- Carter Strickland, Reporter, HornsNation
Counting down to national signing day on Feb. 1, HornsNation will look back at each of Mack Brown’s Texas recruiting classes.
Texas had to have a running back in 2001.
Hodges Mitchell was done and Mack Brown had missed on Victor Ike, Kenny Hayter, Sneezy Beltran and others. The Longhorns were desperate.
Ivan Williams had looked decent as a backup in 2000 after redshirting in 1999, but Brown needed something more than a serviceable back. He needed a star.
Midland-Lee High School in Odessa had one -- Cedric Benson. The Parade All-American was the three-time 5A Offensive player of the year in Texas. He was a can’t-miss prospect that Texas couldn’t afford to miss out on. Benson, who spent his youth watching tapes of Ricky Williams during his record –setting years at Texas, committed to Texas without even ever touring the campus. His commitment was the lynchpin in a class that featured linebacker Derrick Johnson, offensive lineman Jonathan Scott, defensive backs Cedric Griffin and Michael Huff. With those four featured heavily in the scheme, Texas would win the 2004 Rose Bowl. Scott led the line the next season as Texas won the national title.
Most underrated: Will Allen
Maybe it was because he added 25 pounds between his junior and senior years in high school that nobody noticed Will Allen until late in the recruiting process. But Texas noticed the offensive lineman. They looked at his lineage -- his father Bill, played at Indian -- and his frame -- 6-foot-6 -- and knew they might have something.
After his redshirt freshman season, Allen took over the right guard position. He started 31 games over the next three seasons, ending with 13 straight starts and a national title in 2005.
Biggest Get: Cedric Benson
Benson had 15 touchdowns in three straight 5A state title wins at Midland Lee.
That’s how dominant he was in high school. He would prove to be pretty dominant at the college level as well. Benson became on the fifth running back in NCAA history to rush for than 1,000 yards in four straight seasons. He finished with 5,540 yards and 64 rushing touchdowns.
In his final two years Benson and the Longhorns were No. 8 and No. 2 nationally in rushing yards per game, respectively. He also won the Doak Walker Award for the nation’s top running back as a senior. All this from a player who was actually rated the 11th best running back prospect in 2001 behind players like Eric Shelton (Florida State), Jabarai Davis (Tennessee), Kelly Baraka (Michigan) and Damien Nash (Missouri). Kevin Jones, who went to Virginia Tech, was the top running back prospect of 2001.
Biggest bust: Rufus Harris
The La Porte product was hailed as an immediate impact defensive back. At 5-11, 190 pounds, he had speed and the attitude to be an excellent free safety for Texas. He was projected to be someone who would fit alongside the likes of Nathan Vasher and newcomer Cedric Griffin.
And after his selection to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, it seemed like he was a lock to do just that. But Harris never made that much of an impact on the field. He was primarily a special teams player during his two years at Texas. He had just 12 tackles in 16 games before transferring.