The #HTownTakeOver has take a bit of a hit in the past few weeks with Tom Herman heading to Austin and ten decommitments from what was a top 35 recruiting class. The Herman hire in 2014 was one of the best G5 hires in recent memory. When Herman took the job at Houston he approached his then boss Urban Meyer and told him about Houston's interest, Meyer's response? "That's a real one." In other words, you can win in Houston. That's what Herman did, that's also what Briles, Sumlin and even Tony Levine did.
They won in part because Houston sits smack dab in the literal middle of a honey hole for college football talent. Houston can still put together a Top 25 roster even with the Texas, Baylor, and others swooping into to poach the Cougars recruiting class. There's enough local talent to go around.
When Howard Schellenberger took the job at Miami in the early 80's he sought to establish the "State of Miami" a recruiting territory that started by controlling the talent in South Florida. When Ron Meyer took over at SMU he wanted to set up a wall around the Metroplex and dive into East Texas. If Major Applewhite's going to succeed at Houston he'll need to follow the cues of Schellenberger, Meyer, and Herman in focusing on building a wall around Houston. Even if the top talent escapes, there's enough other talent to sustain the Cougars success.
If Applewhite can keep the talent that isn't going to the Power 5 Big12 and SEC schools local, i.e. fending off Big 10 and other AAC schools that poach from the Houston area, he'll have as talented a squad as any G5 and half of the syndicate members. William Jackson was a two-star recruit out of Houston Wheatley with exactly one offer when committed to Houston. Four years later he was a first round pick. Elandon Roberts was a no star recruit out of Port Arthur who's now on the roster for the New England Patriots.
We're not saying that stars don't matter, clearly recruiting rankings have some bearing or Alabama's, Clemson's, and Ohio State's conglomeration of 5-stars wouldn't matter but Houston, the most successful G5 program of the last two years, wasn't built on top 3o recruiting classes.
Last season Herman signed the 36th ranked class in the country according to 24/7's composite rankings. Thirteen of the nineteen future Cougars came from the Greater Houston area. Herman's first class, from 2015 was ranked 92 in the 24/7 composite and featured eight of twenty-one recruits from Houston. Tony Levine's last class was ranked 76th with half coming from H-town. The Cougars' 2013 class ranked 56th.
The point is this, save for a historically good recruiting class in 2016, Houston's war machine was built by recruiting classes in the 50s and up. Even the golden tongued Herman couldn't crack the top 90 his first year. The Cougars 22 wins the past two seasons weren't built on five-star talent, save Ed Oliver. Those 22 wins were built on three-star talent and great coaching.
Houston's 24/7 Composite Rankings
Applewhite's first class, even with the mass defections still ranks in the top 70 and his focus is appropriately on H-Town city. Nine of Houston's fourteen commits are currently from the Houston area. If Houston can close well in the next two weeks, they'll probably crack the top 60 or better. They'll also be within striking distance of the best classes in the AAC, Memphis and UCF. Both currently rank higher than Houston with more commitments.
Now the question is, can Applewhite develop those three stars into a Power 5 hunting machine like Herman did. If he can sustain Herman's success at any level, with Houston's facilities including a new indoor practice area coming online next year, the Cougars will be fine. If not, the Cougars lost commitments could be a sign of things to come.