When you look up and down the list of top 2018 recruits from the state of Texas, you notice something.
This recruiting cycle, the best players stayed within the Lone Star State. Only seven of the state’s top 25 players signed with schools outside of the state, and only one of the state’s top 15 did so. This is a change from last year.
Our Texas blog, Burnt Orange Nation, referred to last season as “the Texodus.”
In 2017, the Texas Longhorns didn’t sign a top 10 high school player from the state for the first time in the history of the Composite rankings, and UT only signed two players in the state’s top 25. Texas A&M, TCU, and Texas Tech each signed two. It was an unprecedented raid on the state’s top talent by outside suitors, most notably Ohio State, Stanford, and LSU.
This year was different, with Texas and Tom Herman leading the way.
If Herman made his name at Houston with the #HTownTakeover, the 2018 class was a case of different city, same story for a Longhorns coaching staff that largely coached the Cougars, too. The ties formed during that time helped the staff, while assistants like Corby Meekins, the former Houston Westfield head coach, tapped into even deeper connections to the Space City.
Texas’ class finished third in the nation, and 20 of its 25 players came from Texas. Texas A&M finished 17th after a nice transitional recruiting class and active Signing Day, with three top-15 Texas talents. And TCU took a nice stride forward, signing the 25th-ranked class. They’re creating distance between them and other Big 12 teams in their stratosphere.
TCU is stepping up its recruiting efforts and somewhat separating from the likes of Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas Tech, etc. All those year of winning seem to be paying off. I won’t tell you this class is in the same realm as the Longhorns and Sooners, but it is a nice class.
“Putting a fence around the state” is something coaches everywhere say, but in Texas, it’s an especially big deal.
Consider the minor controversy Charlie Strong caused when he arrived in Austin back in 2014.
“Charlie was a great man but a horrible hire,” South Grand Prairie coach Brent Whitson told Landof10.com. “You get here and the first thing you do is go to Florida for recruits. … All it did was cost him about 2,500 head coaches at Texas high schools.”
In fact, Strong did offer a number of players after his arrival from Florida, eventually landing the signature of defensive tackle Chris Nelson, a former Louisville commit.
However, it wasn’t because Strong didn’t want players from the state of Texas — instead, it was because several recruits from the state decommitted from his class and he didn’t have relationships with other in-state players since he didn’t recruit the Lone Star State at Louisville.
Texas high school coaches need to be kowtowed to, and Strong erred by not doing so from the beginning. It’s not even that he didn’t recruit or sign players from Texas, because he did, but that there was a perceived lack of communication between Strong’s Texas staff and coaches within the state.
Compare that to Herman mentioning Texas high school coaches within the opening minutes of his first Texas presser or new A&M coach Jimbo Fisher shouting out high schools on ESPN during his first Lone Star Signing Day.
Those high school coaches are gatekeepers to some of the nation’s top talent. If those coaches feel frozen out, then it’s bad news. While Herman & Co. have gone out of the state to pursue talent, Herman isn’t an outsider, thanks to his two years at Houston and previous experience.
Unlike most other states, Texas teams can win at a championship level by basically only recruiting locally.
It’s that way in Florida, California, and now Georgia as well. But not so much in Ohio or Louisiana; Ohio State just signed the sixth-best recruiting class in history while only signing five players from the Buckeye State.
But if Texas schools replicate this cycle’s performance, big fish from out of state will continue to lose battles in the Lone Star State. That keeps local coaches on both sides of the high school/college divide happy.