If you're looking for a case study in the transformative effects that one great leader can have on an enterprise, you needn't go any further than a short drive down I-45 to the Cullen exit and watch University of Houston head coach Tom Herman work. Yeah, like you didn't already know after a 13-1 2015 season capped by a rout of perennial powerhouse Florida State, but if you're wondering about Herman's ability to sustain this success, we got an early answer yesterday on national signing day.
On Wednesday morning, Herman put a bow on the greatest recruiting class, perhaps, in school history, and the highest-rated class that any non-Power Five school has assembled since websites began measuring classes with the widely accepted "star" ratings, garnering a ranking of 40th overall on 247sports.com. Perhaps the most amazing part was Herman's (and his staff's) ability to keep the class nearly intact since they were a massive target for Power Five schools looking to cherry-pick and flip prospects on signing day.
The crown jewel of the high schoolers in the class is Westfield defensive tackle Ed Oliver, who joins his older brother Marcus, a Coogs offensive lineman, and his former high school coach, Corby Meekins (tight ends coach), in the Cougar family. Oliver is the fourth-rated prospect in the nation, the highest-rated Cougar recruit in school history, and someone who should wreck shop from Day One in the AAC.
The only disappointment of the afternoon was Oliver's high school teammate, wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland, changing his commitment at the last minute to Florida after having second thoughts throughout the month of January. Still, if there was one position in the class at which the Cougars could afford attrition, it's probably receiver, where they were still able to sign Courtney Lark (Bellaire), Marquez Stevenson (Shreveport, Louisiana), Keith Corbin (Beaumont West Brook) and Terry Mark (Lufkin).
All of this, of course, was in addition to securing the services of QB Kyle Allen on a transfer from Texas A&M, so needless to say, the offseason has been a home run for Herman and his coaching staff.
But perhaps the most amazing feat Herman was able to pull off was the collaborative, congratulatory effort from some of Houston's most prominent celebrities, some of whom had zero affiliation with the program at all before Herman set foot on campus. In short, Herman and the Coogs dominated social media on signing day, getting shout-outs for individual recruits like these...
And then, of course, the white whale...J.J. Watt in a Houston baseball cap that renders an image of the
American Texas flag. If you look closely, I believe he's wearing a cape, as well...
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You can watch Herman's comments on this class in his press conference here...
Since Herman set foot on campus, the Twitter hashtag the school has marched behind is #HTownTakeover. On Wednesday, we finally felt the full effect.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.