I've made two trips to Texas in the last month and have seen more than 100 recruits with Power 5 scholarship offers. I noticed something in Dallas a few weeks ago, but wanted to see what players had to say in Houston before writing on it.
1. A large portion of the elite recruits in the Texas who have major out-of-state suitors are simply putting the Longhorns and Aggies on hold in order to see what is going to happen during the 2016 season, whether Charlie Strong or Kevin Sumlin will be at their schools in 2017 and if either will land Houston coach Tom Herman. It's as if there's a pause button, and that's weird in a state long known for its marquee teams locking up prospects early.
If either program has a big year that signals long-term security for its head coach, it could pay huge dividends.
2. I found from speaking with recruits and recruiting experts in the state that there is more love for Strong than Sumlin among elite recruits. That's in part because of the personal relationships he builds. But the pull of the SEC is still strong, despite A&M's disappointing run.
The natural person to speak with about the Longhorns is four-star Texas QB commit Sam Ehlinger from Austin Westlake. I asked him how many recruits are waiting to see what the Longhorns do on the field in 2016.
"Everyone. Everyone," Ehlinger said. "If we have a good year, it won't be about how many we can get, but about who we want and who we have to turn down. This year is crucial for the program. I believe we're going to have a great year and turn things around."
One of the prospects any program would like to add is Marvin Wilson, the No. 1 defensive tackle in the country. Wilson is still open to the Texas schools, but acknowledged that he isn't sure any would be locks to make his hypothetical future top five. He says LSU, Alabama and Florida State would. Wilson only spoke of the in-state schools when prompted, which he often was Sunday, since there were many Texas and A&M reporters at the event. When I asked him open-ended questions, his attention was focused on out-of-state schools.
But the Bellaire Episcopal star does have a great relationship with Texas coaches Strong and Vance Bedford, he told me. He's simply in wait-and-see mode.
"It's coaching stability and seeing how the season goes [with the Texas schools]," Wilson said. "I'll wait to see what they do this season to see what impact that will have on my recruiting."
I asked Wilson's teammate, four-star tackle Walker Little, if he was also waiting.
"Definitely," Little said. "Some in-state schools have had down years lately. There are some schools I want to see how their years and coaching staffs turn out," referencing the Longhorns and Aggies.
Recruits I spoke with think Texas is in a better place than A&M and prefer Strong over Sumlin
Deontay Anderson, a 2016 four-star Ole Miss signee from Manvel (Texas), is a good example of how much recruits in Texas genuinely like Strong, even if the on-field failures and future uncertainty keeps them from picking the Longhorns. I didn't have any player tell me glowing things about Sumlin.
"I cried when I called and told Charlie Strong that I was going to Ole Miss," Anderson said. "I still think Strong is going to do well."
Anderson believes A&M is in greater need of a strong on-field season to bounce back in recruiting than Texas, due to the negative perception of the Aggies' program among some recruits after some high-profile quarterback transfers.
"When you saw Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray leave ... something's not going right up there (at A&M)."
He wasn't alone in bringing up the QB transfers.
Four-star offensive tackle Austin Deculus, of Cypress Cy-Fair, echoed those thoughts.
"The quarterbacks leaving shows something is wrong with the program," he said.
Texas A&M recruiting reporters and analysts told me that the transfers have done major damage to the Aggies' reputation with recruits. It's become major negative recruiting fodder.
Elite linebacker has enough faith in Texas to name Longhorns No. 1
Not all elite recruits are in wait-and-see mode.
The top linebacker recruit nationally, Dylan Moses, a Baton Rouge native who is now at Bradenton (Fla.)'s IMG Academy, named the Longhorns his No. 1 school and is confident Texas will do big things under Strong after visiting with him.
"I think they're going in the right direction," Moses said of the Longhorns, citing his relationship with Strong and linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary.
Making recruiting predictions on Texas kids right now is almost impossible
It's safe to say that the Lone Star State has not seen a landscape like this in a while. The range of possible outcomes on National Signing Day 2017 is so wide.
But remember this: Geography is a much bigger factor in recruiting than most fans want to admit, and family is a major reason. Parents generally want their kids to stay closer to home, and if Strong or Sumlin gives them reasons to believe, the smart money will be on some of the state's top stars staying home.
LSU four-star athlete commitment Patrick Queen, of Livonia (La.), tries to recruit top Texas players to LSU, but thinks the landscape could change if the Longhorns or Aggies have a big year. Previous success may have even changed things with his own recruitment.
"If Texas had done better, I would have probably have taken [the recruiting process] slower, but they didn't, and I got the offer I wanted (from LSU) and jumped on."
As four-star Ohio State running back commitment J.K. Dobbins of LaGrange said, "If they have a big year, it will change a lot for everyone around here."