- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
For the foreseeable future, Texas and Texas A&M won't play each other on the football field. But that doesn't mean the teams won't battle.
The war on the recruiting trail between the schools figures to be as intense as it has ever been and even more so as the Aggies' new coaching staff, new membership in the Southeastern Conference and success in that conference (not to mention a Heisman Trophy finalist in Johnny Manziel) makes them more of a factor in the eyes of recruits.
Throughout the Mack Brown era at Texas, the Longhorns have traditionally been the signature program when it comes to recruiting the state. But after a 10-2 season and what appears to be a bright future in the SEC with Manziel and coach Kevin Sumlin leading the way, could there be a shift in the eyes of Texas high school football stars?
When it comes to the balance of power in recruiting the state's elite talent, opinions vary depending on whom you ask.
"I think it's shifting," said Sealy (Texas) High School athlete Ricky Seals-Jones, the state's No. 1 recruit in the 2013 class and a former Longhorns commit. "I kind of do. A&M is on an uprising right now. A&M, the SEC, they're on TV every weekend. ... I think A&M has something going right now."
There's an adage that goes "timing is everything." That could apply in this instance as well as the Aggies' success is coinciding with a time where Texas hasn't been at its absolute best. The No. 23 Longhorns are a respectable 8-4, but its the third consecutive year that they haven't won at least 10 games, something they did every season from 2002-2009.
“A&M is heading in a great direction,” said La Porte (Texas) High School linebacker Hoza Scott, considered one of the state's top recruits in the 2014 class. “And UT, I like them still, but I don’t know, it seems like they’re falling apart. I know they’re going to pull it together. They’re a young football team.”
The combination of Sumlin, Manziel, the SEC and a 10-win season (not to mention a rabid fan base and a game-day atmosphere that is one of college football's best) has helped the Aggies do some serious damage on the recruiting trail, especially recently. Already in the 2014 class, they've scored commitments from two recruits who held Texas and Oklahoma offers: Lancaster (Texas) High School athlete Nick Harvey and Gilmer (Texas) High School linebacker Josh Walker. Scott, who has indicated that he'll commit to A&M soon, doesn't have an Oklahoma offer but will become the third in the 2014 class to choose the Aggies over Texas.
Texas currently has more commitments in the 2014 class -- six to A&M's four -- but it's clear the Aggies are going to be a force for at least the near future.
And one major selling point for the Aggies right now that many of their current commits have cited as a reason for getting on board is the SEC affiliation. Because of the league's reputation for producing NFL draft picks and the competitiveness within the league, it's a factor in many prospects' eyes, especially those in Texas who don't want to leave their home state.
"It matters a lot because I want to play in that league," Harvey said. "Now there's a closer school other than LSU and Arkansas. It matters to me a lot. It's really the conference I wanted to play in."
2dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
3dEdward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf