NCF On The Trail: Kevin Sumlin

SEC signing day roundtable: Coach under pressure

February, 10, 2015
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There is only one new face among SEC head coaches this year -- Florida’s Jim McElwain -- but a number of the league’s head honchos face increased pressure to perform in 2015.

Continuing this week’s SEC series of post-signing day roundtable discussions, today we’ll examine the conference coaches who are under pressure to make something happen after signing their newest class of recruits.

Edward Aschoff: Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
Year 4 of the Freeze era is beginning, and expectations are about to explode in Oxford. After being on the cusp of an SEC West title and a spot in the first College Football Playoff, Ole Miss now has to stay in the thick of the title hunts. While Freeze has been enormously successful during his time at Ole Miss, he has now signed three straight top-20 classes, and now the 2013 class (the crown jewel of Freeze’s tenure) will be all grown up. If the bulk of that class is going to bring a championship to Ole Miss, the time is now because the heavy hitters, like Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil, will likely head to the NFL after this coming season. There’s too much talent in Oxford for Ole Miss not to compete for a spot in Atlanta, and anything else will be considered a failure.

David Ching: Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
I was tempted to focus on Mark Richt or Les Miles because the natives seem to be getting restless at Georgia and LSU, but let’s go in a different direction. Mason probably needs to get more out of this 2015 class immediately than those two SEC veterans. Last season was a mess at Vandy, with the Commodores failing to put up a good fight in most of their nine losses. Their three wins came against UMass (by three points), Charleston Southern (by one) and Old Dominion (by 14), and they lost by an average of 18 points per game in SEC play. Now Mason enters his second season with two new coordinators (actually he’ll be his own defensive coordinator) and a recruiting class that ESPN ranked No. 44 nationally, dead last in the SEC. Mason told reporters on signing day that he staked his reputation on the quality of this class, which is all well and good. But if the Commodores don’t start looking like a more competent team this fall, I’m not sure Mason’s reputation as a head coach will be too great.

Sam Khan Jr.: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
I think Travis Haney said it best Insider that Sumlin must begin to reap the fruits of the recruiting labor he and his staff have put in over the last three years. The Aggies' classes ranked eighth, fourth and 12th nationally in Sumlin's first three full recruiting cycles, and the team now enters its fourth year in the SEC. He made significant coaching staff changes (including paying a pretty penny for former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis), and overall the Aggies have recruited better than any team in their own state -- which is talent-rich -- since Sumlin has been there. It's time for the recruiting hauls to translate to the standings.

Chris Low: Mark Stoops, Kentucky
As it turns out, the sky didn't fall at Kentucky after the Wildcats lost six commitments in a span of eight days leading up to signing day. Thanks to some hustle by Stoops and his staff, Kentucky was able to plug some of the gaps late and finish with the nation's 43rd-ranked class. The problem was that Stoops reeled in the 20th-ranked class the year before, so expectations were lofty. As Stoops enters his third season at Kentucky -- with a brand-new contract that will pay him an average of $3.57 million per year -- expectations will be equally high on the field. Kentucky will be aiming for its first winning season since 2009. The Wildcats looked like they were on their way in 2014 after starting out 5-1, but wound up losing their last six games.

Greg Ostendorf: Jim McElwain, Florida
All things considered, McElwain deserves credit for this class. He took over two months before signing day and closed with a top-20 class that included five-star prospects Martez Ivey and CeCe Jefferson. But this class had a chance to be more than solid. It had the potential to be great. Florida missed on a number of homegrown prospects, including Byron Cowart and Jeff Holland, who both decided to leave home to play at Auburn for the man McElwain replaced. The first-year coach deserves a pass for this class, but he can’t keep letting the top players out of the state. Losing battles to Florida State is one thing. Losing battles to Will Muschamp and Auburn is another.

