The State of High School Football Recruiting in Texas

Damon Sayles@@DamonSaylesNational Recruiting AnalystAugust 18, 2015

TCU head coach Gary Patterson is one of the first coaches to admit that it's important to keep the talented players from the state of Texas in state.
TCU head coach Gary Patterson is one of the first coaches to admit that it's important to keep the talented players from the state of Texas in state.Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

DALLAS — It's no secret; for years the state of Texas has been known as a major recruiting hotbed nationwide.

Teams like TCU and Baylor were on the outskirts of playing in the College Football Playoff tournament with the help of a roster loaded with in-state players. Last year's national finalists, Ohio State and Oregon, featured eight Texans combined.

The talent is there in the Lone Star State, and while it's important for the nation to notice, it may be even more of a priority for the in-state coaches to recognize this—and keep those players in the state.

How important?

"In Texas? Very," said Jeff Fleener, head coach at Brandeis High School in San Antonio. "Everyone recruits Texas, so if you don't recruit them, you're playing against them."

Aug. 10 kicked off regular-season practices for many Texas public high schools, which, from a recruiting standpoint, means more and more athletes are preparing to finalize official visits for the coming months. It's that time of year in which prospects, 5-stars on down, look for the college homes that best fit them athletically and academically.

It's also that time of year in which college coaches are not only trying to win football games on the field but also win important recruiting battles. And ask any coach in the state—keeping the Texas athletes close to home is a priority.

"If you're a Texas school and you miss out on Texas kids," Fleener said, "where are you getting [players] from?"

Talent east to west

At first glance, no coach was happier to be at Big 12 media days than David Beaty. For the new Kansas head coach, being at the Omni Dallas Hotel last month was a homecoming of sorts.

Beaty cut his teeth coaching high school football in the Dallas area, and he was emphatic in reminding the media about his Texas roots, name-dropping high schools, junior colleges and coaches throughout his Monday press conference.

"I'm an old Texas high school football coach," Beaty said, "and I consider those guys [Texas high school coaches] to be my brothers."

Kansas coach David Beaty
Kansas coach David BeatyTony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Beaty said he's preparing to create a faster, stronger, more disciplined brand of football for the Kansas fans. Part of that will involve a new recruiting philosophy—a philosophy that will include targeting the state he has so many ties to.

It's a philosophy that makes sense—and one that works.

"I think it's important for any school anywhere to recruit Texas," said Joey McGuire, head coach at Cedar Hill School outside of Dallas. "For instance, when Tulsa and Kansas were going to bowl games, they had a large number of Texas kids on their rosters.

"If you are a Texas school, you better start by getting the best this state has to offer, in my opinion."

McGuire's argument can be supported by recent numbers. Of the 2015 class' top 300 players in 247Sports' composite rankings, 42 came from the Lone Star State. The 2014 class had 35 Texans in the top 300, while 41 Texans were a part of the top 300 in the 2013 class.

And those numbers don't include the 4-star, 3-star and 2-star in-state athletes whom college coaches take a chance on. Coaches will tell you that the talent level stretches more than 800 miles west to east, north and south, from El Paso to Texarkana and all points in between.

"I think any of us who have been around the state coaching at in-state universities know that's where the bread and butter is," Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "You want to keep those players in the state and keep those high school coaches knowing you're recruiting their players."

Numbers don't lie

There are 11 FBS schools in Texas: Baylor, Houston, North Texas, SMU, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas State, Texas Tech, UTEP and UTSA. Those schools combined to have 266 commitments from high school and junior college in the 2015 class. Of those 266, 194 hail from Texas.

In other words, nearly 73 percent of the talent recruited in Texas colleges are home grown. That number would be elevated if UTEP was taken out of the equation. The Miners had 23 committed players, but only seven were from a Texas school. On the flip side, all of SMU's committed and signed athletes are in-state products.

Baylor coach Art Briles
Baylor coach Art BrilesTony Gutierrez/Associated Press

For Baylor coach Art Briles, recruiting is quite simple. Get the best players from the area you know—and the area that, in turn, knows the player.

"If you're going to get home cooking, you need to be at home," he said. "It's vitally important to the nature of football in the state of Texas to stay—for these guys to stay in state.

"Why would you run off and make Granmama watch it on TV when she can jump in the car with family members and come watch you play in person, hug your neck, take you out to dinner and tell you she loves you in person? That's why you stay home—family."

Of the top-50 ranked 2016 athletes from Texas, 29 are committed to an FBS program. Of those 29, 12 are committed to out-of-state schools.

Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury
Texas Tech coach Kliff KingsburyTony Gutierrez/Associated Press

"It's all about keeping those guys close," Kingsbury said.

Beaty was the wide receivers coach and a recruiting coordinator at Texas A&M before taking over the head-coaching gig at Kansas. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach at Rice. From 1994 to 2005, he was a high school coach.

