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Sunday, March 24, 2013
Five thoughts on Texas' sophomore day

By William Wilkerson

AUSTIN, Texas -- The Longhorns’ inaugural sophomore day has come and gone, the affects of which will likely be felt for some time.

There were uncertainties going into Saturday’s festivities. What was known was that several dozen of the top sophomores in the state were going to travel here for a first in the history of Texas football, and that it was going to be structured similar to a junior day.

Other than that, questions ran rampant. How many offers would go out? Would anyone commit? What were recruits saying when it was done?

Here’s a look at five things we learned from Texas’ first sophomore day:

Malik Jefferson
Class of 2015 prospect Malik Jefferson was one of two linebackers offered by Texas at its sophomore day.
This was a good idea, no?

Skeptics seemed few and far between leading up to Texas’ day of sophomore festivities. But after seeing what the Longhorns were able to accomplish, it’s doubtful that any would say this didn't work out in Texas’ favor.

The Longhorns have already identified many of their top targets and showed eight of them just how serious they are by extending them offers. The days of waiting until prospects attend a junior day are long gone. Times have changed. Recruits want to feel wanted before they’re considered upperclassmen. Texas coach Mack Brown realizes that, he’s adapted to it, and he is already reaping the benefits of the new philosophy.

Suddes needs to keep momentum going

Winning football games will take care of a lot of the issues Texas has faced on the recruiting trail in the past few seasons.

Meanwhile, Patrick Suddes, Texas’ new director of player personnel, has got to keep coming up with inventive ways to entice recruits that Texas is the place they need to be.

The Longhorns apparently had this sophomore day in the works before Suddes was hired but his involvement Saturday was unquestionably key to the day’s success.

Where does he go from here? It seems like the options are limitless right now, except for the number of staff members Texas can hire to help him in his endeavors. There are some NCAA issues regarding rule changes that will determine that in the summer.

One thing Suddes does need to figure out, possibly, is how to more efficiently utilize the fact that Texas will play its spring game the same weekend as the Texas Relays, when several of its targets will come to town for one event or the other, or both.

Offering the right ones is key

It’s so early on in the recruitment of these prospects that there isn’t a whole lot of film to evaluate them on. A lot can change in two years.

In offering a player now, Texas has to be sold on his short-term and long-term potential.

That said, there were really no surprise offers today. Of those who went into Brown’s office and were offered by the longtime Texas figurehead, all warrant an offer in just about everyone’s estimation.

Diaz taking charge

Texas defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Manny Diaz is doing work.

Think back to Texas’ first junior day, when he garnered a commitment from linebacker Cameron Hampton (Dallas/Carter) before most people had wiped the sleep out of their eyes. Hampton went into that day, in my estimation, liking Oklahoma every bit as much as he did Texas because of the relationship he’d built with Sooners co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell. But Diaz helped sell Hampton on the Longhorns, who became their first (and only) LB commitment of 2014.

Fast forward to Saturday, when Diaz identified two linebackers he thought were worth offering: Malik Jefferson (Mesquite, Texas/Poteet) and Cameron Townsend (Missouri City, Texas/Ridge Point).

Getting on these players early, at a position and in a recruiting year when the Longhorns will desperately be needing a new flush of talent, can only help.

Diaz is not only identifying his targets right now, but by doing so he’s showing an awful lot of faith in himself that he’ll do well enough in 2013 and 2014 to at least be in a position to coach them as freshmen.

Prerequisites for first commitment

For those out there looking to be the so-called “bell cow” of a future Longhorns recruiting class, you’ll be required to attain a few criterion in order to be considered. First, you’ve got to have a haircut similar to offensive line coach Stacy Searels. Just kidding, sort of, but it does seem to be a trend.

Jake Raulerson looks like he and Searels share a barber, and Aaron Garza definitely does. That "cut it on your front porch" haircut is how Searels broke the ice with Garza, who became Texas’ first commitment for 2015 on Saturday.

Like Raulerson, who was the initial commitment of 2013, and Lorenzo Joe, the first in 2014, Garza seemed destined for burnt orange threads if he was offered.

It came Saturday and he jumped at the opportunity.

The label of being the first commitment holds a lot of weight. Recruiting often times is so much about momentum, so programs are hoping to make a big enough splash with the first one that others will want to jump on board.

Garza is that type. Baylor, after all, offered him before he had played a down of varsity football. That speaks to his abilities.

He’s a go-getter type that should help sell the Longhorns with not only his abilities but his steadfast commitment to the program.