Soon after Houston Christian named Braxton Harris head coach in mid-December, he created a vision.
“Coach Harris had a vision and laid out the blueprint. Then he gave our staff full rights and told us to get after it on the trail,” HCU offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Ross Hornor said. “He laid out that vision. We took a hold of it and ran with it.”
The Huskies' new staff executed the blueprint to near perfection and landed the top-ranked 2023 FCS recruiting class in Texas, according to 247Sports.
Harris’s vision began with the selection of his coaching staff. Harris focused on hiring young coaches to mix with some veterans. Another key was finding coaches with ties to Texas high school football. Harris then set an environment for his coaches to thrive.
“I can’t tell you the science behind it, but he created an environment where our staff has fun every day,” Hornor said. “I look forward to going to work.”
What was the blueprint that Harris laid out for his coaching staff?
“Our overall goal was to accrue talent,” Harris said. “Sometimes in recruiting, we get to pinpoint and say this kid fits this hole, and this kid fits this spot on the roster. We want to build a roster with as many talented kids as possible and put them on the field together. It goes back to Jon Gordon's book, "The Energy Bus"; you need to get the right people on the bus first and then figure out what seat they will sit in.
The first position group Harris and his staff sought to get on their bus were the offensive line. HCU signed one transfer, Kameron King (Southern Miss), and three high school players, highlighted by 3-star recruits AJ Salley from Miamisburg, Ohio, and Rodney Leaks from Sierra Canyon High School in Chatsworth, Calif.
“AJ Salley was committed to Cincinnati after his junior year,” Hornor said. “His athleticism and ceiling are through the roof. I'm not even sure we truly know his ceiling yet.”
The fourth addition to the offensive line this year is Kingwood Park High School product, Trent Savage. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound lineman held offers from multiple Division II schools, including Angelo State and Midwestern State. Hornor has high praise for a guy he believes will eventually be the “quarterback” of the offensive line.
“He's the future of the o-line. He fits the mold of a center,” Hornor said. “We have a fifth-year senior at center this year, and Trent bought into the vision of coming here to learn from Christian Hood for a year before taking over next year.”
After addressing the offensive line, HCU turned its focus to the quarterback room. The Huskies added Alice native Cutter Stewart during the early signing period and signed Louisiana-Monroe transfer Colby Suits on National Signing Day.
Suits has an early advantage in the competition due to his familiarity with HCU’s system. He played for current Huskies offensive coordinator Jason Bachtel while at North Forney High School.
“We need to find a quarterback, so we're going to do everything we can to create the utmost competition in that room,” Harris said. “If you have competition in that room, everything else is gonna fall into place because everybody else knows if those guys are competing, then everybody else better compete as well.”
Despite signing a top-ranked recruiting class, the Huskies missed out on a few targets that chose to commit to playing for FBS schools. Harris believes the relationships developed with those recruits could pay dividends in the future.
“You can't be afraid to fail,” Harris said. “We recruited some kids that chose FBS scholarships, and I understand their choice. We were in it to the end, and we have to stay in those conversations because you don't know if those guys might want to come back home in today's college football.”
Those athletes would be welcomed back to HCU with open arms, but that is only a possibility in the future. In 2023, the Huskies believe they have signed the class that will live in HCU lore forever.
“One of the things we discussed in this signing class is high school kids being the new foundation of Houston Christian,” Hornor said. “These are the guys that, in 40 years, everyone will look back and thank them.”
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