NCF On The Trail: Kyler Murray

Quarterback Kyler Murray grabbed all of the headlines at Allen (Texas) High School over the past few seasons, but it’s actually junior offensive tackle Greg Little who is a higher-ranked prospect.

Anyone who still wondered whether Charlie Strong could recruit can stop wondering.

In their first full year in Austin, Strong and his staff have put together a defensive class that is the envy of college football.

The Longhorns alone have seven ESPN 300 defenders committed, and they could add an eighth on signing day in five-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack, who will announce between Texas, TCU and Texas A&M.

The rest of the Big 12 combined has only eight ESPN 300 defensive commits.

This has all the makings of a foundational 2015 class Insider that could finally lead Texas out of the desert and back to the oasis of national prominence.

Except for one gigantically glaring missing piece.

A piece the Longhorns have desperately longed for since the days of Vince Young and Colt McCoy.

That's right, a quarterback.

Despite boasting a remarkable class at almost every other position, Texas heads into signing day week without a quarterback on board, following one big recruiting gamble that backfired.

The Longhorns spent the last month going after Texas A&M commit Kyler Murray, the No. 1-ranked quarterback in the country, only to see Murray stick with the Aggies, where his father was a two-time All-American. It was a worthy gamble. Though only 5-foot-11, Murray possesses a transformational talent that could have changed Texas' fortunes at the most critical of positions.

But this roll of the dice has left the Longhorns in quarterback limbo yet again.

Three days before signing day, the Longhorns now have one final recourse at quarterback in this class: flipping Florida State commit Kai Locksley, who visited Austin last weekend.

Landing Locksley would be better than landing no one. After all, he's an ESPN 300 athlete. But Locksley is not Murray, at least not now. And just like Tyrone Swoopes, Locksley is a developmental quarterback. Not one seemingly ready to impact the Longhorns in 2015.

Texas actually once owned a pledge from a more polished thrower in ESPN 300 pocket passer Zach Gentry, who committed in May. But as Texas went all in on Murray, Gentry flipped his commitment to Michigan. The pro-style quarterback cited concerns the Longhorns were morphing into a spread attack, though he couldn't have been enamored with Texas' full-court pursuit of Murray, either.

If the Longhorns strike out on Locksley, they could still bring in three-star commit Matthew Merrick, if only to add a third passer for depth purposes. But Merrick was slated to grayshirt, underscoring where he fell into the immediate plans.

Either way, unless the Longhorns land a high-profile transfer (Everett Golson? Braxton Miller?) they are essentially back to where they were last season, when they owned one of the three-worst offenses in the Big 12.

After taking over for David Ash, Swoopes gained steam into October, nearly spearheading Texas to an upset of Oklahoma before rallying the Longhorns to a 48-45 win against Iowa State. Swoopes, however, sputtered the rest of the way, and the Texas offense flatlined in losses to TCU and Arkansas to end the season, confirming serious doubts as to whether he could ever lead the Longhorns to a Big 12 title.

After Swoopes, all Texas has coming back is Jerrod Heard, who redshirted last season. Heard was a four-star signee after taking Denton Guyer to a pair of state titles. But unlike Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph and Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes, who shined as true freshmen, Heard, by all accounts, was not ready to step on the field, despite Texas' struggles at the position.

Heard might be Texas' answer at quarterback, and could very well overtake Swoopes for the starting job this spring.

Then again, he might not.

What is known is that Texas will not win the Big 12 again until it gets elite quarterback play again.

Bryce Petty, Trevone Boykin, Collin Klein, Brandon Weeden, Sam Bradford and, of course, McCoy and Young -- these are the caliber of quarterbacks that usually win Big 12 titles.

This past season, the Longhorns featured arguably the best defense in the Big 12, and that barely got them to six wins.

A dominant defense can take a team a long way in the Big 12. But history has proven it can't take a team all the way to the top.

With this incoming class, it probably won't be long before Strong features another ferocious defense. But without a premier quarterback, that probably still won't be enough.

That's why Strong went so hard after Murray. Virtually everywhere else, this has the makings of an extraordinary signing class.

But without the quarterback, it is not complete.
National signing day, and the build up to it, is as close as Texas and Texas A&M get to actual football competition these days, to see who will in fact “run this state.”

Well, right now it’s neither school. The Lone Star State is run by Baylor and TCU, the Big 12 co-champs that narrowly missed the initial College Football Playoff field.

That’s why the 2015 recruiting class and the season are so vital to both the Longhorns and Aggies, with each power striving to re-establish itself -- not just regionally, but nationally.

Texas and Texas A&M lead off our look at programs and coaches that need the 2015 class to pay off, and the sooner the better.