Beaty knows the state. He's ventured all over Texas looking for talent as an assistant college coach. As Kansas' head coach, Beaty has made Texas a recruiting priority, as four of the eight 2016 commits are from the Lone Star State. Seven of the 24 in the 2015 class who signed with Kansas in February are Texans, as well.

"One of the things for me is we are located in one of the finest, most fertile grounds for high school athletes in the country," he said at Big 12 media days, "and those athletes are coached by some of the finest high school coaches in the country."

'We will always recruit this state'

The Texas Longhorns statistically have been the recruiting leader of the state throughout the 21st century, save a year or two from Texas A&M. The majority of those years were under the leadership of Mack Brown.

Now with Charlie Strong as head coach, Texas is not only trying to keep its recruiting relevancy but also win over in-state athletes who are looking at playing for TCU or Baylor because of recent success or Texas A&M because of the opportunity to play in the SEC.

Texas coach Charlie Strong
Texas coach Charlie StrongTony Gutierrez/Associated Press

The Longhorns, who only have seven commits in the 2016 class, currently are sitting at 48th overall in 247Sports' recruiting team rankings. They also sit in sixth place among the in-state team rankings, less than a point ahead of No. 49 SMU.

For many, that number comes as a shock. The prestige of the program hasn't helped with 2016 recruiting, but Strong is hoping for a big finish closer to signing day—something similar to what the Longhorns did with the 2015 class.

Strong has been criticized for not landing more star in-state players. While he landed the No. 1 in-state 2015 prospect, Malik Jefferson, he was unsuccessful in getting any other top-10 Texans, including Alabama cornerback Kendall Sheffield, Ole Miss receiver DaMarkus Lodge and the Texas A&M combo of quarterback Kyler Murray and defensive tackle Daylon Mack.

Strong's response to that: Keep shooting for the stars, and never forget that even though Texas is a priority, other states have quality athletes, as well. He is big on recruiting the state of Florida.

"There are a lot of good players, and the high school coaches do a great job in this state," Strong said. "We will always recruit this state, because we're the University of Texas, and they will always be our home ground.

"But it's like anything else; when you have needs and if you can't get what you want, then you have to go outside the state. But we're always focused on this state."

Offensive tackle Greg Little is the No. 1 player in Texas for the 2016 class.
Offensive tackle Greg Little is the No. 1 player in Texas for the 2016 class.Credit: 247Sports.com

Prospects galore for coaches

More and more Texas athletes are looking at SEC or Pac-12 opportunities. Multiple broadcasts show the Alabamas, Auburns, Ohio States, Florida States, Oregons, UCLAs and USCs of the world to the point that a Texas athlete won't have to leave his house to watch a game.

TCU and Baylor coaches can use an important fact in their recruiting pitches with 2016 and 2017 targets: Both teams were that close to playing in the College Football Playoff last season.

Briles believes a national-title opportunity isn't far away, particularly with athletes he considers "some of the best in the nation."

"These guys grew up in Texas, and we play the best football in the nation right here and can win a national championship. Right here," he said.

Fortunately for Briles and the rest of the coaches, there are quite a few uncommitted athletes still available. Among those are the top-ranked Texan, and the nation's top-ranked offensive tackle and No. 2 overall player, 5-star Greg Little.

Add in players like 5-Star safety Brandon Jones and the 4-star trio of safety Deontay Anderson and receivers Devin Duvernay and Tyrie Cleveland, and it's clear to see there's plenty of opportunity for an in-state to boost its class with a stud athlete.

For Patterson, getting highly rated in-state athletes is a bonus, but it isn't the end-all, be-all. Getting coachable in-state athletes is the overall objective.

Former TCU standout Jerry Hughes went from a 2-star high school athlete to an NFL defensive end.
Former TCU standout Jerry Hughes went from a 2-star high school athlete to an NFL defensive end.Bill Wippert/Associated Press

Patterson uses Jerry Hughes as an example. The Buffalo Bills defensive end was rated a 2-star athlete by Rivals.com before he went to TCU.

"People said he was a 2-star," Patterson said. "Jerry Hughes was never a 2-star. He was a 4-star or higher.

"There's no way you're going to keep everybody in the state, unless you go back to the old scholarship rules to where you can go out and take 50 guys a season and keep them all. The ones that we want, that fit what fits TCU, I think that's very important to put a circle around the ones we think we'll make us better."

Keeping as many athletes as possible in state is the goal. It's a goal every in-state coach aspires to achieve, and telling future stories of winning with a Texas-dominated lineup is something that can be used as a recruiting tool.

What's more important, it's an achievable goal, particularly with the personalities of the in-state coaches.

"There are so many players out there," Kingsbury said, "and you can find them."

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand and at Big 12 media days. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles


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