two full months to work on these guys. This is going to be a fun battle to watch down the homestretch.”
Linebacker Anthony Hines III from Plano East has been among the most coveted players in Texas for years, posting 90 offers at one point. He is set to announce his college decision Friday and Texas was not among his final six.
“Personally, I believe next year would have been the year they turned around so I’m displeased with the decision to fire him,” Hines said, “but I do believe that Herman will have a positive impact on the future of UT.”