(Note: The RecruitingNation ranking and number of commitments are updated as of Sunday evening.)

1. Texas
Ranking: 9
Commitments: 26

The Longhorns have secured a number of solid, team-building pieces in this class, and a few high-end targets -- DT Daylon Mack and RB Soso Jamabo, among them -- remain distinct possibilities to sign with Texas this week.

Still, Wednesday

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Despite making a commitment to Alabama last week, ESPN 300 offensive tackle Isaiah Prince said Wednesday he's visiting Maryland and will give the Terps a solid look.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Kyler Murray isn't the only high-profile Texan who will shape the future of Lone Star State recruiting, as ESPN 300 defensive backs Kris Boyd and Holton Hill will announce their decisions together Friday.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

With signing day eight days away, recruiting fans have plenty of questions about how the final few days play out. Where is Byron Cowart going to end up at? Which team will close the strongest? And what the heck is really going on with Kyler Murray?

With that in mind, I’ll be conducting an Ask Me Anything on Reddit’s College Football subreddit page at noon ET. Any team, any recruit, and any recruiting subject is fair game. So let's have at it.

Big 12 tipping point classes 

January, 27, 2015
Jan 27
Signing day is just around the corner and several Big 12 teams have the opportunity to put their stamp on their recruiting class by landing one of the nation’s top players in the final days of this recruiting cycle.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

It’s not often a recruit commits to the same school twice, but that’s what happened with ESPN 300 receiver John Burt on Monday.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

After parting ways with TCU, Devonte Fields ended up at Trinity Valley Community College and he could be heading back to the Division I ranks after signing day.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

The shockwaves from Texas A&M quarterback commitment Kyler Murray’s unofficial visit to Texas on Wednesday were still being felt Thursday because he's such an important target for both schools.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Everything is bigger in Texas, including the recruiting battles.

Kyler Murray, the nation’s No. 13 overall player and top dual-threat quarterback, and ESPN 300 receiver DaMarkus Lodge took a surprise unofficial visit to Texas Wednesday, sending shockwaves through the Lone Star State. All involved had kept quiet about these plans until Murray and Lodge tweeted photos of Texas uniforms with their respective numbers on Wednesday afternoon.

The news of Murray, who completed his career at Allen High School with a perfect 43-0 record and three Texas state championships, visiting the Forty Acres is big enough by itself. But when you consider Murray has been committed to rival Texas A&M for more than seven months, news of the visit quickly mushroomed into one of the biggest recruiting headlines for the entire 2015 recruiting cycle.

The pursuit of Murray comes at a time when Jim Harbaugh and Michigan are attempting to flip the Longhorns' lone quarterback commit, Zach Gentry. Murray did take an official visit to Oklahoma during the season. He took his official to Texas A&M last weekend. Charlie Strong has said Texas needs to take two quarterbacks for its class. ESPN 300 athlete Kai Locksley, a Florida State quarterback commit, is scheduled to visit Texas this weekend.

Texas was once the leader for Lodge while Mack Brown was head coach, but the nation's No. 57 prospect committed to Texas A&M last summer. He backed out of that commitment and just took his official visit to College Station with Murray last weekend. Lodge is expected to take his official to Ole Miss on Friday.

The odds of landing both in a signing day stunner probably aren't great, but Strong and the Longhorns at least got their chance on Wednesday to show Murray and Lodge what Texas has to offer and put a little pressure on their recruiting rival.

The newest and final ESPN 300 was released on Thursday, and eight Pac-12 programs are represented by 34 commitments. Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State all have multiple commitments in the list, with USC's 12 leading the way, followed by Oregon's six. Here are some news and notes regarding the most recent update and how things stack up in the Pac-12.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Under Armour Game superlatives 

January, 3, 2015
Jan 3
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Every year at the Under Armour All-America Game, prospects make a splash, prompting us to make up some silly names and apply them to the recruits who stood out and made an impression. Here are our superlatives for the 2015 game:

'Hi, I'm Chucky. Wanna play?': Who would have thought defensive end Byron Cowart, the No. 2-ranked prospect in the nation, would draw his inspiration from a Chucky doll? Cowart arrived in Orlando with an edge, and he proved his worth from Day 1. He said the doll reminds him to be violent as a player. Regardless of his motivation, Cowart made a huge push for the top overall spot in the final ESPN 300 rankings.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

The practices are in the books and the nation’s top prospects will showcase their skills under the bright lights of the Under Armour All-America Game (4 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN2). With an outstanding collection of talent taking the field, it can be easy to feel a football sensory overload.

Here’s a viewer’s guide to the game:

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

No. 5 athlete Terry Godwin has been committed to UGA for almost a year, but that commitment is being tested and he’s doing a good job of keeping folks guessing about his final destination.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider