NCAA Football: Texas Spring Game

The college football recruiting landscape is as competitive as it’s ever been. There are millions of dollars on the line for coaches and universities, along with intense pressure for all those employed by a major college football program. However, LSU has taken a drastic step in the hotly-debated satellite camps discussion, and it’s time for Texas and the entire Big 12 to get their hands a little dirty and start playing some hardball with their fiercest competition in the SEC.

As Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel outlined in his piece on Tuesday, the Texas Longhorns were scheduled to participate in a satellite camp hosted by Division III Belhaven University, first in Baton Rouge, then in Hammond, Louisiana. By Tuesday evening, the camp has been cancelled, by what Belhaven coach Hal Mumme calls political pressure from LSU. It’s the third camp that LSU has prevented Texas from having in Louisiana.

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron reportedly told Thamel last month, “Protecting the state of Louisiana is always going to be my job as the coach of LSU.”

OK. If Ed Orgeron and folks in the SEC want to play that game, then it’s time for Texas to return the favor. I know who will win that battle.

No state produces more Division I football players than Texas. Also, the state’s population grew an average of 2% per year from 2000 to 2010, and according to the Houston Chronicle, from July 2015 to July 2016, Texas added 432,957 net new people, far more than California, Florida, and Washington, the next fastest-gaining states.

Compare this to Louisiana, which is growing by less than .5% per year, and over the past few years has added, on average, about 15,000 people per year.

15,000 compared to 400,000. I like Texas’ odds.

Louisiana does have a great high school football tradition, and as a percentage, it does produce some of the best college football players in the country.

But when you compare Louisiana’s population of under 5 million people to Texas’ nearly 28 million people, the Lone State State has a clear advantage.

In a report done by Football Study Hall, Texas produced 341 FBS recruits in 2013 (Florida was second in the nation with 322), adding, “which means that Texas annually produces enough players to fill about 18 recruiting classes, Florida produces enough for 16-17 average classes, and California kicks in another twelve or thirteen. Combined, the Big Three have produced just under 40% of all FBS signees over the past six years.” 

Also in the study, from 2008 to 2013, Texas produced 15% of all FBS recruits, while Louisiana was under 4%. Now you understand why Ed Oregeron is so protective of his turf. While there are great players in Louisiana, the sheer numbers are not close to what Texas has to offer.

However, we’ve seen the SEC recruiting footprint shift west into Texas. Just look at the 2017 recruiting class, where the top 7 players in the state of Texas all elected to go to schools outside of the Big 12 conference. And on top of that, two of those top 7, defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson and offensive tackle Austin Deculus, picked LSU.

In 2010, the Big 12 signed 41 of the top 50 recruits in Texas, with 3 going to the SEC. By 2017, the Big 12 had only signed 19 of the top-50 Texas players, while the SEC landed 15.

So if I’m the Texas Longhorns, I’m playing the same kind of hardball with satellite camps in my home state that LSU has decided to play in Louisiana. Granted with the incredible amount of FBS players the Lone Star State produces, there is no way to eliminate Texas players from getting attention from other conferences, but why make it easier than it has to be?

The knock on LSU has been that they are hurting kids who don’t have LSU-level talent from getting seen by some of the other FBS and FCS schools around the country. For Texas, that shouldn’t be a concern. The state of Texas has 20 Division I football programs. Even if Texas stays focused on letting its satellite camps be primarily Texas-based schools and possibly other Big 12 programs, there will be plenty of talent to go around.

Players that may not be of interest to the Longhorns could have plenty of interest from Texas Tech or Baylor or TCU, while trickling down from there to SMU and Houston, on down to UTEP, Rice, Texas State and others. The kids will be seen and get offers.

Sure maybe Texas A&M, now in the SEC, will host satellite camps in Texas and invite other SEC schools. But considering the struggles that program has been in recent seasons, do they really want to start helping out SEC foes? In fact, this is all the more reason for A&M to welcome in Big 12 programs like Texas Tech, Baylor, Iowa State, whoever, as they no longer compete against each other.

Maybe A&M has no interest in helping the Big 12, as the university still seems to have a pretty big chip on its shoulder, but it sure beats helping out the programs that it is playing against, and typically losing to, every year.

Protecting home turf has worked out very well for LSU. In 2016, 9 of the top 10 players from Louisiana went to their flagship in-state program.

It’s time for the Longhorns and the Big 12 to start doing what they haven’t done effectively since the conference started breaking apart a few years ago: protect its biggest asset, the state of Texas.

LSU wants to play that game with the satellite camps? No problem. But it’s time for Texas to return the favor.

The outcome will be one that the Longhorns fans, and the rest of the Big 12, will enjoy.

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