UT's Strong Scrambled to Keep 1st Class Together

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC 5 News

    Texas coach Charlie Strong barely had a month to accept his new job, move to Austin and somehow hold together the Longhorns' 2014 recruiting class after Mack Brown's sudden departure after 16 years.

    Strong did it, keeping together a class recruiting experts rank among the best in the Big 12. Texas signed 23 players to national letters-of-intent Wednesday, including the big-time quarterback the Longhorns need, and two out-of-state defensive linemen Strong originally tried to lure to Louisville.

    Strong spent the past month re-recruiting and "re-selling" Texas to the players who had committed to the Longhrons when Brown was the coach. Making it particularly awkward was that Brown announced his resignation on Dec. 14, the same weekend Texas hosted more than a dozen recruits for the team banquet and their official visit.

    Those recruits were left to wonder who would take over and Strong accepted the job three weeks later. He soon was dashing to Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and San Antonio to meet and greet recruits, parents and coaches and keep anyone from abandoning ship.

    "A very intense couple of weeks," Strong said. "We had to sell ourselves. When a new staff comes in, the recruit has to be comfortable with you."

    Among them is Jerrod Heard, the only quarterback Texas signed.

    The U.S. Army All-American won consecutive Texas Class 4A state championships and fills a critical need at a position where depth is a major concern. Senior David Ash, the presumed starter next season, missed most of the 2013 season because of recurring concussion symptoms and backup Tyrone Swoopes hardly played.

    Considered one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, Heard passed for 2,148 yards, rushed for 2,172 and accounted for 50 touchdowns last season.

    Brown's departure prompted a couple of defections from the class, but Strong filled the gaps by signing defensive tackles Poona Ford of Hilton Head, S.C., and Chris Nelson of Lakeland, Fla. Both were players Strong had tried to recruit at Louisville.

    Strong said he wants to dominate the Texas recruiting grounds. That will be tough as old rival Texas A&M has seized momentum with coach Kevin Sumlin dazzling recruits with the school's Aggies-themed helicopter that has been nicknamed the "Swagcopter."

    "We're not going to be a gadget program," Strong said.

    "We're still the University of Texas," Strong said. "We will always be the flagship university of this state."

    Texas' 2014 football signees announced Wednesday:

       Alex Anderson, ol, 6-5, 310, Landry-Walker HS, New Orleans
       Andrew Beck, lb, 6-3, 230, Plant HS, Tampa, Fla.
       Roderick Bernard, wr, 5-10, 175, Sharpstown HS, Houston
       John Bonney, db, 6-1, 183, Lamar HS, Houston
       Donald Catalon, rb, 6-0, 200, Eisenhower HS, Houston
       Terrell Cuney, ol, 6-3, 260, Jasper (Texas) HS
       Poona Ford, dt, 6-1, 288, Hilton Head (S.C.) HS
       Armanti Foreman, wr, 6-0, 180, Texas City (Texas) HS
       D'Onta Foreman, rb, 6-2, 215, Texas City (Texas) HS
       Edwin Freeman, s, 6-1, 215, Bowie HS, Arlington, Texas
       Garrett Gray, wr, 6-4, 211, Marble Falls (Texas) HS
       Jason Hall, db, 6-2, 190, South Grand Prairie HS, Grand Prairie, Texas
       Cameron Hampton, lb, 6-0, 201, Carter HS, Dallas
       Jerrod Heard, qb, 6-2, 190, Guyer HS, Denton, Texas
       Lorenzo Joe, wr, 6-2, 192, Cooper HS, Abilene, Texas
       Dorian Leonard, wr, 6-4, 200, Longview (Texas) HS
       Jake McMillon, dt, 6-3, 240, Abilene (Texas) HS
       Chris Nelson, dt, 6-3, 280, Victory Christian HS, Lakeland, Fla.
       Derick Roberson, de, 6-4, 235, Brennan HS, San Antonio
       Elijah Rodriguez, ol, 6-6, 280, Cypress Creek HS, Houston
       Jermaine Roberts, db, 5-9, 170, St. Augustine HS, New Orleans
       Kevin Shorter, rb, 6-0, 188, Newton (Texas) HS
       Blake Whiteley, te, 6-5, 245, Arizona Western CC

      TEXAS
       National rankings (Rivals 20 , Scout 16 ).
       Best in class: Jerrod Heard, qb, Denton, Texas
       Best of the rest: Poona Ford, dt, Hilton Head, S.C.
       Late addition: Chris Nelson, dt, Lakeland, Fla.
       One that got away: Sione Teuhema, de, Keller, Texas

    NOTE: Coach Charlie Strong wasn't hired to replace Mack Brown until Jan. 6, which meant he had to scramble to hold on to some previous commitments and lure others. The class won't be considered as strong compared to what Texas fans are used to, but no one will care about that if the Longhorns win on the field.