|New Mexico's own.|
Think back to last fall's Red River Shootout and look at the big plays made in Oklahoma's 55-17 rout of Texas.
On offense, Kenny Stills caught two touchdown passes from Landry Jones, who threw for 367 yards on the day. Ryan Broyles, who had 122 yards receiving in the game, caught another TD toss from the 'Stache. Then there was Dom Whaley ripping of a 64-yard scoring run in the third quarter.
Defensively, safety Tony Jefferson snared an interception off of Longhorn QB David Ash deep in Texas territory that helped open the floodgates for OU. Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Frank Alexander had a forced fumble on a sack that was picked up and returned for a defensive score.
What do all of those Sooners have in common? In a heated rivalry game that has traditionally showcased some of the Lone Star State's top talent, not a one hails from Texas.
For a while, non-Texans like them were the exceptions on the Sooners' roster. However, if you've been paying attention for the last few years to OU's recruiting, you've undoubtedly noticed it. After dedicating the vast majority of the coaching staff's time and effort to mining Texas' fertile recruiting ground for decades, the Sooners' scouting has taken a decidedly national bent.
A mere five of OU's 26 signees in the 2012 class came from Texas. Even after the Sooners secured a pledge from Dallas Jesuit linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni on Thursday, of OU's 10 commits for 2013, there are only four Texans. Compare that to 2011, when 11 of the Sooners' 17 signees were Texas-bred. In 2010, it was 17 out of 29.
It has reached the point that Scipio Tex of Texas blog Barking Carnival asked a few weeks back if the Red River rivals are even recruiting against each other anymore.
Scipio is one of the more astute college football bloggers of any persuasion out there, and he did a very good job of hitting on some of the key points from a Burnt Orange perspective. I have no access whatsoever to OU's program, and I prefer to keep it that way. Of course, that's not going to stop me from speculating as to what in the name of Billy Sims and Adrian Peterson is going on here.
A few thoughts:
*Maybe it's a blip?
Yes, the Sooners went light on the Texas in their 2012 recruiting smorgasboard. However, one reason for that could be that it was viewed as somewhat of a down year across the board for Texas talent, especially once Mack Brown had wrapped up his second-ranked class.
Also, OU's severe roster attrition forced Stoops and his staff to dig into the JUCO ranks more so than usual for immediate help. That's fewer spots for preps from anywhere.
On the other hand, the early returns on both commitments and scholarship offers for 2013 suggest more of the same as 2012.
*The (More) Sure Thing
Check out California and Arizona just hanging by the rail out there, looking all pretty. USC sweats them pretty hard, but who else? UCLA? Arizona St.? Oregon?
Texas may be the prettiest girl in the room, but she's also got every dude in the joint throwing game her way.
There was a time when recruiting in Texas meant the Longhorns and Sooners, then everybody else. Those days are fading. Texas A&M is seeing a bounce from moving to the SEC. In a sign of the times, Baylor just scored a head-to-head recruiting win over UT. Oregon has made significant inroads throughout the state. LSU might steal the best prospect in UT's class. Alabama just secured a pledge from one of the Longhorns' top targets at defensive back. (And if Nick Saban plans on getting involved in your backyard, watch out.)
Competition for Texas talent is picking up by the day. If you're Bob Stoops, where are you going to get the best bang for your buck?
*The Mike Stoops Factor
Tying into the idea that the landscape may be less competitive out west, Mike Stoops could have played a role in the recruiting shift. OU's prodigal son defensive coordinator spent the last eight years as head coach at Arizona, so he and Tim Kish, OU's new linebackers coach and a member of Mike's staff in Tucson, already have plenty of connections in Arizona and California. It's entirely possible OU wants to leverage those contacts. At the same time, losing Brent Venables also means losing one of Bob's most active recruiters in Texas.
OU's eyes started wandering even before Mike's return to Norman. Saying it's all Mike's doing would be a stretch, but the timing seems more than coincidental.
*Not helping me help you.
Culturally, Texas is a unique animal. You won't find a state in the union with more state pride. Football is a huge part of that identity, as is the state's flagship university in Austin. Put them both together, and you've got a lot "Don't mess with Texas" rolled up in one place.
Brown has done a tremendous job leveraging that identity to sell the state's elite prospects – and fanboy media types – on the honor of playing for the 'Horns. However, Brown has also dedicated himself to nurturing relationships with coaches around the state, who are undoubtedly as caught up in the notion of the prestige of playing for Texas as their players. Being tight with that group of gatekeepers play can pay significant dividends in terms of access and influence. (Consider how often recruits from Texas miss visits to Norman because they "can't find a ride," for example.)
In that respect, I wouldn't blame OU's coaches if they feel like they're banging their heads against a wall.
Of course, the rumors of internal strife within OU's program, which are seemingly being propagated in public by one particularly pro-UT source, could also be influencing the opinions of high school coaches in Texas towards the Sooners' coaching staff. I honestly have no idea about the legitimacy of such talk or its effect, although OU's attrition in the offseason definitely points to some chemistry issues.
Which brings us to...
*Is there something about the water south of the border?
In his analysis, Scipio asserts that UT's dominance in recruiting its home state has forced the Sooners farther down their list of Texas prospects not only with regard to talent, but with regard to that nebulous "character" factor and academic standing as well. Considering that the vast majority of the 19 players who have left OU's program or been suspended indefinitely in the past 18 months hail from Texas, it sounds like a reasonable explanation.
Yet, UT has witnessed similar levels of attrition during that period, which throws a bit of a wrench into that theory.
You occasionally hear recruiting analysts grumble about Texas high school recruits being soft and entitled. It strikes me as a ridiculous generalization. But after chewing on those numbers for a bit, I do wonder if the criticisms have some merit.