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Mack Brown and the Longhorns Must Judiciously Draw Talent from their Texas Base

Posted: Feb 02, 2009

Water is wet, the sky is blue, and the University of Texas is working on another top-notch recruiting class.

The Longhorns Mine Their State's Natural Talent Base

Most BCS schools try to comb their region (if not the country) for the best football prospects each year, but the Longhorns have the luxury of putting a fence around their backyard. Most of the kids in their current class have been committed to Texas since last summer. The weeks before Signing Day are an interesting rollercoaster ride for fans of most programs, but Mack Brown has made the process almost boring in Austin-and that’s a good and rare advantage to have.

While the Lone Star State has plenty of other Division 1 football schools, the Texas Longhorns are clearly the flagship program, and they take full advantage of that by pulling in the best talent from a fertile recruiting pool. Check out this table that details where BCS teams get their players.

We've reconstructed the data to rank teams by the percentage of in state recruits rather than wins:

SCHOOL % in state % within 200 mi Avg. Distance wins
Texas
93.2%
71.8%
191 miles 56
USF 91.6% 73.9% 160 miles 36
Baylor 85.1% 83.3% 186 miles 19
Texas A&M 83.2% 78.2% 247 miles 32
UCLA 79.2% 72.3% 294 miles 33
Cal 73.8% 44.9% 533 miles 44
Texas Tech 72.9% 10.2% 450 miles 45
USC 72.0% 61.0% 486 miles 59
Penn State 64.7% 69.6% 243 miles 44
Georgia 63.6% 70.1% 206 miles 50
Florida 62.3% 47.9% 360 miles 51
Miami 58.0% 50.9% 499 miles 37
Ohio State 55.8% 66.3% 314 miles 51
Florida State 55.0% 37.6% 309 miles 40
Pitt 54.4% 57.9% 315 miles 33
Virginia Tech 54.3% 44.0% 223 miles 52
Alabama 54.2% 70.2% 211 miles 41
Cincinnati 50.9% 40.6% 295 miles 40
LSU 50.4% 56.5% 259 miles 51
Miss State 44.9% 62.2% 232 miles 21

A whopping 93.2% of the Longhorns’ squad came from in-state from 2004-08, and those kids were able to score 56 wins (2nd best nationally) in that five-year period.
 

Texas Football Talent Feeds the Entire Big 12

We should also point out that the four Texas teams of the Big 12 (Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor) represent 4 of the top 7 on our table.  Everyone knows that the state of Texas is deep with football talent, but the table above presents the numbers to back it up.

Additonally, this depth of Texas football talent populates programs beyond its borders, even the Longhorns' main rival to the North.

The Oklahoma Sooners, the program that had the 3rd most wins from 2004-08, have also dipped into Texas for many of their top players like Adrian Peterson, Rhett Bomar, Malcolm Kelly, Brodney Pool, DeMarcus Granger, Juaquin Iglesias, Manuel Johnson, Lendy Holmes, Trent Williams, and Travis Lewis.

In fact, clicking through the Big 12's entire list of current commitments shows that most of the conference relies heavily on Texas talent.  It seems that only Colorado tries to break that trend.

It’s hard to see any team becoming a true upper-echelon player in the Big 12 without having some recruiting presence in Texas.

So, unlike most perennial football powers, the challenge for the Texas staff is not trying to search the nation for the best players.  Instead, they have to make sure they properly evaluate and select the right highly-rated Texas kids for their scholarship offers.

Longhorn fans never warmed up to John Mackovic, Mack Brown's predecessor, and Mackovic did himself no favors in that regard letting Drew Brees, a high school standout from Austin, escape his backyard and go to Purdue.  Mack Brown learned quite a bit from that mistake.
 

Ignored by John Mackovic, Drew Brees, an Austin native, became a Hall of Fame player at Purdue


The Rise of Spread Offense QBs

Obviously, the state of Texas produces big numbers when it comes to high school football, but nowhere can the effect the state is having on college ball be seen more than at the quarterback position.

Since Vince Young became the most famous Longhorn since Earl Campbell, the spread offense QB has become the Big 12's standard offensive weapon.  The Big 12 had an amazing season for signal callers and six of those starters were from Texas.

Texas also provided the SEC with two of its QB stalwarts, Matthew Stafford of Georgia and Jevan Snead, a former Longhorn who transferred to Ole Miss.  Texas further produced non-BCS standouts like Brian Johnson (Utah), Andy Dalton (TCU), Case Keenum (Houston), Chase Clement (Rice), Trevor Vittatoe (UTEP), and Chase Holbrook (New Mexico State). If you’re looking for a quarterback in our Swampland footprint, it’s not difficult to know where to start looking.

The spread of "the Spread" around Texas high school football has become so pervasive and recognized that it served as one of the main subplot of this season's Friday Night Lights TV show.

Mack Brown may never have to look outside of Texas to find his QB again.  Experiments like Chris Simms are as good as dead in Longhorn country.


Conclusion

The good news for schools other than the University of Texas is that the Longhorns can only sign (roughly) 25 kids a year. The bad news is that under Mack Brown, Texas hardly ever seems to pick the wrong players.

However, there is enough talent in the state that Texas-born players go to many of the rival schools and have the UT game circled every year. Those kids want to prove the staff in Austin wrong if they weren’t heavily recruited, and that dynamic makes for great Big 12 rivalry games each season on the field.


Patrick Snow

 

BCS Conference Schools (2004-2008) courtesy of SI.com


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