National Signing Day is more than six months away, but with arguably the most level playing field among the big Texas schools since the old Southwest Conference days, the 2014 recruiting season is turning into a free-for-all.
Texas is still the top brand in the Lone Star State, but Texas A&M has become the sexy pick for prospects. The continued emergence of Baylor and TCU grants them an audience with top prospects who were once unreachable. Then there is the new coaching staff at Texas Tech, headed by Kliff Kingsbury, who has grabbed recruits’ attention with his youth and enthusiasm.
Most of these schools have already laid the foundation of their signing classes with multiple commitments, but a lot can and will change between now and February.
After averaging more than 10 wins a season in his first 12 years in Austin, Mack Brown and the Longhorns are 22-16 the past three years, which includes a trio of losses by a combined 88 points to Red River rival Oklahoma.
Despite the slip in the win column, Texas continues to sign one of the top classes in the country every year.
The 2013 crop took a hit after losing a handful of commitments, including local stars such as Fort Worth Arlington Heights defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson (Alabama) and Arlington Martin running back Kyle Hicks (TCU). Even with the late departures, the Longhorns signed nine four-star-rated prospects by Rivals and 15 overall.
Texas wisely altered its strategy for the 2014 class by offering recruits earlier than ever. It has paid off with 21 commitments, including dual-threat quarterback Jerrod Heard from defending Class 4A Division I state champ Denton Guyer and San Antonio Brennan defensive end Derick Roberson, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound, four-star prospect.
The class looks strong at wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line and linebacker, but is noticeably light in the secondary, which is surprising given the Longhorns’ history of developing high NFL draft picks coupled with the state’s deep talent pool at the position this year.
The Aggies are hot. A coach on the rise, a powerful conference, new uniforms and the Heisman Trophy have made them the toast of college football in Texas, and they are gobbling up talent.
A&M signed 31 recruits in 2013, good enough for a Top 5 class nationally. Though the Aggies won’t sign nearly as many prospects this year, they are still reeling in the big fish, with 14 commitments.
Eight of those are on defense and, unlike Texas, the Aggies have capitalized on the deep talent pool of defensive backs with commitments from four four-star-rated prospects.
A&M also made a big splash earlier this summer with the pledge of Desert Mountain (Scottsdale, Ariz.) quarterback Kyle Allen, one of the top-ranked pocket passers in the country.
The Aggies have already nabbed a pair of defensive linemen in Nederland end DeShawn Washington and Katy tackle Jarrett Johnson, but look for them to add at least a couple more by signing day.
The Bears are in the midst of a golden era after becoming bowl eligible for the third consecutive season in 2012, for the first time in school history.
Add Robert Griffin’s Heisman two seasons ago and the construction of a new stadium, and Baylor has become a viable threat to Texas and A&M for the state’s top recruits.
The Bears have 20 commitments, including four linebackers, led by two four-star prospects — James David of Rockdale and T’Kevian Rockwell of Wylie.
Baylor is also getting some major talent to plug into its high-powered offense with pledges from receivers Chris Platt of Willis and 6-foot-4 Ishmael Zamora of Alief Elsik. And don’t be surprised if Ennis running back Terence Williams, who at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds runs a 4.6 second 40, becomes the Bears’ next big steal.
It seemed as if everything that could go wrong did for the Horned Frogs during their initial season in the Big 12, yet they still won seven games and went to a bowl game.
Now TCU knows what to expect from the rigors of a big conference schedule and is cashing in on its status as the only BCS college football program in the talent-rich Dallas-Fort Worth area. The Horned Frogs signed 11 prospects from the area in 2013 and already have four local commits for this class.
Though TCU has only eight commitments, it has addressed some major areas. Two highly rated quarterbacks — Decatur’s Grayson Muehlstein and Fort Worth All Saints Foster Sawyer — have already pledged to the Horned Frogs.
On defense, TCU has pledges from Longview four-star defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson and a pair of speedy defensive backs — Nick Orr of DeSoto and Nick Foster of Keller Fossil Ridge.
A strong season could yield some big-name recruits to the 2014 class, such as Arlington Martin defensive end Myles Garrett. If not, TCU will continue its method of developing two- and three-star prospects into stars.
Not many people in Lubbock were upset about coach Tommy Tuberville’s abrupt departure following three mediocre seasons, especially after former star quarterback Kliff Kingsbury was hired from Texas A&M to replace him.
Kingsbury, 33, and his young staff have rejuvenated the Red Raiders program, and it’s already paying dividends in recruiting.
Tech has 16 commits, with 13 on offense. The list consists of four linemen, six receivers and pair of running backs, including one of the best in the state in speedy Justin Stockton of Cibolo Steele and a prolific passer in Whitehouse quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Look for the Red Raiders to make a big push for more help on defense, which has been a hard sell of late after hiring five defensive coordinators in as many seasons.