Alex Scarborough: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
The great thing about Steve Spurrier is that you can take him at his word. But this time I think his openness hurt him. By telling reporters he thought he'd stay at South Carolina 2-3 more years, he had to turn some recruits off. I mean, who would commit to a program knowing the head coach wouldn't be there the whole way through? Though his 31-man signing class was solid, coming in at No. 21 overall in the country, it was what was missing that Gamecocks fans should find troubling -- most notably, four-star defensive players Damon Arnette and Arden Key, who both decommitted heading down the stretch. While you have to appreciate Spurrier’s honest assessment of himself, reading a head coach say this has to be jarring: "I don't think I did a very good job of maybe going full-speed as much as we needed as it turned out."

Derek Tyson: Butch Jones, Tennessee
After two top-five recruiting classes in a row, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones now has the talent on his roster to make a move in the SEC East. With Josh Dobbs showing promise last season and several other freshmen having standout years, including Derek Barnett, Jalen Hurd and Todd Kelly Jr., the talent is in place to have a big season on the field this year. Another 7-6 season could have Tennessee fans getting a little restless.
GLADEWATER, Texas -- The text message remains on Coris Mack’s cellphone.

[+] EnlargeDaylon Mack
Ken Murray/Icon SportswireThings are looking up for Texas A&M after it signed five-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack on Wednesday.
It was the day news broke that defensive coordinator John Chavis had left LSU for the same position at Texas A&M, and ESPN 300 defensive tackle Daylon Mack tapped out the five-word message to his father that signaled the beginning of his return path to Aggieland.

“This is a true blessing,” the message read.

Mack, who was in Florida at the time preparing for the Under Armour All-America Game (where the five-star defensive tackle eventually won MVP honors), grew excited over Chavis’ arrival at Texas A&M, the school to which Mack was committed for more than a year before decommitting 12 days earlier.

Coris saw it as a sign to his son, who clearly still loved the Aggies despite briefly parting ways with them.

“I said [to Daylon], 'Hey, things are not going to just keep falling in your favor. This is the best setup for you, and you can't ignore that,’” he recalls.

Just more than two weeks later, Daylon Mack silently recommitted to the Aggies. On Wednesday, he made those intentions public and official when the nation’s No. 6 overall prospect signed his letter of intent with Texas A&M.

Most of the buzz and publicity in the weeks leading up to national signing day were reserved for the Aggies’ top offensive recruit, five-star quarterback Kyler Murray. While Murray was undoubtedly the linchpin to Texas A&M’s 2015 recruiting class and maintaining momentum, Mack might be the most important signee for the defensively deficient Aggies.

Since Kevin Sumlin’s arrival prior to the 2012 season, the Aggies’ calling card has been their high-powered offense. However, you can’t win the SEC, or a national championship, without defense, and the Aggies are well aware of that. In the past two seasons, Texas A&M ranked last in the SEC in yards allowed per game and rushing defense. As a result, Sumlin made a change at defensive coordinator, dismissing Mark Snyder and hiring Chavis, who has more than two decades of experience in the conference.

The Aggies need players like Mack to climb out of the SEC's defensive cellar. At 6-foot-1, 330-pounds, Mack possesses tremendous lower body strength and excellent quickness for his size. The Aggies need all the quality talent and depth at defensive tackle that they can get their hands on to sustain a quality SEC defense long term.

Adding Mack to a young defensive line group that includes breakout star Myles Garrett and three other sophomores-to-be who saw playing time on the defensive line gives the Aggies a nice foundation for the future, as do the other defensive line prospects in their 2015 haul (ESPN 300 defensive end James Lockhart and defensive tackle Kingsley Keke).

“I saw what Coach Chavis did with the LSU defense, which was really young talent,” Mack said. “A&M has young talent. ... The players that they have on defense, he said they aren't that far off. I definitely believe him.”

