AUSTIN -- Call this the Win Now recruiting class for Texas football coach Mack Brown.
Because this class, by design, figures to have more immediate impact on next season's record than any group Brown has signed in his 15 seasons in Austin.
Brown did not go quite that far with his public proclamations Wednesday when touting the potential of his latest 28-player haul. But it's true.
Brown did acknowledge that the Texas program "took a huge step toward where we want to be with this class," which checked in at No. 2 nationally -- behind only Alabama -- in the Rivals.com rankings.
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The makeup of this group, which includes the nation's most heralded offensive player (Aledo running back Johnathan Gray) and Texas' first pair of junior-college signees in 11 years, screams "immediate impact" for a program that needs it after a combined record of 13-12 the past two seasons. Brown said he would not be surprised if Texas, which played 18 of 22 signees last season, topped that figure in 2012.
"We may be the youngest team in the nation again next [season] when all of these guys play," Brown said.
And we're not talking about finding a few freshmen to mix in on special teams, which has been the primary way for newcomers to contribute under Brown.
Instead, we're looking at the final piece to a loaded tailback tandem that will include a pair of five-star signees when the season opens in September: the record-setting Gray and Malcolm Brown, Texas' top returning rusher and the 2011 Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year.
We're talking about a probable pair of plug-in starters from the JC ranks at glaring need positions: left tackle Donald Hawkins and defensive tackle Brandon Moore, who began his college career at Alabama. And don't forget about the other Malcom Brown, a five-star defensive tackle from Brenham who signed Wednesday and could factor into the 2012 line.
Texas also added multiple candidates who could emerge in a receiver corps that lacked playmakers last fall, led by Cayleb Jones (6-foot-3, 198 pounds) and the speedy Daje Johnson (4.3 in the 40-yard dash). The list of newcomers includes a quarterback (Connor Brewer) who already is enrolled, with plans to go through spring drills. Brewer arrived with a four-star rating, which is more than anyone can say about returnees David Ash or Case McCoy.
That doesn't mean Brewer will win the starting job in 2012. But don't be surprised if he winds up with a package of plays tailored to his skills in September, as Ash did as a freshman last season before his role grew.
It's too early to know, but all signs point to Wednesday's haul -- which included four last-minute switches from other schools, another unique twist to this Texas class -- as being Brown's best since the 2002 class that included quarterback Vince Young.
The primary reason is Gray, who set the national career record for touchdowns (205) in his four seasons at Aledo and has the skills to emerge as the Big 12's most dominant freshman runner since Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson in 2004. Brown, normally reserved when praising signees, struggled to contain himself when discussing Gray (5-11, 202 pounds).
"He's got vision. He's got power. He's got great speed," Brown said. "He gives you a chance for a home run every time he touches it. We need that."
Among Gray's attributes, Brown said: "The most amazing thing to me is how durable he's been because he's carried the ball so many times."
Gray projects to get plenty of carries next season. But the plan is to divide the workload with returnees Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, thereby keeping fresh legs on the field and minimizing the burden on Texas' quarterback to carry the offense with a precise passing game or dual-threat escapability.
The idea, said Mack Brown, is to build the offense "from the outside in, and not put so much pressure on one guy, like we did with Colt [McCoy] and Vince."
To make it fly, Texas must be better in the offensive line. The defense must continue to rank among the Big 12's best. That is where the JC additions enter the picture, with Brown identifying Hawkins and Moore -- who already are enrolled -- as significant pieces to the 2012 puzzle.
"We needed an impact player on both sides of the ball for spring practice," Brown said. "Those two ... should help us immediately."
So could several freshmen not named Gray in what Brown called "the most balanced class we've ever had" in his Texas tenure.
For the Longhorns, it's time to revisit the top 10 of the national polls after consecutive seasons of 5-7 and 8-5. Brown is banking that Wednesday's class is a significant first step in that direction.
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760