It’s happening again.
It’s the same as last year. It’s the same as the year before.
It’s February, almost a year until pen goes to paper, and yet Texas has completed 30 percent of its 2013 recruiting class. The latest is ESPNU Watch List athlete Ricky Seals-Jones (Sealy, Texas/Sealy). Just another top prospect. Another who is considered one of the best at his position. An in-state guy. A guy Texas had to have.
And there will be a next. In a typical year Texas gets between 60 and 70 percent of its commits in the month of February. Six more commits and Texas, which is expected to sign about 18 recruits, is there.
So much for all the excitement and analysis that accompanied Mack Brown’s late January close with the class of 2012. So much for the hand wringing that accompanied the silence of JD1. Should have known it was all just temporary. Brown’s too old and been at this too long for things to change now.
He learned it in his days at North Carolina. Brown used to sit and watch as the power programs, like Penn State, handpicked the players they wanted from the state. He was powerless to do anything about it.
The only power that Brown did have at the fledgling program was his capacity to build relationships. So instead of seething at what he couldn’t have, Brown began to lean on what he did. He got in the door first. He shook the most coaches’ hands. He told the best stories. Related to the most people. He embraced who he was, where he was and all the people around. It was genuine. Or as genuine as any itinerant college coach can be.
As a result Brown started to win in recruiting and he started to gather stories like this one about the recruitment of future NFL defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday.
"Vonnie was 25 minutes from the University of South Carolina,’’ Brown remembered. "It was us, Clemson and Georgia Tech and maybe Penn State. I called Vonnie on Sunday (prior to signing day) and his mom said he is not talking to anybody else. Usually that is not a good sign.’’
Two days later, on the morning of signing day, the former Camden High (Camden, S.C.) made his decision.
"He called me at 10:10 and said, 'Coach I just signed your papers. I'm coming to the University of North Carolina,’’’ Brown said.
It may have been a late win, but it was an early indicator that if Brown could get in early on a player, build that relationship first, he could win in recruiting.
Brown’s position at Texas only helped to strengthen the tenets he had learned at North Carolina. Now the doors swung open. And Brown always steps through long before high noon.
That’s not to say there will not be some drama with the 2013 class. Kevin Sumlin has been aggressive early at Texas A&M. Art Briles has attracted more top prospects to the Bears’ junior days than ever before.
Then there was Oklahoma assistant coach Jay Norvell. Evidently Norvell has learned how to tweet. (Learned is a very loose term here since Norvell gave out his cell on the tweets, did not use the more covert direct messaging tool and committed NCAA secondary violations in the process.) Norvell unabashedly tweeted out six early offers to players this week.
Seals-Jones was one of those players. Obviously the social handshake didn’t work.
The real one from Mack Brown did. Just as it typically does.