Days after his program was hit with embarrassing publicity of misconduct by a top assistant coach and the late defection of a top recruit, Mack Brown only wanted to talk Wednesday about the positives: the 15 players who stuck by their decision to sign with Texas and help them return to the top of the Big 12.
"The 15 we've got are very passionate about coming to Texas," Brown said, "and that's what you want."
Still, it's a recruiting class that experts ranked much lower than Brown's program is used to, and was notable for a rash of defections from players who had committed early only to change their minds and go elsewhere. Those are the kinds of things that can happen to a program that is just 22-16 since playing for the national championship after the 2009 season.
And Texas took an embarrassing public hit just a few days earlier when the school and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite disclosed that he had been disciplined for inappropriate conduct with a student on a bowl trip after the 2008 season. The disclosure prompted a rebuke by school regents.
Brown deflected questions about Applewhite, saying he never considered firing him and noting that Applewhite had already dealt with the issue with the school and his family.
"I want to talk about recruiting," Brown said.
The 15-player class is Texas' smallest since 2005. Brown noted that class — while not as highly-ranked as others that year — included seven players who were on NFL active rosters last season. Among that group was Colt McCoy, a lightly regarded, small-school quarterback who became a four-year starter and led Texas to the 2009 Big 12 title and the national championship game that season.
"Sometimes in smaller classes you do a better job in evaluation. They come in with a chip on their shoulder because they are not as highly ranked," Brown said. "We've had some top-ranked signing classes here that didn't pan out."
The class is notable for having five offensive linemen, which Brown identified as a position of need for the future.
"I think this is the best group, from top to bottom, of offensive linemen that we've ever signed. I do think some of these guys will mix in there this year," Brown said.
Texas signed one quarterback, Tyrone Swoopes of Whitewright (Texas) High School, who ran for 5,341 yards and 73 touchdowns and passed for 3,850 yards and 41 TDs in his career.
Texas also signed four receivers and tight ends, positions that have provided only spotty production the last three seasons. Among the receivers is Jake Oliver (Dallas Jesuit), who set a Texas state career record with 308 catches for 4,567 yards and 56 touchdowns.
Brown wouldn't talk about the players who earlier committed to Texas but ended up signing elsewhere. But he said he'd consider going back to his policy of pulling scholarship offers if a player commits to Texas then decides to visit other schools. Brown said defections seemed too common across the country.
"We're going to go back and say if you're going to look, we're going to look (elsewhere)," Brown said. "It's dog eat dog out there right now."