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October 26, 2012
Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
Has Oklahoma altered its philosophy of recruiting in Texas,
Depends who you talk to.
SoonerScoop.com recruiting analyst Josh McCuistion believes it is a choice.
"The reality is that Oklahoma is just tired of going into Texas and chasing players," he said. "The coaches will still go in and be able to land a few of the guys it targets, but so many kids are waiting for that Texas offer, it is like beating your head off the wall."
The evidence is clear.
Oklahoma went from an all-time high of 17 Texas signees from the Class of 2010, to a Rivals.com-era low of five in the Class of 2012. The Sooners only have five players committed from the Lone Star state this year.
"You still have to give credit to Texas for making it a big deal to get an offer from that staff, but that is not the only reason," McCuistion said. "Oklahoma hasn't been as present in East Texas as it has in the past and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex is becoming more and more crowded with legitimate opportunities at Texas A&M and TCU.
"The message of 'playing in Norman is closer than playing in Austin' doesn't work as well with TCU in the Big 12 and the metroplex and 'come to Oklahoma and compete for a national title' has grown tired after 13 years."
Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell notes that the recent success that Oklahoma was able to have outside of its traditional territory is adding to its situational evacuation of Texas.
"The Class of 2010 was a turning point," Farrell said. "The team still got a lot of quality players from Texas, but it was a light bulb that went off when they went into California and got Kenny Stills, Tony Jefferson, and Brennan Clay. They went into Kansas and got Blake Bell and a couple of other four-stars, (Geneo Grissom and Justin McCay and they went into Missouri and got a four-star (Trey Millard).
"If Oklahoma continues to get the best kids from its state, which it will, I think it will be easier for the program to build a pipeline in San Diego and go get kids from Missouri and Kansas than it will be to fight for kids in Texas."
The emergence of Texas A&M, first under Mike Sherman and now elevated under Kevin Sumlin, is only adding to the frustration for Oklahoma.
Jeff Tarpley is the publisher for AggieYell.com. He said that while Texas A&M hasn't gone head to head with as many targets as Texas has with Oklahoma, the presence of the program is starting to bring more attention.
"It used to be Texas and Oklahoma splitting the Metroplex and each would walk away pretty happy with what they got, but that has really changed," Tarpley said. "With A&M really making a stronghold in the southern loop and Oklahoma retreating a little bit, it will only make it harder for the Sooners to jump back in at any point in the future.
"Really, this may be the worst time for Oklahoma to try and pull out of Texas. With the results on the field against Texas, plus the turmoil with Mack Brown, it should be on the attack, but that doesn't appear to be the case."
What's worse is that while Oklahoma is winning on the field, the program continues to lose in the living room.
In the last two classes, Oklahoma and Texas A&M have had overlapping offers to 13 players. Of those 13, Oklahoma only landed three players and had one player flip very late in the process.
Class of 2012 cornerback DeVante Harris was an Oklahoma commit and proudly wearing Sooner apparel at the Under Armour All-American game in January. One week later, Harris flipped to Texas A&M.
"There is no denying that Sumlin has upped the ante, especially in battles with Oklahoma," McCuistion said. "Texas A&M is putting a dent in recruiting at Oklahoma."
With three months remaining until National Signing Day, there could be a couple of heated battles between the two schools.
Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Christian Academy outside linebacker Mike Mitchell has visited each campus and has had positive reviews of each. The No. 32-ranked player in the Rivals100 is perceived to be in a three-way battle with Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Ohio State. Each school feels that it is the leader for the U.S. Army All-American's services.
Another U.S. Army All-American, Justin Manning of Dallas (Texas) Kimball, could be a tipping point for a budding recruiting rivalry. The No. 94 player in the Rivals100 was considered an Oklahoma lock by many, but with recent visits to College Station, Texas A&M has made up significant ground in his recruitment.
This will likely lead to some surprise for whichever staff he doesn't choose.
The Fort Worth-based program has a new stadium, new uniforms, and a new conference. It has also a new confidence in recruiting.
PurpleMenace.com senior writer Ryan Osbourne has seen the transition firsthand.
"The campus is still an hour away from northern suburbs of Allen or Plano," Osbourne said. "Kids can be close to home but still go away to college. They can play major college football in the Big 12 and they can play in a beautiful facility.
"Houston, Austin, and Norman are all three hours away and I think everything that has happened in the last five-or-so years at TCU has established it as a real destination and not a back-up option."
The most recent battles that TCU has engaged in with Oklahoma have been successful. The Horned Frogs were able to flip four-star Brandon Carter out of Euless (Texas) Trinity from the Sooners two years ago. They also edged the Sooners in the recruitment of DeVonte Fields from Arlington (Texas) Martin last season. Both players have emerged as key players for TCU early.
"It is impossible not to think that Carter and Fields would be playing right now at Oklahoma," McCuistion said. "I don't think that either of Texas A&M or TCU are a main reason that Oklahoma is getting out of Texas because if there were more head-to-head battles, Oklahoma would likely win them. But with each one taking a player or two and then factoring in what Texas will get, it just isn't worth spending the time and money in Texas."
That is all a matter of perspective as well.
"It is good that Oklahoma is recruiting more nationally," Farrell said. "It is a program that can survive that way, but no matter how you slice it, abandoning posts in Texas is not a great long-term decision."