Juco signings mean big things

Stop what you are doing.

If even for a second, just stop and ponder what the Longhorns accomplished Wednesday with the signings of junior college prospects Donald Hawkins (Senatobia, Miss./Northwest Mississippi Community College) and Brandon Moore (Scooba, Miss./East Mississippi Community College).

That doesn’t happen at Texas. They became just the third and fourth junior college transfers signed to scholarships in the Mack Brown era, and the first since 2001 when the Longhorns signed offensive tackle Alfio Randall and punter Brian Bradford.

What’s even rarer is the fact that they signed on junior college signing day for early enrollees, enabling them to enroll in January and get a jump start on their careers. They are the first two to do that since Brown took over in 1998.

“We haven’t actively been involved in junior college recruiting in our 14 years at Texas, but this year we felt like there were two really special young men that fit our needs and would give us immediate depth since they can come in January,” Brown said.

This sudden pursuit of Juco players seems pretty simple to understand. For one, Texas can’t keep having seasons like it had the past two years with a combined 12-12 record. That’s just not going to cut it.

Other programs have had success going this route. Think about the impact Cam Newton and Nick Fairley had for Auburn. Or what Terrence Cody meant to Alabama’s 2009 national championship team.

Secondly, the Longhorns now have coaches on their staff with ties to the Southeast where some of the more prominent junior college programs and talent resides.

Offensive line coach Stacy Searels held the same role at Georgia and LSU. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz held the same position at Mississippi State and Middle Tennessee. Defensive tackles coach Bo Davis coached under Nick Saban at Alabama and LSU. Strength and conditioning coach Bennie Wylie came from Tennessee. Then there’s receivers coach Darrell Wyatt who coached at Kansas.

If these guys aren’t on this staff Texas probably doesn’t pursue these players to begin with. And even if they did, without these coaches on board, Hawkins and Moore are probably going elsewhere.

Especially Moore, who quite simply was going to go wherever Davis was. The two have known each other going back to when Davis recruited him to Alabama out of Montgomery (Ala.) Carver High School where he was a prep All-American and first-team all-state selection as a senior.

“Bo Davis and Stacy Searels had relationships with their coaches from their time recruiting in the SEC, so that was a big factor in our decision to recruit Brandon and Donald. Bo actually recruited and coached Brandon at Alabama, so he obviously knew and really liked Brandon, and he is excited about continuing that relationship.

“Stacy feels really good about the relationship he’s built with Donald and is looking forward to having the opportunity to coach him.”

Moore should have an immediate impact on a defensive line that will lose senior three-year starter Kheeston Randall after this season. He helped EMCC to a 12-0 record and the NJCAA National Championship this season while recording 41 tackles (21 solo), four tackles for loss, three sacks and nine pressures.

Hawkins (6-5, 320) should have a similar impact on an improved but young offensive line that will lose one starter in senior left guard David Snow. Hawkins started all 19 games at tackle during his two seasons at NWCC. This season, he was named a 2011 National Junior College Athletic Association First-Team All-American.

“It feels great,” said Hawkins, who plans on getting to Austin on Jan. 15. “I can’t wait to get to Austin. It’s time to work. I’m ready to get coached up and ready to get it on.”

Both players will bring some much-needed size to their respected positions. Hawkins is bigger than all the starting offensive linemen, and Moore would be the biggest player on the roster.

“They’re both big, talented kids in the 6-6, 325 range,” Brown said. “Donald brings great feet with that size. He was a dominating player who earned All-America honors at the junior college level and with that, we felt he was as guy that should come in and give us immediate help. Having worked with Brandon as a redshirt at Alabama and recruiting him in high school, Bo knows a lot about him. He thinks he has a chance to be a dominating player as well.”

This is a day to remember for this program for the impact it will have as early as next season and for years down the road. This is more than a one-time fix to give Texas. It could give the Longhorns the boost needed to climb out of mediocrity, and more of a concrete change in the way Brown and his staff recruit.

They’ve got the national prestige and the coaching connections to make it happen. Why let those resources go to waste?