Mack was long a priority recruit for Sumlin and the Aggies. They were the first to offer a scholarship to the East Texas standout more than two years ago, in the middle of his sophomore season at Gladewater High. Dozens of offers followed in the coming months, but Aggieland blew him away from the start, during both his first unofficial visit for a game in the fall of 2012 and for a junior day visit in early 2013.

He wanted to commit to the Aggies right away. His parents, Coris and Geraci, advised he wait, considering he hadn’t visited other schools.

“I remember telling my parents that I wanted to commit,” Daylon Mack said. “It was hard [to wait]. Sometimes I wish I would've went ahead and waited the whole way through. But I really wouldn't take anything back that I did. I like where I am right now.”

He initially committed Oct. 21, 2013, but even when he did, there were ebbs and flows in the recruitment. Mack showed interest in other schools and a desire to visit them then seemed to pause those plans when Murray committed on May 28, 2014.

When Sumlin fired Snyder, Mack, like the rest of the Aggies’ defensive commitments and targets, monitored the defensive coordinator search closely. When it took longer than some anticipated, Mack's patience waned and he decommitted on Dec. 19, hours after ESPN 300 linebacker Malik Jefferson -- seemingly a longtime Aggie lean -- chose Texas over Texas A&M.

Mack, who wanted to be surrounded with elite talent, discovered that five-star cornerback Kendall Sheffield, another priority A&M target, wouldn’t be signing either (opting for Alabama), so Mack jumped ship.

“It was difficult,” Mack said. “It was that uncertainty [surrounding the defensive coordinator search], losing Malik. I messaged Kendall, so I knew we were losing out on Kendall too. Those are guys that I felt were going to be impact players with me. I felt like I owed myself the opportunity to step back.”

Sumlin didn’t lash out at Mack, but simply told him that when he got his defensive coordinator they would talk again. They did, and though Mack explored his options at TCU and Texas, things began looking up when the Aggies nabbed “The Chief.”

“I think the addition of John Chavis did nothing but help solidify his commitment,” Sumlin said.

Mack silently recommitted during his official visit to Texas A&M on Jan. 16 (“By now you know I keep secrets pretty well,” Sumlin said Wednesday), and he showed Chavis the text message he sent his father weeks earlier. He said Chavis got emotional when he saw it.

“I was like, 'Wow, Coach,’” Mack said. “That let me know what kind of person he is. He's passionate about what he does, and I am too. I almost got emotional with him. I could tell that was a big deal to him.

“That showed me what kind of coach he was, and those are the type of people I want to play for."
National signing day, and the build up to it, is as close as Texas and Texas A&M get to actual football competition these days, to see who will in fact “run this state.”

Well, right now it’s neither school. The Lone Star State is run by Baylor and TCU, the Big 12 co-champs that narrowly missed the initial College Football Playoff field.

That’s why the 2015 recruiting class and the season are so vital to both the Longhorns and Aggies, with each power striving to re-establish itself -- not just regionally, but nationally.

Texas and Texas A&M lead off our look at programs and coaches that need the 2015 class to pay off, and the sooner the better.

(Note: The RecruitingNation ranking and number of commitments are updated as of Sunday evening.)

1. Texas
Ranking: 9
Commitments: 26

The Longhorns have secured a number of solid, team-building pieces in this class, and a few high-end targets -- DT Daylon Mack and RB Soso Jamabo, among them -- remain distinct possibilities to sign with Texas this week.

Still, Wednesday
If Jim Harbaugh takes the Michigan job, it could shake up the recruiting race in the Big Ten. Plus, Paul Chryst’s hiring at Wisconsin makes a lot of sense.


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Wisconsin landed a four-star running back on Thursday despite not having a head coach. Plus, Nebraska is already impressing rival recruiters with its effort on trail.


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LSU and Texas A&M have become bigger rivals on the field and in recruiting now that both are in the SEC. Plus, few programs are trending like Ohio State is on the field and on the recruiting trail.


