Posted: 11:59 pm Sunday, February 23rd, 2014
By Michael Carvell
Texas A&M is the latest college football powerhouse trying to invade the state’s fertile recruiting grounds.
When Texas A&M visited Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A bowl, the Aggies got really smart and really aggressive on the recruiting trail with Georgia’s top high school juniors.
Texas A&M has already made nearly double the amount of early football offers to the state’s 2015 prospects (13 overall) as it did for the last two recruiting classes combined (8).
During Chick-fil-A week, Texas A&M made the smart decision to have open practices so some of the Georgia’s top 2015 prospects (who recently got offers), including Central Gwinnett High School defensive end Adonis Thomas and Carver-Columbus High School defensive end Mehki Brown, could observe the Aggies here rather than drive 12.5 hours to the Texas campus.
“I can tell you that in the first couple of years we had to get settled in with who we are and what we’re about, and then concentrate locally and try to get our program going with our current players,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin told the AJC. “Then as we started having some success, we started having some success nationally with recruiting with Kyle Allen out of Phoenix, along with going into Louisiana and getting some good players. We’ve been able to branch out a little bit.
“We have some previous relationships in Georgia, and particularly in Atlanta with (Texas A&M defensive line coach) Terry Price and myself. When I was at Oklahoma, I used to recruit in Georgia. We know a number of coaches, and we have a number of relationships. As our brand has started to expand, so has our recruiting. We opened our practices to the public, and coaches and players came.
It hit us that ‘Hey, there is some interest here in Texas A&M from the state of Georgia.’ Because of that, we’re interested in some of the prospects there because there’s a tremendous talent pool in the state of Georgia. We were able to see there was some interest during the week we were in Atlanta, so we’re going to follow that up.”
The state of Texas is the nation’s No. 1 manufacturer of D1 football, and it produces more than double the amount of Georgia, according to one study. However, Texas A&M plans to recruit Georgia’s elite prospects if there is reciprocal interest.
“We’re going to identify the guys we think we would like to have in our program, regardless of their recruiting ranking,” Sumlin said. “We’re going to see if they have any sincere interest in us, because of where we are from the distance standpoint. If they do, we are going to pursue them.”
Out of Sumlin’s three recruiting classes at Texas A&M, he has signed only one Georgia player – former Sandy Creek High School wide receiver JaQuay Williams, who picked the Aggies over UGA and South Carolina.
The rest of the Q&A with Kevin Sumlin:
- It seems like your name has gotten thrown out some when there’s a high-profile job opening. Some of that is probably used against you in recruiting. How much negative recruiting is out there? “I don’t know. They talk about coaches either of two ways: Either you’re getting fired, or you’re moving on to another job. So, I don’t think that part affected our recruiting this year at all. When those things are out there, I can’t control what is being said. As long as it doesn’t affect our recruiting, our team, our administration or my family, I don’t need to come out every day and rebut something that is being said by a blogger or on Twitter or on ESPN. That’s all part of it. I had an opposing coach tell me something the other day, ‘Hey, it’s not negative recruiting if it’s true.’ So you know, that’s all part of it. Everybody has a lot to sell about their universities but when it comes down to it, I think every coach has made comparisons — just like when you go buy anything. To help you make the right decision, there are comparisons being made, whether it’s academics, football, or facilities. Whatever it is, sometimes some of those things can be misconstrued as negative recruiting.”
- You’re one of only a few college football coaches who really understands the power of Twitter for the purposes of recruiting and publicizing your program. How did that happen? “We’ve been doing Twitter for a long time here. I’ve been on Twitter since I was at the University of Houston. Twitter has been a great tool for us and for me because it’s a way to get our message out to our fan base and our prospects in the manner that we want to – whether it’s highlight videos, messages, practice videos, inside stories and things like that. Because of that, it has been a great tool for our program internally. Whether it’s my own personal account or our Aggies football account, it has without a doubt been a great tool for us.”
- What is your sales pitch for Georgia’s top prospects for 2015? “I think we’ve got a great academic reputation. I think joining the SEC has added to our exposure. We’re playing a great schedule in the SEC West in the some great venues. When our stadium is done, it’s going to be the finest football stadium in the country at 102,500. It’s a $450 million operation that is second to none. You know, the Arkansas game now has been moved to Cowboys Stadium in Dallas every ear. So you’re going to be playing in the two finest facilities in the country every year. With the schedule changing for this year, we’ll play the first game of college football on Aug. 28 at South Carolina, and then we will end up Thanksgiving weekend with LSU at home. So that’s the type of football we like to be a part of at Texas A&M. I know there are a lot of guys that want to play in those types of stadiums, and we can provide that.”
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