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August 18, 2011When observers talk about recruiting and Texas A&M joining the Southeastern Conference, they usually look at the situation from the viewpoint of the existing SEC programs. The popular idea is that the SEC schools will be able to swoop in and take a greater number of prospects and negatively impact the existing schools within that state, that will be no benefit to them at all.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
First off, in the early 1990's, it was said that Southwest Conference programs had difficulty competing in recruiting against out of state of programs in other conferences that offered greater exposure on television and played in tougher conferences against big name opponents. When the Big 8 and Southwest Conferences merged in 1996, it became much easier to sell those same prospects on staying in state and playing big time football at home. Although it took a while, some of the schools such as Texas and Texas Tech had some of the most successful seasons in their history because they were able to raise their recruiting prowess a notch due to the change. In fact, by the 2010 season, there was an imbalance within the Big 12 as southern programs (both in and adjoining Texas) dominated the conference as they had direct access to talent that wanted to play closer to home. Twenty of the state's top 22 committed prospects in the 2012 class are verbally pledged to schools in Texas or an Oklahoma school adjoining the state's border (both of which are closer to some areas of the state than the Texas schools themselves). A&M itself is doing well that it has the country's 11th rated class per Rivals.com.
It's the same in the SEC as well. LSU's hit rate on offers within its state boundaries is around 80% or better over the past few years. If you are thinking that LSU winning a couple of national titles in the past few years had a lot to do with that statistic, Georgia had a hit rate of 19 of 32 in-state prospects that it offered in 2011, Tennessee went 7 of 10 in state in that class, and Ole Miss went six of seven in its own state for 2011.
Playing in games in Texas may be an advantage for the Big 12 North programs and it's certainly a motivating factor as to why Arkansas signed a ten year contract to play A&M in Dallas or why other out of state programs schedule non-conference games in Texas. Nonetheless, those schools are hard pressed to beat out an in-state program like A&M or Texas for talent when they go head to head against them if for no other reason than proximity -- in other words, if everything else is pretty much equal, being close to his friends and family will also make a prospect's decision easier.
Second, not only should SEC membership provide A&M an advantage versus other SEC programs, it should provide an advantage versus other in-state SEC programs too. While you can't necessarily get anyone to admit such things on the record, there's a perception that some SEC schools would not allow their in-state rivals from the ACC or Big East into the league. The reason for that is simple; programs like Florida feel like that they have an advantage over Florida State or Miami or USF because they can sell that they are playing football n the best conference in the country. If they feel like that it will provide that can kind of advantage to themselves, it should provide the same kind of advantage to A&M vis a vis Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, and programs like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. A&M is already doing well enough with commitments in the 2012 class from highly regarded in-state products like Matt Davis, Trey Williams, Bralon Addison, Mike Matthews, and Corey Thompson and all of them had offers from SEC programs like Arkansas and LSU which won ten games or more last season.
Third, A&M is an advantageous position because it lies within the largest recruiting footprint in the SEC and there's no state with more total talent outside of Florida and California in the country. Virtually every program in the United States comes to Texas for talent. In fact, it's worth mentioning that not only has no Big 12 North school (which lack the recruiting advantage of the Texas and Oklahoma programs) has won the conference since 2003 and the conference championship games during that time have typically been lopsided affairs.
Finally, A&M will be able to repeat to an extent in the SEC what the Big 12 North programs have done in Texas .for all of the talk about the SEC schools raiding Texas, it also expands A&M's recruiting footprint and allows A&M to raid THEM. Since Mike Sherman became head coach, the Aggies have landed multiple four star prospects from Louisiana. Not only that, A&M typically beat SEC programs in order to obtain their signatures. For example, in 2012 alone, A&M has commitments from Darion Monroe (offer from Vanderbilt) and Julien Obioha (offer from Mississippi State). In 2011, commitments were obtained from Louisiana defensive backs Deshazor Everett (offers from Arkansas and Ole Miss) and Floyd Raven (offer from Ole Miss) and Florida linebacker Shaun Ward (offer from Florida). In other words, A&M has proved that it can not only hold its own within the state against the SEC, it can take prospects away from those schools and has yet to play a down versus any of them.
Overall, the myth that A&M's entrance into the SEC will provide happy hunting grounds for those schools in Texas ignores a number of realities most notably A&M's success in recruiting its own state against all comers as well as its current recruiting against SEC programs. Competitors in and out of the SEC should beware of those facts which support only one conclusion: that the school that will benefit more from any other from Texas A&M's entrance into the SEC is Texas A&M itself.
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