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Want to impress a star recruit? Make an entrance at his game like Kevin Sumlin does in the Swagcopter or James Franklin in The Flyin' Lion. Plus, this year’s Red River Rivalry has lost some of its luster with recruits.


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A rival recruiter believes Kevin Sumlin’s not-so-subtle message to former Texas A&M pledge DaMarkus Lodge could come back to haunt the Aggies. Plus, one of Florida’s top defensive commitments appears to be looking around.


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Early Offer: Sumlin's message for Lodge 

September, 23, 2014
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Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin sent a not-so-subtle message to former commit DaMarkus Lodge at his Tuesday news conference. Plus, Mississippi State captured a monumental victory over LSU this past weekend, but the Bulldogs are also winning on the recruiting trail.


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A few years back, Mike Stoops told me being a college football recruiter was more complicated than being a politician trying to solve the Middle East crisis.

Stoops, the former Arizona head coach who is now the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma, wasn’t trying to make light of the situation in the Middle East. He was merely trying to express how exciting, frustrating, rewarding and agonizing the life of a recruiter is.

Being a recruiter means you’re often doing 25 things at the same time, and you’re doing them while dealing with high school juniors and seniors who change their minds more often than Taylor Swift changes genres.

Stoops recalled an hour period at Arizona when he landed a star quarterback; had to try to convince a key defensive tackle commitment not to visit a rival school while also thinking about what he was going to do when that defensive tackle ended up decommitting; and then also visited with a sophomore running back who showed up unexpectedly because he was the next big thing.

Oh yeah, it was also a game week.

Thursday’s news that ESPN 300 receiver DaMarkus Lodge backed away from his commitment to Texas A&M is another perfect example of the ups and downs college coaches face on the recruiting trail.

When Lodge committed to A&M June 19, it was a big, big deal. His decision cemented A&M’s claim as one of the top-five recruiting classes in the country and proved to Texas high school football observers that it was Kevin Sumlin, not Charlie Strong or Art Briles, who still ruled the roost in the Lone Star State.

But as we often see with recruiting -- too many times, if you ask coaches -- Lodge got cold feet for some reason.

He mentioned wanting to see other schools and that he committed too early. He also talked about concern that A&M has 17 receivers on its roster, that 16 players have caught passes this season and that he would not be a marquee receiver in College Station.

“As far as the receivers at A&M [go], they’re all good, and I know all will do good,” Lodge said. “Competition will be everywhere, and I am ready for it, but I need to make sure I can fit and be sure that I am happy as a player.”

Reading that, the Aggies coaches probably threw their hands up in frustration. Had Lodge not watched A&M under Sumlin? Surely, Lodge knew when he committed that the Aggies like to spread the ball around and have recruited well at the position the last three classes, with young stars like Speedy Noil and Ricky Seals-Jones already emerging.

None of that matter when Lodge committed to A&M in June.

“You don't want to be the only one who's at your level,” Lodge said back then. “You want to play with guys who will take you to that next level."

But competition matters now. Lodge honestly has every right to change his mind because he has not signed anything yet. He is making one of the biggest decisions he will make in his life. However, his reversal will be noticed by other recruits across the country and could continue to pile on to what coaches are calling the “decommitment epidemic.”

“As coaches, we can put a lot of heat on young guys,” Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Tony Alford said. “We can twist their minds a little bit with how we say things. But I'm also of the opinion, if you want me to sign on the line for you and hold true to that to our commitment to you, then there has to be some reciprocation there.

“I love being a coach, and there are so many wonderful things about recruiting young men that are going to be the foundation of your program’s future. But also at the same time, when you have decommitments and kids changing their minds more than they change a pair of shoes, it makes the job an absolute grind.”

Stoops would definitely agree.
Boston College coach Steve Addazio remembers an era when players wanted to redshirt as true freshmen to better prepare them for the final four years of their college career.

"Now it's 'I want to play,' " Addazio, 55, said. "If you're talking about not playing them early, the majority are like 'What do you mean?'"

