This should start to get pretty good. Two of the three new head coaches in the Big 12 reside all of 100 miles apart from each other in Waco and Austin. While there hasn’t been any real rivalry to speak of yet, this past week might have changed things. After Matt Rhule and Tom Herman spoke at the Texas High School Coaches Association convention this week, their respective comments resulted in plenty of news and discussion amongst coaches, fans and pundits.
First up was Herman, who admitted he didn’t get the appeal of going to a place like IMG Academy in Florida, saying, “I don’t understand it. I get nervous that one of those things is going to take off here in the state of Texas. I’d be happy – if you’ve got any kids out there that are thinking about moving – if you want to put me in touch with them and me telling them it’s not going to matter in terms of their recruitment because it doesn’t.”
In fairness, Herman did also add, “It doesn’t matter whether you go to IMG or you go to Carthage High School, we’re going to find you.” So it was not a major knock on IMG, but clearly he was trying to show his support for communities and coaches all across Texas.
Then on Tuesday, Baylor coach Matt Rhule took an even more aggressive approach when he told the coaches his staff would have nothing to do with schools like IMG Academy.
— Jessica Morrey (@JessicaMorrey) July 25, 2017
This play here is obvious for Rhule: get cozy and tight with the high school coaches across the Lone Star State. As places like IMG Academy continue to poach from the talent-rich regions like Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and others, it has resulted in some of the best players leaving Texas. Rhule, the “new guy in town”, has built his staff with solid Texas high school coaching ties (i.e. Joey McGuire, David Wetzel and Shawn Bell), and is making a play to cater to these Texas high school coaches.
Here’s the other angle: unlike Herman, Rhule and the Baylor Bears are never likely to attract guys from IMG Academy, who have some of the best players in the country. According to Rivals, 9 of the top 250 players in the country in the 2017 class were IMG players, many of who end up at blue bloods like Alabama, Ohio State, Florida, USC, and … oh wait, Texas?
Yes. That’s where this story takes another interesting twist.
Tom Herman felt the need to clarify his comments, likely because he didn’t want to appear like he was knocking the IMG Academy’s of the world, places where Texas should have major success as a blue blood. In fact, their 2018 class includes linebacker Ayodele Adeoye, who is from St. Louis but is at IMG Academy.
So Herman released a statement saying, “I do think it’s important to talk through it with people you trust, but ultimately that decision is up to each young man and his family,” Herman added. “As I said to the Texas high school coaches, playing football in our state is tremendously rewarding, but I also recognize the value for those who choose to pursue other opportunities.”
Overall, it’s a nearly impossible spot for Herman to be in and please all parties. He has the ability to recruit the best players at IMG because he’s the head coach at Texas, so he doesn’t want to piss off their staff and their people. But if he praises IMG, he risks getting the ire of the Texas high school football coaches.
Meantime, Rhule and his staff have nothing to lose by blasting IMG Academy, because it’s highly unlikely they would land some of their top players anyway. Plus, if it gives them credibility with the Texas high school coaches, that is far more valuable and needed for a Baylor and Matt Rhule, who is still getting the lay of the land in Texas high school football.
While Rhule won this battle, Herman is still well ahead in the recruiting war. Let’s see if things begin to change at all moving forward.
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