AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas needed a wide receiver.
A threat for the quarterback. A toy for the offensive coordinator. A nightmare for the defense. Another No. 4.
Then it happened. That player was signed. And the hyperbole that had started with his commitment hit a crescendo with Mack Brown’s comments.
“He looks like some of the No. 4s [on film] that we have had around here,” the coach said. “He is tall, can run, and can make a difference for you.”
Now, he is gone.
Darius White transferred. He is one of 17 Texas players who have either elected to transfer or left the program for various reasons in the last 11 months. Texas signed 28 players in February. So the Longhorns are still plus 11 on the ledger.
Still, at first glance, the attrition rate for Texas has been alarming. Eighteen members of the 2009 and 2010 classes were gone before their eligibility expired. But a look back, and more importantly, a look ahead provides clear evidence that the panic button need not be pressed and the outrage should be stifled.
Quite simply the majority of the 17 players who have left in the past 11 months were not as good as the 22 players Texas signed in February of 2011.
Of the 17, only two, Calvin Howell, who was forced to leave Texas after an arrest for possession of a controlled substance, and Nolan Brewster, who had to quit for medical reasons, might have contributed in 2012.
What this spate of transfers does indicate is that Texas got lazy in its recruiting evaluations prior to the new assistants arriving in early 2011. Brown knows that. And he has at least talked about changing his ways.
“Everybody has a good recruiting class. It never changes,” he said. “The truth is, what will it look like in four years? What will it look like in five years? If you go back and study, that's our job. That's the young man's job. This is a starting point. This isn't the finishing.
“We need to make sure that we do a great job of bringing these guys along, making them productive players and hoping that their experience is good at The University of Texas and that they can win a lot of football games.”
The other clear signals sent by the transfers are that Texas now has a young core of players that it believes in and those players are buying into the system. The older players, those from the ‘09-‘10 classes, look around and realize their chances of playing are slim.
Ultimately, players want to play. And if they can’t play at Texas there are still places where they can play.
Adding to the pressures of the youth movement is the new zero tolerance attitude of the coaching staff. Because there are now younger players in the program who produce, the coaching staff is not so hesitant to hold everyone accountable to a higher standard.
The staff can push harder and if an older player who is used to coasting wants to leave, so be it, it will not adversely affect the product on the field. Essentially, the staff is telling the players they now have to prove their worth each and every day. In the past there was an attitude that if a player had received a scholarship, he was worthy enough to be a part of the team. Judging from the numbers, that attitude was pervasive.
Now what is sweeping through Texas is change. That means changing faces, attitudes and, above all, the expectations of those new players who are signed to scholarships for the express purpose of making those changes.