Texas’ Strong ready to take on Texas A&M’s AgSwag

Posted Friday, Feb. 07, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Texas and Texas A&M haven’t met on the football field since 2011.

And with the Aggies in the SEC and Texas still miffed that they opened the doors of the henhouse that is the fertile recruiting grounds of this state to the wolves of their new conference, a matchup on the gridiron remains years away.

Perhaps even decades with the way schedules are booked so far ahead.

The absence has done nothing to lessen the hate between the two schools.

Actually, with no way of settling things on the gridiron, the trash talk between the two schools and their respective fan bases has intensified.

The main battleground now is in recruiting.

Let’s be clear.

The Longhorns won that last football meeting 27-25 on the scoreboard.

The truth is that in this age of social media and instant gratification, kids have short memories.

Texas A&M dominated the football headlines in the state on and off field ever since, thanks to Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel, coach Kevin Sumlin and the hype of the SEC.

While Texas fans, who are still drooling over Vince Young’s 2005 title team, like to point to Texas A&M’s lack of national titles — none since 1939 — the recruits have fallen in love with the swag factor that is now associated with the Aggies.

Or AgSwag as the kids like to say in suddenly cool College Station.

That was most evident in a Star-Telegram survey of area high school coaches that rated Texas A&M as the most popular school in the state among their players.

The numbers certainly reflected as much on signing day when the Aggies finished sixth nationally, per Rivals.com team rankings, and the Longhorns finished 20th. This was a year after Texas A&M finished 11th and the Longhorns 24th.

Consider that the previous three years on the same rankings, Texas finished second, third and third, while the Aggies finished 15th, 27th and 17th.

But all that was before Texas A&M bolted Texas’ shadow in the Big 12 conference and moved to the powerful SEC. It has proven to be a stroke of genius.

Combine that with Manziel’s catch-me-if-you-can brilliance on the field and Joe Namath-like persona off it and Sumlin’s ability to blow recrcuits away with his over-the-top swag or Swag copter, the maroon helicopter used to visit recruits, and Texas A&M is now the “it” school in the state.

Never mind that the Aggies have yet to win anything of any significance — they finished third in the SEC West in 2012 and fourth in 2013 after winning just one Big 12 title (1998) in the previous 16 years.

There is no doubting they are running the yard right now. They know it and the Longhorns know it.

The good news in Austin is they now have a man in new coach Charlies Strong who is not afraid to meet the challenge head-on rather than keep his head in the sand and just say, everything is going to be OK, because “we’re Texas.”

For all of Mack Brown’s recruiting success, his staple was recruiting kids who wanted to be at Texas rather than fight for the 50-50 balls.

Strong has some dog in him and is ready to fight.

Asked on signing day about the perception that Sumlin and the Aggies own in the state with their Swag copter and cool factor, Strong bit back with a shot that was heard all the way to College Station.

“I always say this — this university speaks for itself,” Strong said. “We are the University of Texas. We don’t need any type of gadgets. We’re not going to be a gadget program.

“We’re going to just go recruit the players that are going to fit this program and I don’t need to do anything special. At the end of the day, we’re still the University of Texas. We didn’t have much time with trying to hire the staff and put it together, so you really didn’t have enough time to even know the recruits that we signed better yet to go and recruit someone else.”

“But we’ll have that now because we’ll be here, we’ll have our feet in the ground, so we’ll know where to go.”

It must be noted that Strong was hired at Texas less than a month before signing day and spent most of the time scrambling to keep the class together. Two players who were committed to Texas changed their mind after Strong was hired and signed with the Aggies.

Sumlin was asked about the “gadget program” shot on a radio show later that evening and responded in kind.

“Well, I guess based on today, we better get some more gadgets at our place, huh,” Sumlin responded. “That’s what it seems like to me  ... If that’s what it is, it’s working for us. We’re not going to change.

“Players and prospects understand the direction we’re headed, how we’re doing things, and as great a job as our assistant coaches did, as well as we’re recruiting. The reality is we’re still third in our own division behind LSU and Alabama. That’s where our focus is and where we want to be, competing for championships.”

Zing.

There was a time when Texas thought it was too good for Texas A&M, pointing to Oklahoma as its real rival. Now the Aggies are thumbing their noses at the Longhorns, citing LSU and Alabama.

Of course, Sumlin is right. He needs to worry about LSU and Alabama. If he doesn’t start beating them consistently and mixing in an SEC title with all the flash, he might soon get Brown’s former label of Coach February.

But snobbish trash talk is the worst kind.

One day these teams are going to play each other again and it’s going to be epic.

Right now, the rivalry of hate is in recruiting. And Texas has some catching up to do.

AgSwag vs. Texas Strong.

Who ya got?

Clarence Hill Jr., 817-390-7760 Twitter: @clarencehilljr

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