So, the ability to play or possibly even start as a true freshman has become a regular sales pitch for coaches from the Power Five to the Group of Five. It's certainly a tool in the belt for Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. Last week, Fisher alluded to the number of freshmen All-Americans he's coached the last four seasons. Twenty-four hours later, it was on the program's official recruiting Twitter page.

"The last [four] years we've had 14 freshmen All-Americans," said Fisher, condensing multiple outlets' freshmen award teams into one, concise Florida State propaganda poster. "If you come in ready to play, we're willing to put you on the field. It's critical for guys to come in saying 'When I'm the best, I'll play.'"

Fisher has the goods to back up his claims, even if the numbers are obviously skewed to best represent his program. But how does his résumé compare to those coaching some of the country's other top programs?

I tried to come up with a way to accurately discern which schools play the most freshmen and decided true freshmen letterwinners was the simplest and most effective way to crunch the numbers. To earn a letter, a player has to actually play consistently through the season. The disclaimer is each program can use different benchmarks when awarding letters, but there is never going to be a perfect way.

I began with Florida State's, looking back at the 2011-2013 classes. To properly quantify the data from Florida State, I decided I'd look at the five schools ranked highest in the preseason polls that have had its coach in place at least five seasons. Oregon's Mark Helfrich was offered an exemption because he was promoted from within and is in his sixth season with the Ducks. Coaches in place at least five years was the stipulation since an incoming coach might be susceptible to playing the prospects he recruited or having a number of transfers that could open up starting or rotational spots.

The criteria: Each class was looked at and the total number of signees was pared down to just those who enrolled as members of the football team in the fall. Junior college signees were excluded, as were any recruits who were academically or medically disqualified before playing a game. That explains why the total number of freshmen for our purposes might look different than what might be seen on RecruitingNation. Any true freshmen who spent a year at a post-graduate or prep school was also excluded. Redshirt freshmen were disqualified, too.

Bottom line is if the player was not a part of the football team the fall following his high school graduation, he was excluded.

Nearly all of the data was collected after poring through media guides and archives, although the communications departments at some of the schools were also helpful providing numbers and deserve recognition.

So, here is the actual data:

 

It is hardly a coincidence that Fisher and Alabama's Nick Saban, who mentored Fisher at LSU, have identical percentages of true freshmen earning a letter. Fisher and Saban arguably have been the two best recruiters over the last few cycles, and, the data shows those two are not going to keep young talent off the field simply because of age. Nearly half of the true freshmen at Alabama and Florida State lettered over the last three seasons.

Mark Dantonio has built Michigan State into a national title contender in a different manor, relying on experience. Only 12 percent of true freshmen lettered over the last three seasons. Recruiting to Michigan State is not the easy task it is at some other top-10 programs, and the Spartans are not recruiting as many ESPN 300-level players as the likes of Alabama and Florida State.

It should be noted Michigan State, Oklahoma and Oregon don't have quite the recruiting base Alabama and Florida State do.

Inquiring minds want to see how that 45 percent stacks up to some of the other top programs in the country, so even though they did not fit the criteria I looked at a few other schools with coaches in place at least five seasons and lately in the top half of the rankings. LSU was worth a look considering it's Les Miles' 10th season in Baton Rouge and, like Fisher and Saban, has recruited exceptionally well for a long period of time. Mark Richt is in his 14th season at Georgia and, like Miles, usually has a highly-regarded recruiting class. Steve Spurrier is in his 10th season at South Carolina and has steadily improved the Gamecocks' class to the point that the 2015 class is No. 5 nationally. Dabo Swinney has turned Clemson from a perennial disappointment into a two-time BCS bowl participant. And Ohio State and Texas A&M, mainly because it's worth seeing how third-year Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer fares considering he frequently voices his preference to avoid redshirting. Kevin Sumlin is also in the process of trying to build an SEC power that can compete with Alabama and LSU in the SEC West.

