Texas hooked the best football recruits in the country.
The Longhorns had the best start of any team in the country, cleaning up before the season even kicked off, roping 15 recruits by the end of August.
"If you find the right person to marry, and they want to marry you, why wait?" Texas coach Mack Brown said.
Brown and his staff didn't stop in August, making more hay in January by convincing the best quarterback in the country, Chris Simms, to de-commit from national champion Tennessee.
Simms, from Franklin Lakes, N.J., and the son of former NFL quarterback Phil Simms, passed for 7,055 yards and 63 touchdowns in his high school career.
But where the Longhorns really succeeded was within their state borders. When Brown was hired in December of 1997, he said he intended to stop the flow of Texas high school talent to his northern neighbors in the Big 12, as well as to other major programs that have successfully invaded the region.
Consider that a job well done: Of the Longhorns 27 signees, 23 were from Texas. And while they all might not be quite as good as defensive end Cory Redding, the USA Today Defensive Player of the Year, many of them were of nearly equal ability.
"It's a class that can jump-start us back to where we want to be, and that's the elite of college football," Brown said.
And now the real work begins.
``I think the workforce in Texas can get back up now,'' Brown said. ``There were a lot of people on computers following recruiting. People will get a lot more work done this month than in the previous month. It will help our economy."
Bob Davie has Notre Dame in the second position, getting help at the skill positions that will enable the Irish to stretch defenses. Key signings for the offense were RB Julius Jones and WR Jamaar Taylor -- as well as offensive linemen Jeff Faine.
| The Lone Star State was also kind to A&M coach R.C. Slocum. (AP) |
Overall, the SEC did better than any other conference, placing five schools among the top 13 in SportsLine's Top 25. Alabama gets the nod as the best of the best, but it's a close call and one that fans in the south can debate until the next big event -- spring practice.
Of course, every coach said his team was a winner on signing day, college football's version of Christmas Day. You can't talk badly about your new presents.
``I'm sure someone will come up to me today and ask, `Is this player any good?' '' Brown said.
"And I'll say, `no, we tried to get the worst players we could.' Come on."
The Longhornssuccess, coupled with that of Texas A&M, re-established the two rivals as recruiting powers. For much of the 1990s, programs from around the country had broken into the Lone Star State and made off with much of the finest football talent.
The Aggies have the No. 11 recruiting class in CBS SportsLine's rankings, and rather than be beaten to top recruits in the state, Texas A&M did a strong job at home and went to California to pull out perhaps the best running back on the Coast in Joe Weber.
It couldn't have hurt the Longhorns and Aggies that they each have won the Big 12 championship during the past three seasons, and each whipped defending national champion Nebraska in 1999.
Whether these recruits can continue and build upon that kind of on-field success won't become apparent for at least a couple of years. But it's a start.
CBS SportLine's Top 25 Recruiting Classes:
- Texas -- Longhorns get the best QB (Chris Simms) and the best overall collection of talent in the country.
- Notre Dame -- This is the class that has the speed to get the Irish back up to speed.
- Ohio State -- Buckeyes threw a Scarlet and Gray curtain around the state and kept CB Curtis Crosby and other stars at home.
- UCLA -- Second top five class in a row for the Bruins, who hope some of these defensive guys pan out quickly.
- Alabama -- Impressive performance for coach Mike DuBose and key assistant Ronnie Cottrell (formerly at FSU).
- Florida -- Gators needed major help in defensive front seven and LB Matt Farrior and others fit the bill.
- Tennessee -- A host of defensive line studs made up for late loss of quarterback Chris Simms to Texas.
- Michigan -- Brought in talent from 13 states; scored well especially at WR with Tyrece Butler and Ronald Bellamy.
- Miami -- Lots of speed for the Hurricanes, including superfast Texan Tory Mitchell (4.26 in 40-yard dash).
- Florida State -- Small class (12 players) keeps this rating down, but virtually all of them are hand-picked, elite prospects.
- Texas A&M -- Aggies did great in Texas, and went to the coast to get Joe Weber, maybe the best RB in California.
- LSU -- Duo of in-state linebackers (Treverance Faulk and Bradie James) made a big difference for Tigers.
- Georgia -- Another fast finisher, got top-ranked receiver Reggie Brown at the last minute.
- North Carolina -- Strong, deep class in Carl Torbush's first complete recruiting cycle.
- Southern California -- Star recruit Bernard Riley has the makings of a rare West Coast dominant defensive tackle.
- Nebraska -- Typical Nebraska class, not fillewith Dream Teamers, but heavy emphasis on linemen was necessary.
- Michigan State -- Slipped superb linebacker T.J. Duckett out from under the noses of Michigan and Notre Dame.
- California -- Bears Surprise -- big-time. QB (Kyle Boller) and top pass-rusher in the West (JC transfer Johnny Jackson).
- Penn State -- Despite small class, Nittany Lions got the help they needed at the skill positions.
- Arizona -- Strong group of linebackers give Wildcats the makings of another good defense.
- South Carolina -- Lou Holtz wastes little time in making an impact; signing RB Derek Watson was significant.
- Boston College -- The surprise of the East, New Jersey RB William Green is the top name in a deep group.
- Georgia Tech -- Yellow Jackets' back-to-back bowl games paying off with long-distance recruiting in Northeast.
- Oregon -- Best class of any team in the Northwest has Mike Bellotti solidifying program.
- Syracuse -- Orangemen missed on some hot QBs, but athletic R.J. Anderson could be the real deal.
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