by Jeff Barlis
Among the many reasons for Texas A&M to (someday) move to the SEC, many have speculated that such a move would open up some major TV markets and expand the league’s ability to recruit in some of the nation’s most fertile ground.
Surely more than a few Florida recruiting fans are dreaming of head coach Will Muschamp using all of his Texas connections to give the Gators an advantage.
Not so fast.
For starters, Muschamp was not responsible for any specific territory while he was defensive coordinator at Texas. So you can throw out the idea of his Texas connections (although I’m sure he has some).
Also, I’m told Muschamp didn’t personally recruit a whole lot of players, and when he did they were often out of state. He had a no-nonsense approach to recruiting and was therefore typically matched up only with players who would respond to such a tact.
The dream of Florida suddenly gaining a foothold in the rich state of Texas may just be a fantasy … for now.
“Unless the Big 12 completely breaks up I think it’ll take a while. Because that’s the dominant conference around here. It’s on TV,” said Brian Perroni, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com who covers the southwest region. “I think it’s still going to be a little hard for SEC schools to come in. Once Texas A&M — assuming they move over there — once they really get in the groove and start play those schools and (the SEC is) on TV (in Texas) on a regular basis and in College Station on a regular basis, then I think it will happen. I think the real full effect will probably take three or four years to kick in.
“Muschamp will probably have a little bit of an advantage but I think Florida may be a little far away. LSU, Arkansas, maybe Ole Miss and Mississippi State would probably have the fastest results because they’re geographically closer and kids don’t want to go where they feel too far away from home.”
Recruiting in the state of Texas is a different animal. It happens early, and it’s dominated by UT. The Longhorns typically send out very few offers and usually get who they want. Head coach Mack Brown has created a lot of exclusivity with his offers.
Since Muschamp came to UF many fans have pondered the idea of him flipping recruits from UT or at least competing for undecided prospects. It hasn’t happened and likely won’t.
The Longhorns are coming off a 5-7 season and still got just about everyone they wanted in their Class of 2012.
“You could be the greatest recruiter in the world and I don’t think you’ll see them flip kids from Texas,” Perroni said. “Now if you want to steal kids from Texas A&M or Baylor, that’s a different story, but not Texas.”
Florida actually has more than one coach with Texas ties.
Derek Lewis, who played tight end for the Longhorns and was a graduate assistant there as well, recruits the state for Florida. But in all of my research I am not aware of a single offer the Gators have made to a Texan in this cycle.
“Almost everybody recruits the state of Texas,” Perroni said, “but the ones that put one recruiter on the whole state don’t do nearly as well as the ones that have a guy in Dallas and a guy in Houston and really do a good job of combing all of the small schools trying to find the diamonds in the rough.”
So Florida fans can sit tight and enjoy the advantages inherent in their home state and region. The Gators can and do get everything they need here in the southeast. Muschamp has already done very well by focusing primarily on Florida and Georgia, with a special nod to North Carolina for this class as well.
Fans can certainly keep an eye on the Texas A&M situation and look forward to the possibility of the SEC expanding into another state loaded with high school talent. But it is unlikely such a move would alter Florida’s short- or long-term approach.
“It might help to go in and cherry-pick a kid every year or two for Florida, but I think it could help a school like Ole Miss that does recruit Texas heavily. Kids might see that as a second-tier offer, but if it was a home conference they might be more excited,” Perroni said. “I don’t think it’ll really affect Florida too much to be honest. There’s just so much talent in the southeast.”