 

For the Buckeyes, out of the 69 true freshmen to land in Columbus, Ohio, from 2011-2013, 31 lettered -- the same 45 percent. Looking at just Meyer's two seasons, however, he is decimals ahead of Fisher and Saban at 46 percent (21 out of 46), thanks in large part to 14 freshmen letterwinners in his first season.

Georgia's Mark Richt has a percentage of nearly 50 percent, but the Bulldogs' numbers might be the most skewed. Along with South Carolina, the Bulldogs had several recruits that either did not qualify or spent time at a prep school or junior college. Also, Georgia's long list of dismissals and transfers is well documented, and all of the departures has opened up spots for freshmen to earn immediate playing time.

It is Miles, though, who plays a higher percentage of freshmen than all of the others. Twelve true freshmen lettered for LSU in both 2012 and 2013, and another nine earned a letter in 2011. There were a total of 65 applicable freshmen to enter LSU during that span and 33 of them lettered. That's a percentage of 51 percent.

Certainly the numbers will fluctuate year to year, and coaches at every single program are playing freshmen more frequently than ever before. When taking into account the timeline is over three years, LSU averages just one more freshman letterwinner per season than Alabama and Florida State. For our intents and purposes, though, the data shows which top programs consistently play the most freshmen in this new era of freshmen phenoms.

And, uh, FYI, Alabama has 19 ESPN 300 players prepping for their freshmen season this fall. LSU has 16, and Florida State isn't far off with 13 of their own.
If you follow Texas A&M recruiting via social media, you've probably seen the hashtag by now.

#WRTS

Four letters that have become the rallying cry of Aggie recruits, coaches and fans alike. Their meaning? "We run this state."

That's the way the Aggies feel right now when it comes to the state of Texas A&M recruiting, and considering the recruiting prowess they've shown during the Kevin Sumlin era, and particularly this recruiting cycle, it's difficult to debate that point.

A state once ruled in recruiting by Texas and coach Mack Brown in the mid-2000s has seen the balance of power shift roughly 100 miles eastward to College Station, Texas. In the Longhorns' heyday, it seemed as if they could land any in-state prospect they wished and right now, it almost seems as if the Aggies are enjoying that fortune themselves.

This week has illustrated that to a certain extent. Thursday was a big day for the Aggies as they landed two prospects out of Texas high school football power Cedar Hill High School: ESPN 300 receiver DaMarkus Lodge and outside linebacker Richard Moore.

Earlier this week, the Aggies also scored pledges from four-star offensive tackle Keaton Sutherland and three-star linebacker Landis Durham. That's not to mention that earlier this month, they landed four-star defensive tackle Kingsley Keke and last month received a commitment from ESPN 300 WR Kemah Siverand and perhaps their most impactful recruit of the cycle, five-star quarterback Kyler Murray.

Texas A&M is on quite the recruiting roll.

The Aggies' class, which is ranked No. 3 in the ESPN Recruiting Nation class rankings, holds 17 commitments, nine of whom are in the ESPN 300, and the class has 13 prospects with four-star-or-higher ratings. The Aggies hold commitments from the Lone Star State's No. 1 quarterback (Murray), receiver (Lodge), tight end (Jordan Davis) and defensive tackle (five-star prospect Daylon Mack).

Two of the state's top three players are committed to the Aggies and three of the top eight. And when it's all said and done, the Aggies could finish with four of the top five and five of the top 10 in Texas if their pursuit of cornerback Kendall Sheffield and linebacker Malik Jefferson falls their way. Neither has plans to announce his destination anytime soon, but the Aggies are strong players for both, and if that were to happen, the Aggies would lay claim to the state's top player at six different positions.


That would be a rough fate for the Aggies' chief recruiting rival (though no longer on-field rival) Texas and new coach Charlie Strong, who is already feeling the effects of A&M's success. But in reality, this isn't about Texas for the Aggies. It's about building a team and program that can compete and succeed long term in what many consider to be the country's toughest conference, the SEC.

