NCF On The Trail: Bruce Chambers

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Charlie Strong has a Texas-sized problem on his hands.

When a new coach is hired, especially at a place like The University of Texas, it usually creates excitement with prospects and high school coaches on the recruiting trail. Unfortunately for the Longhorns, that buzz isn’t there. With the addition of ESPN 300 receiver DaMarkus Lodge on Thursday, Texas A&M further tightened its grip on the top talent in the Lone Star State.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Strong
AP Photo/Eric GayCharlie Strong still has nearly eight months to bolster his 2015 recruiting class.
Lodge’s pledge gives A&M three of the top eight players in Texas and positions the Aggies for a run that could include four of the top five and five of the top 10.

On the other hand, the Longhorns, whose 2015 class is ranked No. 11 in ESPN's rankings, are struggling within their home state. Texas has yet to gain a commit from a top-10 in-state player. To make matters worse, Strong’s staff is losing commits to conference rivals and SEC powers in Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, LSU and Oklahoma.

“In the state of Texas, A&M has taken over,” Cedar Hill (Texas) High School coach Joey McGuire said. “Through what coach [Kevin] Sumlin has done and then what Johnny Manziel did to help put that school in such a great position, it's helped them move to whole different level. They're the hot thing going right now. It's hard to beat, even for a program like Texas.”

As any Texas fan will tell you, there’s nothing worse than losing to the hated Aggies. The recruiting beatdown could continue as A&M is in good position with cornerback Kendall Sheffield, linebacker Malik Jefferson, defensive end James Lockhart and cornerback Kris Boyd -- all ESPN 300 prospects strongly considering playing in College Station.

A Big 12 assistant who recruits in the Lone Star State said he could see that Texas would have problems on the recruiting trail the minute Strong announced his staff. The assistant praised Strong for luring Joe Wickline away from Oklahoma State and believes his addition will help the Longhorns find some hidden gems along the offensive line. But after that, the assistant said it was hardly the all-star cast many thought Strong could assemble, given the school’s resources.

“I thought [Strong] needed to bring in guys that can stand toe-to-toe against A&M, LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma and all the other top teams that recruit in Texas,” the coach said. “He needed guys that had deep ties with the high school coaches in Texas. Instead, he got a lot of coaches that can win recruiting battles against Cincinnati, UCF and teams like that. This is the Big 12, not the AAC.”

In defense of the Longhorns, Strong did retain Bruce Chambers, who is entering his 17th season in Austin and has connections with high school football in the state. He also hired Les Koenning, a 1981 Texas graduate who is entering his 34th year of coaching after previous stops at Mississippi State, South Alabama, Texas A&M, Alabama, TCU, Houston, Duke, Rice and Louisiana-Lafayette.

Replacing Mack Brown wasn’t going to be easy. Replacing the relationships he so tirelessly built with Texas high school coaches will take some time.

All of this has made Strong’s job of recruiting local talent more difficult than most assumed it would be when he was first hired six months ago. But all is not lost. There has been no shortage of effort from the Longhorns’ staff, and Strong can sway some recruits with a simple formula this fall: winning.

“If Charlie Strong comes out and wins, there might be another flip,” McGuire said. “If they can come out and surprise some people this year and win games, then they’re going to be the hot team with recruits. Winning and losing is going to make a big part of those schools' recruiting classes.”
ESPN 300 running back Kyle Hicks (Arlington, Texas/Martin) can’t deny what his heart is feeling.

Kyle Hicks
William Wilkerson/ESPN.comKyle Hicks said he has formed a bond at TCU and that's where his 'heart is at.'
For the last few months he has contemplated the idea of playing football closer to home, closer to his mother and close to his good friend and former high school teammate Devonte Fields.

Today, his heart couldn’t take it any longer.

Hicks called Texas co-recruiting coordinator Bruce Chambers and told him he had decided to switch commitments from the Longhorns to TCU.

“One, I get to play for an outstanding football team,” Hicks said. “Two, I get a good education from a private school, and three, it is 15 minutes from home.”

Hicks was Texas’ lone running back recruit in the Class of 2013. He had been committed to the Longhorns since Feb. 18.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Hicks said. “Talking to Chambers on the phone, my body was shaking. I never thought I would decommit from Texas. I created a big bond with Chambers for nine months. Just to decommit was the hardest thing ever.

“Of course he was disappointed. He wanted to know why. It was just a decision I had to make.”

Martin coach Bob Wager was in his office with Hicks when Hicks made the call to Chambers.

“He’s been agonizing over it for months,” Wager said. “He just called Coach Chambers 15 minutes ago in my office. Torn up, distraught, very apologetic. But very sincere. It’s the hardest thing he’s ever had to do. I was there watching him, and pain was showing all over his face.”

Hicks (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) is rated at No. 20 among running backs and No. 219 overall in the country.

He had to step in at quarterback for Martin this season and fared well. He threw for 458 yards and six touchdowns without an interception. But his bread and butter was still the run, which he did 177 times to the tune of 1,113 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Hicks tore his left ACL and meniscus Oct. 26 and is scheduled to have surgery Tuesday. It was the second serious injury for him in the last two seasons.

Last year, during the third round of the playoffs, he broke his foot on the first play of Martin’s game against Euless Trinity. He continued to play and finished the game with 20 carries for 113 yards and a 19-yard, game-clinching touchdown.

Hicks is confident that he’ll be fully healthy in six months and ready for fall camp with the Frogs.

“It was where my heart is at,” Hicks said. “I feel at home with TCU. Whenever I got the chance to visit TCU I just knew that was where I wanted to be. Great football team and it’s close to my mom. I can’t pass that down.”

TE Hobbs seeing more interest from Texas 

December, 12, 2011
12/12/11
11:02
PM ET
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Longhorns still don’t have a tight end commitment for 2012, but they continue to show interest in one from the Dallas metroplex.

Two-star recruit Vincent Hobbs (Mesquite, Texas/Horn) was informed by his coach Monday that Texas tight ends coach and co-recruiting coordinator Bruce Chambers would be at his basketball game on Friday.

“Hopefully I will learn a little bit more about what is going on,” said Hobbs, who has a 73 grade from Scouts Inc. and is rated as the No. 99 tight end overall. “This will be his second game.”

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