As accomplished as Johnny Manziel was on the field, his impact off the field may be even more noteworthy. In the last few years, he has completely flipped the football recruiting script in Texas, giving the Aggies the edge over the Longhorns in living rooms all across Texas.
The Aggies’ 2014 recruiting class ranked No. 6 in the country, the Aggies’ first top-10 recruiting class since 2005, according to Rivals. The Longhorns brought in the No. 20 class in 2014, after signing the No. 24 class in 2013, their worst two-year recruiting stretch on record. But most of all, these classes will be remembered for the commits who flipped from burnt orange to maroon — Ricky Seals-Jones, Daeshon Hall, Zaycoven Henderson and Otaro Alaka — which is particularly disturbing as the Longhorns used to dominate the state and easily keep their commits. In fact, 2014 marked the first time since Rivals began its ratings in 2002 that Texas didn’t ink any of the state’s top nine players.
The Aggies’ 2015 class currently ranks 2nd compared to Texas’ 8th. Texas A&M continues to dominate, with six commits in the state’s top 30. That’s six more than the Longhorns, who have yet to lock up a top-30 in-state recruit.
While the Longhorns may no longer be able to hand pick their in-state recruits, head coach Charlie Strong has expanded the program’s recruiting efforts to include a stronger out-of-state presence, which is an encouraging and much needed development.
Strong appears comfortable pursuing out-of-state talent — signing former Louisville commits Poona Ford and Chris Nelson, from South Carolina and Florida, respectively. Strong could even open up a pipeline in Florida, where he drew many players at Louisville.
Texas has already offered scholarships to several highly touted players outside of Texas, including wide receiver John Burt from Florida, who was in town for Texas’ junior day and will likely make an official visit this fall. Linebacker Jeffery Holland and defensive lineman CeCe Jefferson are other elite Sunshine State natives who hold Longhorn offers.
Although prying top talent away from SEC powers and in-state schools will be tough, successfully doing so is key for Texas as it works to regain its place among the nation’s top programs.
Gone are the times when the Longhorns could afford to stay home and let top recruits come to them, especially with schools like Alabama and Florida State growing their recruiting presences in Texas.
If Strong can land a few elite players from around the country, the Longhorns will reap the benefits both on the field and inside the homes of local recruits. At the very least, Strong needs to recruit nationally in case the state produces a weak class at any given position.
Ultimately, recruiting is all about signing top talent, and coach Strong gives Texas the greatest opportunity to do that by recruiting nationally.