With the Lone Star State being such fertile recruiting ground, the competition for talent will always be fierce. Whether it's Texas, a surging Baylor program that is reaching unprecedented success under Art Briles, a young, energetic, charismatic staff led by Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech, TCU's presence in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex or staving off out-of-state schools such as Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and other national powers, it's impossible to get every prospect desired from the large pool of talent Texas provides. But snagging most of the desired prospects bodes well for the future.

Texas A&M must continue to produce on-field success this fall -- let's not forget, the Aggies' 20-6 run in their first two seasons as SEC members and the visibility provided by having a Heisman Trophy winner are significant factors why the Aggies are such an attractive option to recruits right now. And teenagers can be fickle, making recruiting an unpredictable roller coaster until pen meets paper on the first Wednesday in February.

But if the Aggies can hang on to the high-level prospects they've already gained pledges from and continue recruiting at their current pace, the effects could be felt well beyond the state's borders, throughout SEC country and across the nation in years to come.
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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.”
Nearly a year after getting officially offered by Texas A&M, ESPN 300 quarterback Kyler Murray sent Aggies everywhere into a frenzy when he ended much anticipation and gave the Aggies his pledge last week.

[+] EnlargeKyler Murray
Max Olson/ESPNKyler Murray's commitment could have sparked what could be a big 2015 class for Texas A&M.
If the events that followed are any indication, it will have been well worth the wait for the Aggies, who last week turned in a huge recruiting week.

Not only did they land Murray, the nation's No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and the second five-star prospect in the Texas A&M class, but it was followed the next day with a pledge from ESPN 300 receiver Kemah Siverand, a four-star player who had several other attractive options, including LSU, Ohio State and Texas just to name a few.

Murray's pledge could begin a domino effect that leads to the Aggies continuing to pick up steam in the form of commitments from other elite prospects.

ESPN 300 receiver DaMarkus Lodge and Cedar Hill (Texas) High teammate outside linebacker Richard Moore both indicated just hours after Murray's pledge that they'll announce their commitments on July 1. Texas A&M is in a good position to land both, so that will be worth keeping an eye on.

Five-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack, who had planned summer visits to Alabama and LSU, canceled those plans after Murray's pledge. The longtime Texas A&M commitment also showed up on Twitter in a maroon shirt with the hashtag "#WRTS", which Aggies have been using since the Murray pledge (the acronym stands for "We run this state").

Other ESPN 300 recruits, like linebacker Malik Jefferson and receiver Christian Kirk, no doubt took notice of Murray's pledge. Both have myriad elite options, and neither is likely to end the recruiting process soon. Having someone like Murray on board -- who is widely respected by his peers after winning two state championships at the highest classification of Texas high school football -- certainly can't hurt Texas A&M's chances.

But it's more than just about Murray's pledge for Texas A&M. In a grander scheme, the Aggies continue to recruit at a high level under coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff. The Aggies are now No. 2 in the ESPN RecruitingNation class rankings, behind only Alabama. The Aggies are on pace for their second consecutive top-five recruiting class and third consecutive top-10 recruiting class.

While recruiting is often an inexact science, if a program consistently recruits at a high level and stockpiles talent, it seems to be only a matter of time until it leads to on-field results, and the Aggies have already gotten off to a solid 20-6 start in their first two SEC seasons.

There's still a long way to go until national signing day arrives for the 2015 class and much can change, but right now, the Aggies are sitting pretty and doing a solid job of keeping pace with their SEC brethren on the recruiting trail.
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: We’ve reached the end of the spring evaluation period, and college coaches will head home from the road today and shift their focus to upcoming summer camps. There was plenty of movement over the last six weeks as Penn State, Clemson and USC made plenty of noise, but Texas A&M Aggies and Alabama were the stories of the spring.


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